What an absolutely fantastic hour of television.
Orphan Black Season 5 Episode 7 will surely go down as one of the series' best to date. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if it winds up being one of the best episodes of TV among every show airing this year!
"Gag or Throttle" was a deep-dive into all that is Rachel Duncan – the series' most complex clone by a landslide. Remarkably, this hour managed to go a long way towards making readers sympathize with a character who was previously difficult to reconcile.
I wouldn't go so far as to say that Rachel has been redeemed – she hasn't, and I can't imagine what it would take for her character to be fully redeemed (many more season of the show, certainly).
I am all but certain that Rachel will sacrifice herself this season to take down Westmoreland once and for all. That is, if she survives the harrowing end of "Gag of Throttle."
Orphan Black Season 5 Episode 7 managed to contextualize Rachel's behavior and actions in a clear and concise way, paralleling flashbacks to Rachel's younger days with Kira's current plight: Both were and are young girls deprived of their childhood in favor of the overarching science.
Kira: Who hurt you?
Rachel: All of them.
"Gag or Throttle" picked up shortly after Orphan Black Season 5 Episode 6 left off, with Cosima and Charlotte escaping the island, and Rachel taking Kira away to Dyad to start Westmoreland's new surrogate program.
The clock ticking down to when Kira's eggs could be harvested was a very effective tension-building device used in this hour. In general, "Gag or Throttle" was masterfully tense.
This hour made emphatically clear just what Rachel's motives are. Growing up knowing that she was a clone, Rachel always desperately wanted the validation and love denied her, in favor of raising her to be the self-aware "objective" clone baseline.
The most poignant moment was when Rachel drunkenly confessed to Westmoreland that, as a child, she'd once asked Aldous Leekie if she could call him dad.
In the Westmoreland/Rachel flashback sequences, to the beginning of their recent working relationship, it's made enormously clear that Westmoreland masterfully manipulated his way into Rachel's heart, acting as the father figure she so desperately desired.
I consider you my daughter.Westmoreland [to Rachel]
All that Rachel has ever wanted is exactly what Sarah has always had: a family. This perfectly explains the depth of Rachel's hatred of Sarah, and her antagonism: Rachel is jealous of Sarah.
At the same time, "Gag or Throttle" proved that Rachel is not wholly without feeling. Rachel clearly bonded with Kira during the time they spent together. That bond, paired with her discoveries about Westmoreland, provoked Rachel's eventual betrayal of the faux-173-year-old.
Cosima, Scott, and Hell Wizard were able to research and track down Westmoreland's true identity. Sure enough, he's just a random, rich Cambridge student who faked his own death and assumed the identity of the long-dead Westmoreland. Casual.
Cosima informed Sarah, and Sarah informed Rachel, threatening blackmail and hoping that the revelation would force Rachel to give up her blind devotion to Westmoreland. Rachel played it off like she didn't care, but in reality, it was the straw that broke the camel's back.
More importantly, Rachel discovered the horrifying fact that Westmoreland was spying on her and using her by planting a camera in her bionic replacement eye.
She also realized that, in the present, Westmoreland hadn't disconnected Rachel from her clone ID number as he'd promised.
In sum: Westmoreland manipulated Rachel, to a T. And when she realized that, all hell broke loose.
Rachel worked quickly to bust a drugged Kira out of Dyad before she was to be transferred to the Island, where Sarah likely never would've seen her daughter again.
I especially loved the brief moment when Mrs. S mouthed "thank you" to Rachel as she, Sarah, and Art quickly wheeled Kira out.
The Rachel portion of the installment ended in an absolutely harrowing way – with a drunk Rachel using her broken martini glass stem to gouge out her own replacement eye.
That moment was memorable, and it can only be described as shockingly graphic. I certainly wasn't expected to see Rachel cut out her own eyeball in such extensive detail. Gross.
Meanwhile, with Virginia Coady on the island, things are looking bad for Helena.
Virginia recruited Mark, the supposed last remaining Castor clone, and by extension Gracie, to track down Helena. Virginia is utterly ruthless – unlike Susan, who had at least a portion of her soul intact.
It's not enough for Virginia to experiment on Kira. She wants to do the same to Helena's twins, who haven't even been born yet.
I honestly hated the Gracie/Mark storyline, so I wasn't particularly impressed by their unexpected return. But I am interested to see whether they betray Helena so that Mark can be cured or help her.
- Alison is back! And her hair is short, shaggy, and purple! Oh my god!
- In all seriousness, Alison seems to have had a legitimate breakthrough during her time away. I'm digging it, and I think her new attitude might actually be here to stay. I particularly loved how pleasantly surprised (and confused) Donnie was about Alison's new outlook.
- We saw neither hide nor hair of Mud in this hour, but I have to imagine she will play some part in Westmoreland's eventual downfall. That dramatic realization of Westmoreland's betrayal in the final moments of Orphan Black Season 5 Episode 6 was too powerful not to be followed up on.
- Cosima and Scott's BFF-ship is one of the most underrated relationships on this show. I absolutely love their friendship, and Scott's genuine, palpable relief and happiness when Cosima showed up at the secret comic book shop lab was oh-so-heartwarming.
- Young Aldous Leekie was so scarily accurate. Excellent CGI. (I'm guessing it was CGI, right?)
What did you think of "Gag or Throttle"? Share your thoughts by commenting below, and don't forget that you can watch Orphan Black online here at TV Fanatic anytime!
Caralynn Lippo is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.