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ORPHAN BLACK Renewed For Fifth and Final Season—We Reflect

It looks like the trip has come to an end, man. That thrilling, crazy clonespiracy show better known as BBC America’s blisteringly good Orphan Black will bow out in 2017 during its fifth and final season. And yes, Clone Club, we’re as sad about it as you.

Granted, this was always co-creators Graeme Manson and John Fawcett’s plan; theirs was a story created for a five season arc—it’s just bittersweet to know a thing you love is going to end, even if you’re beyond glad that it’s going out on a high note, rather than struggling to create story in the name of a studio and/or network cash grab. Especially with a show as special, unique, and trailblazing as Orphan Black. It was a bit of bottled lightning, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t wax slightly emotional about its impending end.

For this particular writer, the feelings about this development/surrounding Orphan Black are many. Not only is it the first show I’ve covered from episode one, it’s one of the first shows that made me truly excited again about the possibilities of TV. The show has always been more than the sum of its very good parts—part conspiracy series, part thrilling sci-fi mystery, part suburban comedy, and full-on feminist masterwork—so much so it ostensibly created a community. Fans the world over were able to see themselves in characters and story in a whole new way, forming communities and families entrenched in the series’ ethos. Simply by telling stories that weren’t just female characters living in traditionally male spaces, they helped usher in the new wave of female-centric storytelling: TV heroism and antiheroism wasn’t just for the boys anymore. And stories that may be inherently unique to the female experience weren’t bad or boring—they were just as great and engaging as the rest (if not more so in places).

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But that was inherent simply by the fact that the series existed. The story of Sarah Manning, hopping off a train only to see an identical version of herself step in front of said train, stood the test of time and development because it believed in its story, its vision, and the world it created. And Manson and Fawcett drew out that world slowly, with purpose, and never a wink or a nod or a patronizing “they can do it, too! See?!” sort of insecurity that has often accompanied female-fronted shows in the past. That Sarah Manning and Allison and Cosima and Helena and Rachel were women wasn’t what made them special: it was just a part of their humanity. Did it inform their understanding of what it meant to be controlled and exploited by society? Fuck yes it did; but that’s just part of their human experience, making them determined to fight back against their circumstances. To say, “this is my life, my body, and my choices matter.”

Circumstances that ultimately allowed the series to mash up genres, blend reality and the surreal, and take storytelling risks that paid off thanks to their deeply researched scientific origins. It wasn’t enough for Orphan Black to simply be a good show about interesting people—it had a purpose, and was entrenched in fringe (and non!) science. Nature versus nurture, evolutionary biology and the extent to which human beings could control it, how that control influences the science itself: all of these things didn’t just enhance the story, they made it all the more riveting, engaging, and terrifying to watch. Especially as scientific advances like CRISPR made Orphan Black feel less like a horror-science exploration and simply a heightened extension of what could be. The social, political, and scientific ramifications the series lived in made the experience of watching the show all the more riveting and real.

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A real life made all the more vivid thanks to its impressive crew, creators, and cast. To be frank: these are people that have always cared about creating a good story first and foremost. And their love for the show on every level shows. And, of course, the acting talent on the show was truly beyond measure: Tatiana Maslany will leave this show poised to take on the world and/or become the new Meryl Streep (real talk). Her co-stars will also leave the series knowing they embodied and brought to beautiful life some truly incredible characters: Jordan Gavaris’ Felix was always a source of stability and humor, his love for the Clone Club—despite certain completely understandable annoyances—a driving force to keeping the sestras alive. Kristian Bruun’s Donnie Hendrix was, perhaps, the most endearing character on the series (outside of Helena), so obliviously dadlike in the best way—and someone for whom we were always rooting. Kevin Hanchard’s Detective Art Bell grew leaps and bounds, particularly over the past season, as an integral part of solving the mystery behind the science. Evelyne Brochu lit up the screen and the science as Cosima’s beloved Delphine, and Maria Doyle Kennedy was pure fire from minute one. Mrs. S was NOT TO BE MESSED WITH, and her incredible gravitas and dynamic with Sarah and the rest was as emotionally satisfying as it was badass.

So as easy as it would be to be sad at the announcement that the series is coming to an end, it shouldn’t be: we had a very special thing here, and it may be ending, but it’ll go out on a high note, having helped to create a new atmosphere for storytelling on TV, elevating genre fare far beyond how it was previously seen. Simply by being itself and existing, Orphan Black helped to change the game and usher in the radical idea that stories that are female aren’t just acceptable—they’re great. And genre series can be so much more than the stereotype often lofted upon them. We’ll always have the crazy science we got to make together, Clone Club. And the GIFs—and that is definitely more than enough.

Are you sad to see Orphan Black go? Let’s commiserate in the comments below.

And because we want you to be happy, here’s Kristian Bruun’s dancetastical look at season four:

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Images: BBC America

Alicia Lutes is Managing Editor of Nerdist, creator/co-host of Fangirling, and the president of Nerdist’s own Clone Club. Find her on Twitter if you’re into that sorta thing.

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