Nearly all my predictions and analysis for 2x09 were wrong. And I was wrong to say that Cosima will live, but Cophine is doomed. I was wrong because I was interpreting Cophine in the context of standard television romance tropes and cliches. But Orphan Black isn’t like any other show I’ve ever seen, and I need to be a lot more careful about what assumptions I bring to the table.
You see, other television shows have trained me to accept sex masquerading as love as the highest form of romance. Because let’s be real. Most TV pairings begin as two characters with a mutual desire to bang; then they have sex for a while until somebody inevitably cheats or dies. But these characters don’t make sacrifices for each other. They don’t put their lives on the line, or place the well-being of the other person over their own. Even long term OTP ships like MerDer and Calzona onGrey’s Anatomy (hey, don’t judge, I just needed a couple examples) have been endangered for relatively petty and mundane reasons: infidelity, career ambitions, different life goals, wanting/not-wanting kids.
This kind of pathetic “love” story is inevitable when the relationships themselves are the only source of conflict and drama motivating the story. If that’s your paradigm, then character death is really the only way a love story can end untarnished. Because “happily ever after” just doesn’t work in a show driven by relationship strife, which most shows are.
There are many kinds of love stories that can be told in fiction, but most of them are almost never seen on television. There are Shakespearean love stories where everybody dies, but the love is holy and achingly pure. There are fairy tale love stories with sweet happily-ever-afters waiting after the lovers battle the forces of evil together. There are even John 15:13 love stories, stories about sacrifices:
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Orphan Black is different. This is a high-concept show with powerful and mysterious antagonists driving the plot. This frees the show writers up to do something totally unexpected, which is to tellreal love stories. Not lust stories. Love stories. They can tell us life-or-death love stories, where there are real dangers and opportunities for sacrifice, loss, and pain.
This show takes platonic love to a whole new level. On most shows, the platonic relationships are a bit of friendly banter and a shoulder to cry on. On Orphan Black, the platonic relationships are about going all-in on the people who matter in your life, over and over again.
Consider Felix. How many times has he been assaulted, threatened, and terrorized in the line of duty for his foster family? Running wherever he’s needed, and always lying lying lying to cover for Sarah or Allison. Held at gunpoint. Framed for murder. Stabbed in the neck. He never catches a break.
Consider Cal. We haven’t seen as much of him, but this guy walked away from a pretty nice life to protect a family he didn’t know he had after about 12 hours with his daughter.
Consider Sarah. Sarah charges into DYAD’s compound alone with nothing but a gun and a prayer when she thinks they have her family. She told Rachel if you don’t have her you’re dead and she meant it; she’ll kill you if you stand between her and her loved ones.
Now that her sister Cosima is desperately sick she’s making bigger sacrifices and gambling with Kira—her most precious thing in the world. In the next episode it looks like Sarah will be turning herself over to DYAD to try to save both of them. Sarah is love, the John 15:13 kind, which is the rarest form of all.
I think the reason I see an absurdly-high number of people doubting Delphine’s love and stillquestioning her motives is that they are mentally stuck in that soap opera “love” story paradigm.
We’ve seen a number of different minor “betrayals” that are really manifestations of the way Delphine places Cosima’s survival above the stability of their relationship. In the soap opera paradigm that looks selfish—she’s robbing Cosima’s agency—but in the true love paradigm it’s selfless. She’s prioritizing her sincere desire for a romantic relationship second in importance to Cosima’s survival. She’d rather be alone and even hated by Cosima if it means Cosima can go on living. Delphine’s longing puppy-dog gazes show us how much she wants that relationship. But she’s willing to give that up if she has to to keep Cosima safe.
Last week I thought Delphine’s then I love all of you pledge would fall to the side as she continued her ends-justify-the-means behavior pattern. I convinced myself that she would do terrible things to the other clones in service of keeping Cosima safe. But she didn’t, because she was telling the truth when she said she would love them too.
I was shocked. I am shocked. Delphine has basically put herself into a serious life-threatening situation to pass Sarah what she thought was information about Rachel’s plan with no benefit at all to Cosima. It’s unfortunate that it failed, because the consequences are still very real for Delphine.
With Rachel as her enemy, that Dyad Directorship is starting to look a bit like the iron throne. In the promo we even get a thinly veiled threat from Rachel to Delphine: You’ll be on that plane if you refuse. Refuse what? We don’t know, but the stakes are clear. Next week we could possibly lose both Delphine and Cosima.
Are you hurting?
So, we poor CloneClub members of the ballpit…. That pain we all feel? It’s love. We’re hurting because the writers have made us feel real, actual love and affection for these characters in a way that other shows have not. I’m trying to savor it, because I realize now how rare that is in television.
Until next week I’ll be in the ballpit watching my totally sappyawesome cophine fanvid and basking in the glorious truth, beauty and selflessness of Delphine’s love for Cosima. And when the finale comes, whatever happens, I’m ready.