From Dyad to dance parties: An oral history of Orphan Black's Season 2 finale

With the third season of BBC America's Orphan Black right on our doorstep (April 18, 9/8C), Blastr decided to take a look back at the stellar second season finale episode, "By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried," from the perspective of its creative team. Knowing full well that co-creators John Fawcett and Graeme Manson embed a plethora of foreshadowing and easter eggs (both visually and verbally) into all of their Orphan Black scripts, we figured the best way to prepare for Season 3 would be to dissect the important scenes featured in the second season finale, get insider intel on some things we might have missed that are important to the ongoing narrative, and just find out what the team's favorite moments were.

As a brief episode refresher (SPOILER ALERT for those who may not be fully caught up), the second season finale finds clone Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany) ready to sacrifice herself so she can get back her daughter, Kira (Skyler Wexler), from the clutches of her sister clone and Dyad director, Rachel (Maslany). From inside Dyad, clone Cosima's (Maslany) health is continuing to fail, but she works her own tricks to protect Sarah, Kira and her lover, Dr. Delphine Cormier (Evelyne Brochu).  By episode's end, it's revealed to Sarah that there's a whole other level of secret cloning that's been going on when she is shockingly introduced to Rudy (Ari Miller), an alpha male clone, who is brother to Prolethean Mark Miller and who is part of the previously unknown Project Castor.

 If you haven't watched the second season finale, you should stop now, as the team speaks freely about events that transpired therein ...

The opening of the episode introduces a different narrative device for the series, with Sarah Manning fighting Mrs. S in a heated argument in the past intercut with Sarah's future surrender to Dyad.

John Fawcett (co-creator/writer/director): The open was definitely very different for us stylistically, from a writing point of view and from a visual point of view. It's an out-of-time sequence. Because, what was happening with Sarah and Mrs. S, there's an aftermath quality, but there's also a flash-forward to Sarah being brought into, prepped and interrogated in this weird black room at Dyad, which we had a little glimpse of in Episode 9. The cross-cutting would add a lot mystery and a lot of tension to show where Sarah was emotionally with Mrs. S. And because I knew we were creating the black room environment for Dyad, I wanted to contrast the sharp, hand-held camera moves with bright, hot backgrounds in the stuff from the past. The contrast made it easy for the viewer to keep track as we bounced back and forth from then and now.

Maria Doyle Kennedy (Mrs. S):  I remember filming that scene really clearly. Only one or two lines had been written, but [Fawcett] decided he wanted something much more from the encounter, so we were given free range to just improv our way through an argument. Tat and I both love the opportunity to do that, so we had a lot of fun ripping through each other for what seemed like ages. We would change what we were doing each time, so there were several takes of hurled insults. We had to have a real hug at the end!  And I think Mrs. S truly accepts Sarah's embrace for what it is, an attempt at peace, and a belief in her love for them.

At Dyad, audiences see a whole different level of secret rooms, different from the white, brightly lit offices that housed Rachel and Dr. Leekie (Matt Frewer). Sarah is taken into them to be interrogated.

Fawcett: There is a layer to Dyad that is presented more to the public. But there's obviously the basement of the old area that was used for something in the past, and that's where they keep their clone program and Cosima and things they don't want the public to know. There's probably even a sub-basement below that where they do slightly more nefarious things. The black rooms was a fun, but simple, way to communicate that.

A new character, Dr. Nealon (Tom McCamus), is given the sinister chore of grilling Sarah with incredibly intimate questions about her medical history and past -- of which he already knows a lot.

Fawcett: Dr. Nealon gets introduced here. It's interesting, too, because we're also trying to say in Episode 9, where we see Rachel in the black room, distraught watching old images of herself and her father, and old images of Sarah and Kira, she then speaks on the phone with Dr. Nealon. Even though you don't see a face, he's been her personal physician since she was a young girl at Dyad. They have a history together, and that's an important aspect to understand as we move into Season 3.

Rachel pulls a power move on Delphine in the elevator and essentially bans her from Cosima and the clone research, which puts Cormier at a crossroads.

