Art by Zoshu
Some shows simply exist. Sure, they attract an audience and entertain you for around 40 minutes, but that’s about it. They don’t leave an impact, they don’t resonate, they don’t do anything of serious significance. But not Orphan Black.
Orphan Black transformed television in more ways than one. It didn’t just tell a uniquely brilliant story, it introduced us to a wide array of strong female characters who all brought something different to our screens. It represented the underrepresented. It stood up for the LGBTQ+ community. It spread the message that our bodies are not another person’s property. That you should fight for who you are and those that you love. That family is stronger than anything.
Orphan Black didn’t just create a fan base. It created a family. An entire Clone Club. And that means so much more than any number of ratings or awards.
It’s taken a long time for women to dominate our screens and it’s taken even longer for them to be realistically represented. Orphan Black nailed both of those points.
Orphan Black doesn’t have just one female character taking centre stage, it has an entire ensemble. They’re layered, they’re complex, they’re powerful. Each one of them is completely different to the other, and yet they compliment each other perfectly.
There’s Sarah Manning, a single mother who’s fought her fair share of inner and outer demons her entire life. She’s not perfect, she doesn’t always get things right, but she’ll go to the end of the world to protect her family.
There’s Cosima Niehaus, whose intelligence and perseverance saved both her life and the lives of all her sisters. Who provides incredibly important representation for anyone struggling with their sexuality, which will never be forgotten.
I could simply say “soccer mom” and a plethora of stereotypes would probably jump to your head. But Alison Hendrix goes against any preconceptions you could possibly come up with. Sure, she takes part in all the bake sales and has her own neatly organised craft room, but she also used to be a drug dealer and has a couple of bodies buried under her garage floor.
When Helena was first introduced to us, we never could have envisioned her capturing our hearts in the way that she did. She could kill a man with her fingernail, yet all you want to do is love and protect her.
Even after everything she did, Rachel managed to find some redemption.
Each clone embodies something different and exemplifies the fact that women are layered, and are so much more than the stereotypes that society tries to label us as. Just when you think you have one character figured out, something will happen that completely shifts your opinion.
We also have characters like S, the true hero of Orphan Black. She always put her family first and didn’t hesitate to put her life on the line for them. Whilst some shows wouldn’t consider giving older female characters as many kick-ass moments as the younger characters, Orphan Black didn’t hesitate.
— Christine Hanchard (@ChristineHanch3) 13 August 2017
But Orphan Black isn’t just an incredible show for women, it’s a monumental series that will go down in history for what it did for the LGBT community. This is the what’s going to be the most significant loss now it’s left our screens.
LGBT characters are very rarely represented well. Most of the time, they’re just the side character who serves no real purpose to the storyline, but Cosima plays an integral part in Orphan Black. Her representation has never once been harmful or negative. In the show, her sexuality isn’t even a topic of conversation. As she says herself: “my sexuality is not the most interesting thing about me”.
TV writers don’t need to make a character’s sexuality the only thing that defines them, they need to normalise it. And that’s exactly what Orphan Black did with Cosima.
To Clone Club, Cosima is so much more than just a fictional character. Because of her, thousands of people have had someone they can see themselves in. They’ve had someone who represents them. Someone who gives them hope and courage to be who they are. Who’s enabled them to accept themselves, come out and find happiness.
Cosima’s relationship with Delphine is beautifully intense. From the moment they first met, through Tatiana and Evelyne’s capturing chemistry, you could sense that their relationship was going to be something special. Over these past few years, we’ve watched them fall in love and form one of the shows most impactful pairings.
‘Cophine’ are allowed to be sexual, they’re allowed to be vulnerable. They’re given just as much depth as any other couple would. The freedom the writing gives them is what makes their dynamic feel so realistic and raw.
Even when they were apart, you knew they’d find their way back to each other. When Cosima nearly died, it was the thought of Delphine that gave her the strength to survive. When Delphine was shot and Cosima thought she had lost her, it completely broke her. Their connection was so deeply rooted that you could feel the imbalance when they weren’t together. And when they finally reunited at the end of season four, you could feel everything they were feeling. You knew that they were never going to let anything tear them apart ever again.
Now, they have their endgame.
Orphan Black giving a happy ending to a LGBT couple is so important 🏳️🌈 pic.twitter.com/yZLmhFogHu
— ally (@kendrickmaslany) 13 August 2017
When Orphan Black left Delphine for dead, fans thought the show had conformed to the same harmful bury your gays trope that so many others had. But of course they didn’t. Orphan black understood the importance of the story they were telling. Representation matters. Delphine and Cosima matter. What Orphan Black have done for the LGBT community matters and will always be remembered.
Through Cosima, Delphine, Felix, Tony and Sarah – we have seen sexuality for what it is: a spectrum. We’re all different and we all deserve to see ourselves on screen. TV shows shouldn’t be afraid to be inclusive.
Orphan Black giving a happy ending to an LGBT+ couple is something other tv shows could take notes from.
— al 🖤 (@eveylnebrochu) 13 August 2017
Now, let’s talk about the phenomenon that is Tatiana Maslany. Orphan Black would not be the show that it is without her. Few actors would be able to do what she has done for the past five seasons. Tatiana didn’t play just one character. She played one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten – in all honesty you lose count after a while. But you never forget the performances she delivered.
Getting into one complex character and giving an award winning performance each episode is hard enough. Imagine playing 90% of the characters in a show, all of whom are drastically different to one another (from accents to personas) and are in scenes together. With the help of Kathryn Alexandre, the unsung hero who works as Tatiana’s body double, something beautiful was created.
Tatiana Maslany even manages to create chemistry with Tatiana Maslany, that’s how good she is. In fact she’s so good that most of the time you forget you’re looking at the same person. She truly is the greatest actor on TV and her work on Orphan Black will be the topic of conversation for many years to come. Her support for fans, in particularly for the LGBTQ+ community, only emphasises what a truly incredible person she is.
Tatiana portrayed 12+ DISTINCT characters (five main roles in the same damn scenes) and BODIED every last one of 'em. #FarewellOrphanBlack
— Paris Chanel (@thechanelmuse) 13 August 2017
So, to Orphan Black and all those involved in it’s creation, thank you. Thank you for telling interesting stories. Thank you for creating one-of-a-kind characters. Thank you for being inclusive. Because of you, Clone Club was created.
Although the series has come to an end, Clone Club never will.