What Was Up with the Swan on Last Night's Orphan Black?

Friday, 27 May 2016 - 10:30AM
Orphan Black
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Friday, 27 May 2016 - 10:30AM
What Was Up with the Swan on Last Night's Orphan Black?

Spoilers for Orphan Black season 4 follow!


Last night's Orphan Black was an emotional comedown from last week's action-packed, trigger-happy episode, which saw the death of Kendall and the revelation that Delphine is dead (supposedly). And while there were a few cheesy moments, most notably when Felix called Cosima and reached Sarah just in time to save both of them, it was a heart-wrenching episode, anchored by a typically virtuoso performance from Tatiana Maslany. She's always a pro, of course, but this episode required her to portray both Cosima and Alison having emotional breakdowns, in addition to Sarah and Rachel quite literally facing their demons.

Because while Beth is the spectre hanging over Sarah's head, Project Leda itself is the force that has driven Rachel's life, which manifested itself as the swan Rachel saw in the closing moments of the episode. The mythology of Leda has always been an apt metaphor for the clone project; in Greek mythology, Zeus raped Leda on the same night that she slept with her mortal husband, leading to a pair of mortal twins and a pair of divine twins. Although accounts vary, the mortal twins generally include Castor, while the divine twins generally include Helen of Troy, the "most beautiful woman in the world." In terms of Orphan Black, Zeus represents Neolution (slash the objectifying and dehumanizing forces of the patriarchy), the chimeric Kendall represents Leda and Project Castor is the defective and unsustainable offshoot of Project Leda. The main clones are not perfect analogs for Helen of Troy, since they are also sick (so maybe they're Clytemnestra?), but Neolution's aim is definitely to create a real-life "Helen of Troy": a flawless, demigodlike human being, not to mention a passive object of the patriarchy.

So it would only make sense that, in an episode when all the sestras are hitting rock bottom, that Rachel would hallucinate an embodiment of Project Leda. Her entire life has been controlled and determined by scientists who viewed her only as a failed attempt to create a perfect being, and in this episode, she learned that she never even had the little power that she thought she wielded. She may be the ultimate victim of Leda, because at least the other clones got to have their own families. Rachel has always been a lab rat, and has always known that she's a lab rat.

But then right at the end, the swan becomes pixelated right before it disappears, which indicates that this isn't just a hallucination or a metaphor, but a product of that bionic eye. The implantation of the bionic eye was the climax of Rachel's arc last season, and the promotional materials for season four seemed to imply that it would be a large part of this season, but it hasn't really come into play yet. So, what do we think it could be? Could it be somehow connected to Sarah's facebot? Is it turning Rachel into a Neolution pod person (as if they needed a piece of creepy tech to do that)? Let the speculation begin!
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