Evelyne Brochu (Dr. Delphine Cormier): I think it's a moment that sets up a lot for Season 3. We're going to see Delphine in a more difficult position, but she's also going to have more responsibilities and more power.  With power comes a lot of sacrifice ... but it also allows a little space for revenge.

Sarah is then put into a room where she can watch Rachel speaking with Kira in a thinly veiled attempt to force Sarah to give up her ovaries in exchange for her daughter.

Fawcett: Rachel is doing this very specifically to get what she wants from Sarah. It's no secret that Rachel wants to have children herself, and this also illustrates that in a creepy way. There's something really "ick" about Rachel knowing that Sarah is watching her and Kira doesn't. There's something about playing this dialogue to Kira but a whole other thing to read between the lines to Sarah, who she knows is watching on the other side of the glass.

And then, for me as the director, and as a guy who makes a movie about clones, one of the fun things we were doing here is creating a clone shot that is not really obvious, which is putting Sarah's reflection in the glass and seeing Rachel on the other side of the glass. It was a cool, new way to show two of them in the same frame, which is always a challenge. It's one of those things as a director and co-creator, I never want you to feel the visual effects part of the show. I don't want people to think about it and just think Sarah is in one room and Rachel is in other. The magic of it is they are being played by one actor.

Outside of Dyad, Mrs. S calls upon Paul Dierden, who is revealed to be a double agent, to help her get Sarah and Kira out of Dyad.

Graeme Manson (co-creator/writer): [We decided to do the Paul reveal] more towards the end of the season, but it felt organic with Orphan Black in that the sands are shifting and characters reveal themselves to be different than what you thought. It was about leading up to a really great climax and who turns and who surprises. It was an earlier episode when Paul and Mrs. S met for the second time, and there was a lot of stuff there. It was mysterious enough that we could pull from that and have some revelations from that moment here.

Dylan Bruce (Paul Dierden): The first two seasons were a mystery to me. I thought a lot of the stuff that happened to [Paul] really happened to him, but it didn't, because he was playing the double agent. I didn't know, which is good because you don't want to intimate that you do. But now I know about Afghanistan. It's not just a code word for something. [Laughs]

Inside Dyad, Rachel attempts to have her father, Ethan Duncan (Andrew Gillies), reveal the cipher key that he embedded in his files. However, Duncan refuses and instead commits suicide by cyanide pill to Rachel's shock, anguish and rage.

Tatiana Maslany (The Leda Clone Sisters): It's always cool to take a character seen in one way and get to expand them in a different direction. Rachel has always been buttoned-up and aloof and difficult to access emotionally, so it was fun to get to push her in a new direction and let her scenes unravel so her austere facade crumbles a bit. I think a lot of these clones are dealing with identity, and family has a lot to do with identity, so any time we get a little glimpse into the backstory of any of them, or learn something we didn't know it's exciting to see them shaken up by it ... especially someone like Rachel, who is seemingly so put together and untouched by pain, fears or insecurity.

Kristian Bruun (Donnie Hendrix):  I love the scene where she's with Duncan in their last scene. [Tatiana] just blows my mind. Anytime you get a shred of humanity from Rachel, it's huge, because she gives so little most of the time. It's mind-blowing and heartbreaking at the same time.

In an awkward meeting between Sarah's lovers, Paul and Kira's father, Cal Morrison (Michiel Huisman), Mrs. S gets to say what the audience is thinking about these two handsome men when she quips, "Look at the two of you. I don't know how she does it."

Doyle Kennedy: That line was always scripted, and it made me laugh as soon as I read it! I loved saying it.

Inside Kira's Dyad bedroom, Cosima bonds with her over a science lesson that is really an ulterior motive.

Fawcett: It's fun whenever you are doing something where the audience knows the characters have a plan but they don't know what the plan is. You know that Cosima is scheming here. You can tell. And you know that she knows she's being watched. At the end of the day, she wants Kira to draw this picture that ends up being a clue for Sarah. What I love about the scene is there are so many different layers and clues within it. One of the final layers on top of that is getting to see Cosima and Kira interact and seeing Cosima teach science to Kira.

As Sarah is held in constraints in prep for her ovarectomy, Rachel blithely hands over Kira's drawing that directs Sarah's attention to a fire extinguisher rigged to launch a sharpened pencil ... that hits Rachel right in the eye and allows Sarah to escape with Kira.

Fawcett: Graeme had the whole pencil-in-the-eye concept that was kind of ludicrous. Whenever absurd ideas get mentioned, sometimes they get laughed out of the room or they manage to get some traction with the fact they are so crazy. I loved the idea of firing a pencil across the room into Rachel's eyeball, but at first glance it's a crazy, slightly dumb idea. I managed to talk him down from an ax in Rachel's head, where I kind of said, "Maybe that's not the best idea." I didn't want to kill her! She didn't quite deserve to die. I liked the pencil idea because it was an absurd image and I knew it could potentially hurt Rachel in a lot of interesting, different ways. I was interested in that because of where we could drop the character down to and how different she would be in season three. I was interested in handing off a physically damaged character to Tatiana as a new acting challenge for season three.

Manson: Cosima and Delphine helped in the [scheme] so it wasn't just Sarah against Rachel. It was about "We pull together to subdue the threat to Kira, who is our little marvel child."

Bruun: You never thought you could feel bad for Rachel in any way, and then she goes on to do more horrible things and gets a pencil in the eye, so you're like, "Yeah! Take that!" But then you are also like, "You poor, broken thing." She's as broken as Helena is, essentially. Helena is an explosion out, and Rachel is an implosion.

In a first for the series, clone sisters Sarah, Helena, Alison and Cosima end up together in Felix's (Jordan Gavaris) apartment with Kira. In a moment of peace, they spontaneously break out into a dance party that reflects their individuality and the family bond they share.

Manson: Emotionally, I think you really needed to see that sisterhood, and technical limitations prevent us from doing that too often. Putting them together in the same room -- not on the phone, not on Skype and not in separate scenes -- was a goal that we had. There was a card that said "four clone dance party" up on the board from almost day one. I really liked the idea and thought it would probably be in the finale. Dancing says it all. If you're dancing with your sisters, that says it all. [Laughs]

But my secret reason [for the scene] was that I wanted to see the Cosima dance on screen. [Laughs] It wasn't hard to sell Tat. Of course, she would love the physicality of how do all these people, where she lives in their bodies, how do they dance? It would obviously be really fun for the audience. It would be a super technical challenge for John to figure out, which he loved. And there was Felix and Kira in there, too.

Fawcett: We had never put the four girls together in the same room. As a production, we had never tried to tackle that, technically, before, so that was the biggest thing. What do we need time-wise? What do we need rehearsal-wise? What do we need gear-wise? There was a lot of planning involved doing a four-clone scene.

Manson: We shot it during the end of the finale episode. We counted on support from our networks to be able to do it. We had to get an extra day, and I had to go and pitch, and they both gave us their support, which was pretty great.

Fawcett: For me, it was, technically, how do we pull this off? I worked very closely with our visual-effects guys. It took us two days to shoot those sequences. On the first day, we did Cosima and Alison and established all of the blocking. It was a long first day doing two scenes with Sarah and Helena coming in and the dance party aspects with both characters, with all the coverage using our Techo-dollies and motion control camera.  On the second day, we picked up where we left off and did Helena first and ended with Sarah. We also had Skylar (Kira) in there with the first clone scene with Helena. And whenever you schedule her, she is a minor, so she can't be on set more than eight hours, and I only have six production hours because she has to be tutored. It was a big head-scratcher.

Jordan Gavaris (Felix Dawkins): It was truly special. To do it without it seeming contrived or dishonest in some way, it felt completely honest. It made sense to us even while we were shooting it. If you really break it down, it's this arbitrary two-minute dance party in the middle of a television episode, but it made sense. I feel like the audience at home never questioned the honesty or authenticity of it. It made perfect sense. But it was a nightmare to shoot! [Laughs]

Manson: With Felix, I rarely give direction, but I told Jordan how to dance. In that season-one episode, I told Jordan he had to watch Quadrophenia and dance like Sting, so that's where he got his dance. [Laughs]

Doyle Kennedy: What has surprised me most, I suppose, is watching the other characters develop and how much I really care about them. When I watched the clone dance scene, I cried. I was on my own watching it, and I cried, I was so deeply moved. Watching Felix interact with them and all of the sisters and their mad little dance movements that were all so different.  It's so powerful and deeply loving how they found each other and are trying to connect without words. There are no words. It's just about moving and being in the same space together, it's a really incredible thing to pull off. I thought it was a truly beautiful thing.

Brochu: For me, season two was the first time I got to meet the other clones. I just knew Cosima. But in [meeting] Rachel,  just saying good morning was a whole different thing. Not being in this scene and watching is the epitome of seeing how fearless, and talented and amazing and spontaneous and fast [Tat is]. Every character has its own soul and it has nothing to do with mannerisms. It's how the same cells can vibrate differently. They all have lives and backstories that are present in every breath and move. Then you realize it's all creative work this woman brings to the screen every day for six months. The epitome of that is that scene, and it's mental.

After the group boogie, Sarah and Cosima have a quiet moment to talk and process where they are as sisters.

Fawcett: One of my favorite, favorite scenes is Sarah and Cosima in bed when they have that emotional conversation. They hold hands, and Sarah is so afraid to lose Cosima to this illness. They share a genuine moment. It's beautifully written by Graeme, and Tat does such an awesome job. It's heart-wrenching. For me, it wasn't that hard to shoot, but it was one of those scenes that gets me every single time.

Manson: My favorite scene of the finale is definitely the scene where Sarah and Cosima talk about sacred geometry and [American neo-futuristic architect] Buckminster Fuller. It's really quiet and thematically important. I was trying to put that scene in the first episode, so I knew that we would do that scene some day. I kept trying to jam it in, and it finally made sense there. When I finally got to write it, it took about five minutes and barely changed except to maybe get shorter.  The other thing about that scene is it's actually a real technical challenge to put the beds together with the hands. One of those hands is [Tatiana double] Kathryn (Alexandre). It's always John's goal for the special effects that they are invisible and why we never win anything because they look so good. [Laughs]

Maslany: The scene between  Sarah and Cosima's in the finale was really fun for Kathryn and I to do together. She's my clone double, who is incredible, so I got to not have to act with a tennis ball and act with this brilliant actress who gives me so much. She and I have a real sisterhood between the two of us so to say those lines together, and explore those characters together in this intimate, quiet moment that Sarah never gets, but Cosima sort of gives her and allows her to have, was fun for us to do.

Later Kira comes to wake Cosima, who doesn't respond and the audience has a moment wondering if she's died. But she awakens seeing Delphine in a vision.

Manson: It's a moment prompted by Kira and keeps up the ineffable power to illustrate something that we're not interested in defining. Whatever Kira's gift is, it's very human. And then in terms of Cosima and Delphine, it helps set up their dilemma in Season 3.  I did want this near death experience but just wasn't sure how it was going to happen.


Sarah agrees to meet Dr. Marian Bowles (Michelle Forbes) who has more information about Dyad and another organization called Top Side. She also introduces her foster Leda clone, Charlotte, who is a dead ringer for the younger versions of the clones.

Manson: With Dr. Marian Bowles, it was important to make this person who we thought was an enemy into a frenemy, or some version of a person you can or cannot trust. Marian Bowles was very much a gatekeeper. She opens this door at the end of Season 2, and that's what her function was.

Fawcett: Meeting Charlotte is really a big part of seeding and was meticulously planned. The Rachel home movies were doing double duty for us early on in the season, because not only did we want to see Rachel at that age with her father before s*** went sideways for her, but we also wanted to clearly establish this face so, when we introduce Charlotte in the season finale, the audience knows who she is. It's a really chilling, emotional moment. If you put yourself in Sarah's shoes, what would it be for her, or me, to see myself again when I was eight years old? It bends your mind a lot.

On the outside, desperate to save Kira and Sarah, Mrs. S makes her own deal with Paul to hand over Helena in exchange for his help. Mrs. S knows it's a gamble she may never be forgiven for.

Doyle Kennedy: I think she feels that [trading Helena] is her only choice. She HAS to protect Sarah and Kira and has chosen to sacrifice Helena to do so. It is a brutal decision and not one she is proud of, but she feels compelled, always, to save them from whatever harm she sees coming.

Maslany: What Mrs. S and Paul did to Helena has definitely changed the game in terms of who Sarah can trust. I think Paul was always someone Sarah was wary of, and at this point he's sealed the deal on how she feels about him. But Mrs. S is a more complicated thing, because Sarah had taken on this idea of Mrs. S as her mother and part of her family. The betrayal is so enormous that it forces Sarah into some of the most difficult decisions she's had to make on the series.

Manson: Helena's exactly where we found her at the top of the season, in a situation that she knows well which terrifies her. To be a captive again terrifies her, but she has the strength to handle it.

Out on the road, former Proletheans Mark Miller (Ari Millen) and Gracie Johanssen (Zoé De Grand Maison) have eloped, and we get the reveal of who Mark really is moments afterwards.

Ari Millen (Mark Rollins): In that scene, I was still in the mindset of who Mark was from the point of view of last season.  Also, it's dangerous to play the end in that, I think it was more important just to see him getting what he had always dreamed of. I think that was the most important thing, in that's what he always wanted. He always wanted that fairytale of disappearing out of wherever he came from and just going forward with the white picket fence, the wife and hopefully soon, children. And so, in that moment, it's just pure happiness for him, and I don't think he was thinking about anything else other than this is the woman that I want to marry. Castor wasn't even factoring in at that point.

Marian  explains to Sarah there was another clone project and its name is Project Castor. She is allowed to view an aggressive clone named Rudy, behind a wall of glass.

Manson: We knew Ari Millen's clones were coming, and Project Castor. In the second half of the season, we had that really great discovery and decision where we knew we wanted a male clone to show up. We had been thinking we would cast someone new. But we also really enjoyed Ari and didn't kill Ari in Episode 6. So, when we were talking about opening this door into a whole other season and we had enjoyed working with Ari so much, and we like to double back on ourselves, we're like, "We'll look pretty smart if we pick someone from our own cast." Ari made a great choice. We went over what his character had done so far as Mark and we could explain it and it made for a great history.

Millen (Project Castor clones): The little that they knew about Rudy at that point is that they wanted him to be a little unhinged, and I think that was really the only concrete direction. And then we just played.  I think we probably did ten different takes in ten different ways of that reveal and that's the one that they chose. They were all different - similar but different. No inhibitions, you know? [Laughs]

Due to time cuts, a scene between Donnie and Rachel was cut from the finale.

Manson: It's a non canon [scene] and I think I'm kind of glad now considering how [Season] 3 played out.  

Bruun: Yeah, it doesn't count in the pantheon of the show, but there is a scene where Donnie meets Rachel that now doesn't exist. Rachel is my favorite clone in season two. She fascinates me. I'm glad I got to work with her. It was my last day on set for the whole season. I remember sitting with Tat off camera and she's dressed as Rachel and sitting in the body of Rachel and I was so thrown by it. I had seen Sarah a little bit when I was introduced to clone club in rehab, but Sarah are similar enough in look to Alison that it didn't throw me. But to sit there and see Tat dressed so differently, but still be her, really threw me. The scene  was so much fun and uncomfortable. As a actor, I'm glad I got to experience what it was like just to work with Rachel,even if it doesn't count. I totally understood [why it was cut], but I would love [Donnie] to meet Rachel again.

Manson: [Alison and Donnie] had such a great journey that season, and we thought we needed to give each clone their due. But then, it came down to the reality of [the edit being] ten minutes over and then finally down to four minutes over which is just painful. We went back and we looked at the Donnie/Alison arc and it was satisfying [ending for them in Episode 9].

Bruun: Yes, our arc now ends with us having sex and my butt is the last thing you see of me in the whole season. I joined butt club, and that's me for the season!

What did you think of the Orphan Black season-two finale? Are you ready for season three? Let us know in the comments!

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