Home / Action Plan / ‘Orphan Black’ Co-Creator on That Horrifying Scene and the Possibility of a Spinoff

‘Orphan Black’ Co-Creator on That Horrifying Scene and the Possibility of a Spinoff


[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from “Orphan Black” Season 5, Episode 2 “Clutch of Greed.”]

Our worst fears from watching the Season 5 trailer came true in Saturday’s episode of “Orphan Black”: One of the Leda clones died.

“We’re really going to hear it from the fans,” series co-creator Graeme Manson said about killing off a beloved character. “I think if you watch five seasons of the show, you’ll realize that this isn’t the clone of the week show. We want to care deeply about them. We want to invest in them. It comes down to the decision of whose going to make it out alive because the bottom line is nobody is safe.”

READ MORE: ‘Orphan Black’ Review: Final Season Gets the Fun, Frightening and Feminist Farewell It Deserves

The death happens as a result of Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany) being pursued by Ferdinand (James Frain). She insists on retrieving MK (Maslany), who is suffering from the debilitating disease that has hit so many of the Leda clones, from her hideout, but MK refuses and instead offers to masquerade in the Rachel (Maslany) outfit that Sarah had been wearing. Once Ferdinand arrives, then MK would buy Sarah some time to escape with her daughter Kira (Skylar Wexler).

Unfortunately, once Ferdinand discovers that ruse, that MK is in the Rachel disguise and not Sarah, he snaps. Not only did MK lose him a lot of money when he botched the Helsinki job in which she was supposed to die in a fire, but she also stole money from his accounts in a previous season. Add to this his obsession with Rachel who had recently dismissed him as a sexual partner, and he spirals into a vengeful, senseless rage in which he conflates his hatred for the two women and brutally stomps on MK’s chest repeatedly until she dies.

Saying Goodbye to MK

Tatiana Maslany, "Orphan Black"

Tatiana Maslany, “Orphan Black”

BBC America

Manson explained why MK, one of the newer clones introduced on the show, was chosen. “There’s not one clone on the show or one supporting cast who couldn’t, in a twist of plot, wind up in the same boat as MK, having to put down their life and sacrifice themselves to another, for a greater cause of the sisters, which is what MK does,” he said. “I think we wanted to lessen this blow a little bit by very early on saying, ‘Okay let’s make sure that MK is sick.” Her way of hiding in the shadows and having so much difficulty reaching out, part of this has to do with her own decision. She is the one who can sacrifice herself because she believes her life is about to be cut short by the clone disease.”

In order to give her more time on the screen before her death, the show crafted the technically challenging scene in which Maslany as both MK and Sarah would switch clothes as part of the disguise.

READ MORE: Summer TV Preview: 20 New and Returning Dramas That You Need to Watch

“We really thought that MK might bite it at the finale of last season,” said Manson. “We don’t kill clones lightly, so we wanted to make it very memorable. We were looking for a way to do it that’s both arresting and that gives value to that clone that’s helped us. It was a technical challenge for us to do a long shot showing sort of behind the scenes of these switcheroos that we do. I don’t think since Sarah played Rachel in Season 3 have we gone behind the scenes and watched one clone turn into another. All the while that they are in the same frame, they’re changing clothes and handing things to one another.”

Unfortunately, MK’s death was one of the most personal and brutal ones we’ve seen on the show so far. Being a Leda clone comes with many dangers, but before, the clones that we’ve seen die were usually ones we didn’t know very well or their deaths were fairly quick, such as Beth Childs (Maslany) stepping in front of a train or Katja Obinger (Maslany) dying from a sniper rifle shot to the head.

Tatiana Maslany, "Orphan Black"

Tatiana Maslany, “Orphan Black”

BBC America

“We’re not going to pull any punches,” said Manson. “If we’re going to give her clone her due, and she’s going to sacrifice herself, we’re going to challenge the audience while we’re doing it. James Frain is a wonderful actor. He can be deliciously evil. It was a conscious construction of a strange scenario that we wanted to play out and that would be horribly violent, that it would have this moment of recognition in it for Ferdinand. Right now, all his frustrations with Rachel would play out right in front of his eyes because at this moment, MK is dressed as Rachel. So there’s this deliciously perverse level of things playing out for Ferdinand. Perhaps he even loses control because he is now countermanded an order from Rachel. That can’t go well even though Rachel seems to be wielding the velvet crowbar these days.”

Manson was on hand that day while co-creator John Fawcett directed the scene. “It was a hard scene to watch,” said Manson. “In that violent moment when Ferdinand loses himself and he stomps her, Tat had this big, hard, fiberglass body cage that fit her whole upper torso [on]. It doesn’t look pleasant when you’re sitting on set either.”

In the Wake of MK’s Death

James Frain, "Orphan Black"

James Frain, “Orphan Black”

BBC America

MK’s death has almost immediate repercussions as well. Although Rachel and Ferdinand had made their association strictly business now, in killing MK he’s disobeyed her.

“She’s been anointed on high by P.T. Westmorland, [the founder of Neolution],” he said. “And P.T. Westmorland seems to have a legitimate desire to keep these other clones alive. Rachel’s not supposed to lose any of them and she makes that clear. We’ll see what’s in store for Ferdinand for countermanding that action. Rachel is trying to look at this in a different light because of her new position at the head of Neolution. She’s trying to exercise restraint and look good for her new big boss. Ferdinand put a wrench in that.”

