In a much-needed Alison-centric Orphan Black episode, we watched her first encounter with Cosima and how that led to her showdown with Rachel.
(Beware: There are spoilers for the latest episode of Orphan Black below.)
Orphan Black is doing its best to wrap up everyone’s storylines in its fifth and final season. Because we’ve met a lot of clones, Orphan Black needs to get creative — last week delivered a brutal death for M.K., and this week’s “Beneath Her Heart” followed up with a very touching trip down memory lane for Alison Hendrix.
And when I say “trip,” I truly mean that Alison was on drugs for a good portion of the episode.
But instead of focusing on her dalliances with drugs or how much they negatively impact her life, Orphan Black returned to the aftermath of her actions. It focused on how Alison felt once things were all said and done. It pulled back the curtains on how she reconciled Aynsley’s death, her involvement with her sister clones, and her relationship with Donnie.
So let’s break down those three big things:
Aynsley and Alison:
We started the episode with Alison and Donnie in their yesteryears, playing nice with her neighbors Chad and Aynsley. As we saw throughout the seasons, Alison wasn’t exactly the greatest friend. She often allowed her ambition to blind her, and oh yeah, she had an affair with Chad.
As co-creators John Fawcett and Graeme Manson explained to Entertainment Weekly:
"Plus, I think the Aynsley storyline brings back a lot of guilt for Alison, and that’s just so important as we kind of dig into her own issues, her own self-esteem, and this journey that we take the character on."
By the end of the episode, Alison let go of her guilt with Aynsley. Instead of comparing herself to her former neighbor, she realized it was time to embrace her dark past. Even when Chad approached her at the Fall Fun Fair, Alison walked away from him. In the past, Alison might’ve chosen to pick up the affair again, but instead, she chose to go watch Donnie’s performance.
The Clones and Alison:
Early in the episode, Alison took some “magical mushrooms” and then met the second clone in her life, Cosima. While Cosima introduced herself as calmly as possible, the drugs made their first encounter awkward. Which only added to how much Alison was trying to stay out of Beth’s business.
"That was just sort of a fun element for us to kind of embrace and to use in kind of this character study of Alison, where we’re kind of moving between the past and the present."
Of course, as part of the “originals” in a pre-Sarah Manning existence, Cosima and Alison enjoyed much more time to understand their positions in a way that Sarah couldn’t. However, this episode saw Alison grapple with feeling useless. Even in her flashbacks, she remarked that she could’ve been a scientist or a cop, but instead, she was a housewife.
Instead of allowing this to drag her down, present-day Alison finally decides to take her fate into her own hands. She takes her fight to Rachel and stands her ground. Though Alison wouldn’t give up Helena’s location, she forced Rachel to call off the shakedown.
Finally, we see how much Rachel and Alison have in common. They’re both controlling and carry a spirit of willpower unmatched by any other clone.
Donnie and Alison:
Full disclosure: Donnie is my favorite. Like, here’s a guy who, like Delphine, was placed in Alison’s life to watch and control her more than he was to actually be there as her partner and husband. But over the course of the series, he’s evolved from a fly on the wall to the man with some sort of semblance of a plan. He’s so loyal and truly appreciates Alison for who she is.
But also Donnie (and of course, Kristian Bruun) have given us some of the series’ best scenes, from accidentally shooting Aldous Leekie mid-freakout, to jumping on the bed in his underwear, and obviously, last night’s super-sweet closing scene between him and Alison.
Orphan Black season 5 episode 3 production still. Image via Ken Woroner/BBC America
As Donnie congratulated Alison on a job well done and she revealed she’d be leaving for a little bit (from a writer’s standpoint, that would buy them at least one or two episodes with one less character to worry about), Orphan Black drove home the overall tenderness of the episode and their relationship by letting them sing a duet.
Donnie whipped out a mandolin, which is one of Bruun’s many talents apparently, and they sang, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” Which, after that episode, seemed like the perfect song for them instead of like the most popular song on the karaoke machine.
After all they’d been through, it was the perfect way to wrap up the episode.
So where’s Alison going and how long will she be gone? More importantly, how will things be when she gets back?
Find out as Orphan Black airs its final season every Saturday at 10 p.m. ET on BBC America.