Continue to next page for Alison’s journey and spinoff talks >>

Check Also

‘The Sinner’ Finale: Creator on the Masked Captor’s Identity and What Season 2 Could Look Like


[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from the season finale of “The Sinner.”]

“I know you did it for your son,” Cora Tannetti (Jessica Biel) tells the man who had imprisoned her for two months, during which he shot her up with heroin and obliterated her true memories. It’s a curiously generous statement for her to make, but it’s not the first time that “The Sinner” has found sympathy and common ground for people’s failings.

USA Network’s summer psychological thriller began with Cora stabbing Frankie Belmont (Eric Todd) to death seemingly without provocation during a day at the beach. It turns out that five years ago at a party, Frankie had tried and failed to revive Cora’s sickly sister Phoebe (Nadia Alexander) with whom he had been intimate. A song that was playing at the time of the tragic accident was the same song that triggered Cora to attack Frankie during that day at the beach.

The season finale reveals the author of Cora’s deeper psychological trauma: Frankie’s father Dr. Belmont (Christopher Innvar). In order to protect his promising med student son’s reputation, Dr. Belmont sent his son off to California for a job and took care of covering up Phoebe’s death without his son’s knowledge. Part of that cover-up involved holding Cora prisoner in a small bedroom and giving her heroin until she was addicted and her arms were scarred up. During these two months he also brainwashed her into forgetting the events of that fateful night and into thinking she was a drug addict and female escort.

In adapting the German novel “The Sinner” for the USA miniseries, showrunner Derek Simonds was satisfied with keeping the biggest reveals – the parts that Frankie and his father played in Cora’s trauma – the same for American audiences.

Jessica Biel and Christopher Innvar, "The Sinner"

“In the end, I’d say the big reveal and such are faithful to the book,” Simonds said in an an interview with IndieWire. “The thing that I love about this material is that it engages like a great suspense novel should, but every reveal and twist — and there are a lot of them – deepen the humanity of the characters rather than cheapens the humanity of the characters.

“There’s a lot of thrillers that by the third act, characters start acting in really extreme, unbelievable ways,” he added. “Someone you sympathized with suddenly is just plain old evil and they’re sort of reduced to a bad guy. ‘The Sinner’ never jumps the shark that way. It never exaggerates human behavior or resorts to cheap shocks. The reveals end up showing a lot of parents and children doing the best they can in tragic circumstances, and then the shame that results from that and the consequences of that shame. It feels like a very human story that could happen in the house next door versus a really overblown stylized gruesome thriller.”

The Creepy Ski Mask

One difference in the series is that Frankie’s dad hides his face behind a ski mask, instead of relying on Cora’s faulty memories to protect his identity.

“That’s one aspect that was not in the book at all that we created for some additional mystery and also just to make the backstory more plausible,” said Simonds. “If Dr. Belmont was keeping Cora for two months in her room, why would he show his face to her if he really wanted to hide his story. So that was something that we put a lot of logic that we parsed in the writer’s room.”

The imagery was effective, especially since the ski mask was a dark beige color, which made it appear more like a burlap sack, sort of like the one used on scarecrows.

“Our props master Duke Scoppa brought in a whole range of masks. This particular one, we all responded it,” said Simonds. “It was a vintage hunting mask for cold weather hunting. I think I responded to it partly because of the beige, that there’s something plush and kind of friendly and comfy about the material. It’s like a stuffed animal. Yet, when you put it on, it creates these dark holes for eyes and a kind of creepy, unknown face. So it’s this scary Muppet kind of [character], which is disturbing… and kind of unnerving.”

PTSD and Trauma

Jessica Biel, "The Sinner"

“The Sinner” isn’t only an exploration into the events of that one night or what Dr. Belmont did to Cora afterward. How her religiously fanatic mother raised her and the ways Phoebe took advantage of her instilled a deep sense of guilt and shame in Cora. She was already primed her for the shameful narrative that the doctor fed her. That deep repression of actual facts is also what led Cora to snap at the beach.

“We did a lot of research about PTSD in particular, the performance PTSD psychosis that Cora suffers from where she’s actually reenacting the moment of trauma,” said Simonds. “We talked to several social workers and psychologists who also work in the justice system and evaluate prisoners and suspects. This was a part of the story that we wanted to take very seriously. This is a genre story, it’s a psychological thriller and we wanted it to be entertaining, but we also wanted it to be responsible and speak authentically to these issues and ground them in as much reality as the story could in the time that we had.”

Simonds has been gratified that many viewers are responding not only to the mystery aspects of the show, but also to the psychological issues.

Nadia Alexander and Jessica Biel, "The Sinner"

“It’s fascinating the responses from people. For instance, the incest scene in Episode 6 between Cora and Phoebe, there such a range of reactions to that scene,” he said. “There were people who were incredibly offended and wanted to stop watching the show because we portrayed that scene. Then there were other people who really responded to exactly how traumatized Cora was, how she had lost her agency, how she was being manipulated by her mother and then her sister and JD. They saw what we were trying to say psychologically with that scene. It just reflects to me how open or not open people are to the sort of relating to others, how easily we can either judge or empathize.”

Continue reading for the trouble with Harry, Season 2 possibilities>>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *