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Tag Archives: series finale

Saying Goodbye to Orphan Black

11 Aug

On Saturday night (August 12) the last ever episode of Orphan Black will air and I am not ready to say goodbye to all the Tatiana Maslanys — and the rest of the incredible cast — even though it probably is time for it to end. You never want a show to spiral particularly when it has this level of mythology (see also The X-FilesAlias and Fringe).

Sometimes the story has threatened to drift, but the performances have always held it together and there are not enough words of praise I can throw at Maslany and the entire supporting cast (including Maslany’s double Kathryn Alexandre).I’ve written about the Orphan Black costume design many times over the past five seasons and the work of Laurie Drew and Debra Hanson has been incredibly important at helping establish just who these characters are. And giving plenty of Wish List suggestions including the Cosima coat, which I ended up getting a much more affordable version of.

This isn’t even including Tatiana Maslany as style icon who also makes me want to wear sports leisure clothing.

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The way this show delved into ideas of identity spawned several pieces including this Helena-centric essay, the time I got to write about Orphan Black and The Americans and a recent deep dive into my fave thing this show does to showcase just how amazing Tatiana Maslany is; clones playing clones.

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Below is a piece I wrote after the fifth episode of this season — “Ease for Idle Millionaires” — and it centers on one of the best ever Orphan Black costumes; Cosima in a tux. It felt like a fitting way to say goodbye to this show, which means so much, with a moment that made me gasp.

“Frock That:” Dressing in a Doll’s House on Orphan Black

Each clone on Orphan Black has a sense of self and individual traits separating them from the ones who share the same face. When the situation calls for it they are very good at imitating each other and they share the same genetic materials, but these clones are much more than an experiment to unlock secrets of existence. The house up on the hill resembles a doll house stuck in a time warp, with its dress up rooms, taxidermy animals and servants pouring wine. What lurks beneath is a reminder of the facade presented by P.T. Westmoreland and it is a mix of smoke and mirrors with disturbing experiments on human subjects.

Cosima and her sisters were created in a lab, but they are not doll parts to be pulled apart and reassembled at the whim of the person playing with them. Each of them is defying their origin and fighting for survival in ways which showcase their individuality. Sarah is all about the hustle and is helping shape her own mini-hustler in the form of her daughter, Kira. Kira is at the heart of the next stage of this grand experiment, but even though Westmoreland thinks Rachel is the most deserving clone of Cosima’s inoculation he is yet to encounter the full wrath of Sarah. Particularly when it comes to her daughter.

Being the only clone that has been self-aware throughout this process might explain Rachel’s cold and detached demeanor toward her bio-sisters. Her costume color palette reflects this iciness and doesn’t stray from neutral tones; it is an expensive wardrobe that always looks immaculate. Whether recovering from a pencil to the eye or confronting her mother in a bloody battle nothing is out of place. Perfection is what she strives for in the way she dresses and in her life’s work (that is also her life) and while Susan told her the other clones are better than her, it is Westmoreland’s approval that matters most. And now she has the power to turn up late for dinner in a super sultry frock that definitely did not come from the P.T. Westmoreland collection.   Science is where Cosima lays her battle and she can’t quite help but push and prod to see what results she will get. First she invites herself to this exclusive dinner party and then she defies the dress code. Mixing science of the future with etiquette of the past is Westmoreland’s jam and Cosima and Delphine are led to a room filled with clothes that look like they are almost as old as Westmoreland’s so-called age. That or P.T. has been sneaking in a Downton Abbey binge between experiments and wants to live it up like he is a Crawley. In “Ease for Idle Millionaires,” Cosima and Delphine’s current contemporary outfits are not fit for dinner and they either get changed or leave.

Cosima’s response to this forced change of clothes mirrors her resistance to her body as intellectual property. A point that is reinforced with a flashback that acts an extended scene from the season 1 finale; when Cosima discovered their bodies are effectively patented and she told Delphine about her sickness. A low ebb for Cosima, who was not only dealing with her mortality but this idea of self. Because if your body isn’t yours then what is? This was a major turning point in Cosima and Delphine’s relationship transforming an act of deception into a true partnership. Trust is hard to come by and further complicated by corporate science. Delphine continues to shares scraps of information to make it look like she is towing the company line, but her heart is with Cosima.Whereas Cosima chooses to wear a tuxedo to dinner rather than one of the many available dainty looking dresses because “frock that,” Delphine mirrors her seemingly passive response to the demands of her boss by wearing exactly what she is told to. Her power comes from nodding and doing her due diligence, while Cosima is about poking and prodding her way to defiance.

The fancy attire reveal is an all-time Orphan Black costume highlight and costume designer Debra Hanson delivers the perfect menswear look for Cosima mirroring Westmoreland’s tuxedo. They are effectively both Delphine’s date and Cosima is the interloper here. She gets told that her choice of clothing is not appropriate, but this is what happens when you try to dress her like a doll. It is also just the tip of Cosima giving none of the fucks as she still gets to make a choice; the decision to opt for menswear is all hers. Cosima is defying, while Delphine protects and this balance is just as delicate as the material of Delphine’s white frock. Dressing up for dinner to this degree is a tradition that has long since passed and the marriage between old and new ideas comes up at the dinner table.

What sets Cosima apart from the other scientists at the table is her deep connection to family; whether it is the parents she fears finding out her truth because it will make what they had a lie or the seestras she is working to save through science. Love is important as it can’t be replicated or forced and neither can the integrity, humor, intellect and passion that Cosima has in spades. Cosima has curiosity when it comes to her own biology, but ultimately she is not willing to do whatever it takes to unlock these secrets. There are lines and the attributes that make her so much more than intellectual scientific property will stop her from crossing that ethical barrier. She still has her humanity.It is also why she ends up locked in a cage at the end of the episode after she refuses to shoot Yanis. By this point she has removed the trappings of this dinner costume; the tie, waistcoat and jacket have gone. All that remains are the suspenders to hold the pants up and it is a shame she left her Canada Goose coat upstairs as this basement looks like it could get a little cold.

Before Cosima loses her freedom she shares an intense moment with Delphine and they both double down on their commitment to each other; intercutting between kisses of past and present as the camera circles around them is intoxicating. This takes place in the creepy dress up room of a bygone era and as Delphine takes off the dress of playing along with Westmoreland’s plan she once again reveals her true intentions to Cosima. Acknowledging the cycle of their relationship problems, which are intrinsically linked to the overall clone conspiracy – Cosima pushes too hard, Delphine withholds – and realizing how dividing women is all part of the grand scheme. They will not be divided. But they will at least pretend they are.

Whether dressed in a tuxedo, as a soccer mom drowning in Lululemon, wearing a band tee and leather jacket, a slip straight out of the Courtney Love playbook or in designer threads for the office; each and every one of these clones has agency. Despite the best efforts from the powers that be to exert control, they can’t even make Cosima wear a frock. They can trap her in the basement, but as we have seen from five seasons of this show you can lock a clone up (and boy have they tried), but the support network is just too strong to crush.

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Gonna miss you guys and I’m off to read this Orphan Black oral history to prep for the finale.

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Needing to be Needed on The Good Wife or Why “End” is Disappointing

9 May

Alicia didn’t become a lumberjack and nor did she end up with someone other than the mother, but The Good Wife’s finale sure did burn everything to the ground in a way that was incredibly disappointing. I am sitting here staring at my screen wondering what on earth I just watched and why coming full circle means leaving Alicia with nothing. And no you can’t throw in Ghost Will to appease all those other very bad Diane related decisions because it doesn’t work like that and “End” has left a very bitter taste in my mouth.

Ultimately if Alicia Florrick needs to be needed what does it mean that she ends up alone?The Good Wife 7.22 Alicia and DianeLet’s start with THE thing that really spun the whole finale on its head and that is Alicia’s decision to zealously represent her client with no regard for her partnership at work. A couple of weeks ago Alicia watched Diane and Kurt looking all happy and asked them what their secret to good coupledom is; at the time I mentioned that Alicia pretty much screamed RELATIONSHIP GOALS  at them. While I am in no way suggesting that getting Lucca to ask about an affair was through jealousy, I do think she went in hard on Peter needing her when a couple of scenes before she was whatevering the whole thing.

There was no looking for another option and while Alicia and Diane were screaming at each other it appeared that Lucca was trying to suggest there was another way; one that didn’t get a follow up and instead Alicia asked Lucca to ask Kurt about a possible affair. We never get to hear the answer because when Diane gets up and leaves the courtroom showing her public disgust and humiliation at this question, we also leave the courtroom too. Considering this evidence is then thrown out I think it is safe to say that Kurt said yes this affair (oh, Kurt) and I don’t get why the torpedoing of Diane’s marriage was the necessary course of action for this finale.

One thing I did get was this idea that Alicia can’t be happy at this place of work which holds so many memories particularly as she refers to this office as having gotten sad and it probably is time for Alicia to move on; but did she have to go out in such a self-destructive and alienating fashion? And while Alicia and Diane are far from the martini drinking besties I wish they were, there is a strong level of respect and going for the jugular like this seems too selfish even by Alicia’s standards this season.

What she has done is dished out a version of her story to Diane all in the name of getting Peter’s plea deal down to probation when he was willing to do two years last week. Some of this is about protecting Grace and her path to college as somehow she was meant to be leaving for Berkeley in the midst of all of this; convenient timing and all that. Grace has deferred for a year and now she doesn’t have to worry about years of visiting her dad in prison. The Good Wife 7.22 Roosevelt hotelIt looks like Lockhart, [insert name here] and Associates is going to need new letterhead paper and signage as that slap suggests Diane is dunzo with Alicia. This puts Alicia in the Peter position mirroring the pilot opening sequence and is that what we are meant to take away from The Education of Alicia Florrick? Everyone is corrupt and will stoop to the lowest level to be left with nothing? We don’t know if Alicia will divorce Peter or if she will go for Eli’s political plan* or if there will be a positive response to her running for office again. God knows I am happy I never have to watch another campaign storyline again.

*I did enjoy seeing The Roosevelt Hotel popping up in the above scene as I got to play New York, not Chicago bingo and because I have stayed there on a couple of occasions. 

The number of loose ends is longer than my quest to find out exactly where Robyn went. Even the things I liked about this final season were given a short shrift with Lucca continuing her role of relationship coach and getting used by Alicia to stick it to Diane. Guess someone else is probably out of a job now.

Random aside alert – if there were to be a spinoff can I suggest a college set series with Cary as a guest lecturer at various institutes where he ends up helping solve cases. Maybe the hoodie can make a return.The Good Wife 7.22 AliciaOne big aspect of “End” is the conversations with dead people aka here is what you could have won. This is the Alicia Florrick version of the exceptional episode “The Giving Tree,” but this not two seasons ago when The Good Wife was creatively on fire and it ends up being wish fulfillment of the worst kind. Don’t get me wrong as I loved seeing Will Gardner on my screen again and the chemistry between Josh Charles and Julianna Margulies crackles as much as it did before; however all this did was underscore where this show has gone wrong over the last two seasons.

Ghost Will (or really Alicia’s imagined version of Will) appears when Alicia is pondering who she would like to see when she gets home from work offering a glass of wine to her. First Jason, then Peter and sadly no surprise appearance from the other one that got away with Finn Polmar. It surprises her when there is magical option number three and as with other Alicia memory pops or in this case fantasy pops she remarks on how stupid it is before leaning into the fantasy and Will. It is a little fan servicy, but I have to admit as someone who was sailing on the Will/Alicia ship this was an all the feelings moment as soon as I realized the Josh Charles returning for the finale rumors were true. Yes I even got teary because that’s what this pairing does.

And it didn’t just end in the kitchen and Alicia’s venture into old files led to a conversation about the law, college and life. It is very cute and there’s no denying how much I enjoyed seeing Alicia flirting with Will, but it also feels like a bit of an emotional cheat. A distraction of sorts and also a way to try and explain Alicia’s thought process without really explaining anything; “It was romantic because it didn’t happen.” The Good Wife 7.22 Alicia and WillAlicia’s asks “What do I do now?” and this is when Ghost Will tells her to go after Jason as her Peter fever is done with and this is what she does at the press conference the following day. Unfortunately she is chasing a guy who isn’t there and this is when the corridor of slapping gets another hit.

Alicia is left showing those emotions she has been stealing away from and faking in hilarious ways and this crumbling is followed by wiping tears and giving fierce face because Alicia is forever a master at putting on this mask. Or she can give you a demure smile if you want.The Good Wife 7.22 Alicia demureIn the immediate aftermath of watching this finale I am angry and disappointed; for how things went for Diane and that ultimately Alicia burned it all down for a man she is leaving anyway. It makes no sense and I am all for ambiguity, but this ending feels like it is trying to be too clever for its own good and I can see why they put out the ‘not everyone will be happy‘ signals before this even aired. Alicia going all in on getting what she wants after years of sacrifices for Peter is something I am here for, but this version where she blows up everything for Peter is far from satisfying and right now all I want to do is bask in the glory of season 5.

The conflict between Alicia looking out for her interests versus her ‘good wife’ mantle is something season 7 has been striving for and sadly it hasn’t always hit the mark. Part of this I think is due to the decision about whether this was the final season coming in late, which left this season unfocused for large periods of time and it has generally been ticking along. Spending the last 3 episodes covering Peter’s trial has felt like a rush job and really much more time on this rather than his presidential run would have made this storyline/season a lot more cohesive (once again I wonder if this was related to the late announcement). Instead what we are left with is cramming so much ‘goodbye’ plot into such a short space of time giving very little time for character reflection.

The astute comment by Jason about why Alicia has stuck with Peter followed by Ghost Will commenting on how little self-awareness Alicia has also speaks to some of the issues; we still don’t really have a grip on exactly who Alicia is after seven years and this ending certainly doesn’t help out in answering these questions.

One last thought and what feels like my Good Wife mantra, but where is Robyn?

Mad Men Series Finale “Person to Person” – One Call at a Time

18 May

Letting Don Draper go is hard to do and the last ever episode of Mad Men shows that even when Don is thousands of miles away and suffering a crisis the pull of those he cares about is still strong. Don has a pattern of fleeing, forever looking over his shoulder after all the mistakes he has made and yet he can never quite make a clean break as there is always something that brings him back. While we don’t see Don’s big New York return the transition from Don’s smile while meditating to the concept behind that Coke ad is enough to suggest Don does indeed make it back to his former life; the cycle forever goes on and on. Don might never quite be at peace with himself but he is edging closer to having a concept of home.

Mad Men 7.14 Don sittingThe phone plays a huge part in keeping Don tethered to who he was and still is; the last time I talked about how the telephone is deployed in an episode I focused on how this device helps with the concealment of feelings. In “Person to Person” it does the opposite and it allows confessions aplenty from matters of the heart to those deep dark secrets these characters don’t want anyone to know. It also has the power to aid a breakup.

Mad Men 7.14 Sally phoneDon’s relationship with Sally has recently been mostly phone based; this makes sense because she’s at boarding school and he’s moving from state to state with no actual plan. Even without seeing her face, Don can sense that something is up with his daughter as she has no interest in his Utah adventures (although really this reaction is pretty accurate even without a personal trauma) and at first he asks if it is to do with a boy. Sally could have easily hung up without spilling her mother’s secret but deep down she knows her father should be told about Betty’s condition. Last week’s entire episode had me yelling at the screen for Sally to ring Don and tell him so he could come swooping home, but that was never going to happen. This isn’t how their story ends.

At first Don thinks her mother is just being a hypochondriac, then he hears the full severity of the diagnosis and it hits him hard. Sally’s voice cracks when she initially tells him and then she moves into the protective big sister role (that we see again later when she returns home and Bobby Draper’s attempts at looking after his heartbreaking) getting her father to take what she is saying about the future of her brothers seriously. This is where Sally cuts off emotionally and it doesn’t help that there’s another girl skulking about waiting to use the phone. Nothing is private when you have a communal situation like this. She drops the bombshell and ends the conversation with “I can’t talk right now” which is a pretty devastating last scene between these two characters. Costume observation – Sally has worn the necklace her father got her in every scene since that Valentine’s episode showing their bond despite his persistent absence.

Mad Men 7.14 BettyOn a couple of occasions in this finale we have back to back scenes involving calls that directly result from the previous one; Don immediately rings Betty after Sally has all but hung up on him. Don offers to come home and Betty is of course mad that no one can keep her secret. If only she knew that Bobby knows exactly what is going on   thanks to the not so quiet discussions she had with Henry when they were fighting about treatment. This is another case of revealing everything and experiencing this incredible connection thanks to wires and this plastic device. Of course Betty rejects Don’s suggestions of coming home (this isn’t his home) and having the boys live with him because she wants to keep things “as normal as possible and you not being here is part of that.” We can see how ill Betty looks and part of this is down to her attire and lack of makeup, plus her hair doesn’t have the same hairspray helmet rigidity as usual. Her nails are still perfect though. And here comes the kicker of an exchange.

Mad Men 7.14 Don phone to BettyDon calls her Birdie and this sets off all the tears for Don, Betty and I. So much has happened between this pair with so many bitter words, but they still have this immense ability to slay me with this very personal and intimate nickname.

Mad Men 7.14 Don phone to PeggyInstead of returning to his current home, Don instead moves further west and to the state he flees to in moments like this. When he mentions LA I figured we might see Megan, instead he goes to see Stephanie as a reminder of his Dick Whitman past (and funnily enough the last time I discussed the use of telephones was the last time we saw Stephanie as she painted a picture to Don that didn’t match her real circumstance). Through Stephanie, Don ends up at a hippy retreat in various seminars he clearly has nothing but disdain for. When he can’t escape (because Stephanie fled taking the car with her) he turns to an old friend making another important call home.

Mad Men 7.14 Peggy PhoneBefore Don can even say hello Peggy stands up to deliver her “Where the hell are you?” annoyance, he can’t see her stand but visually for us this shows us just how mad she is and then she softens sitting back down as she reassures him that he can come back. The mention of Coke is important for later and once again this account is dangled in front of him like an advertising pot of gold. Declarations such as Don’s “I can’t get out of here” isn’t just referring to his physical inability to leave as he is far too stuck in his head and the mistakes he has made, which he lists off to Peggy in a sad recap of misdemeanors from scandalizing his child to the really big secret of taking another man’s name.

Don and Peggy is the relationship at the heart of Mad Men and this conversation is so important because of the level of trust and understanding between the pair. Peggy has real concern for Don and Elisabeth Moss does this little inhale followed by a difficulty to say anything that is just so devastating good. This is their last dance together and while it is far from a physical interaction like the Sinatra aided moment it still packs a huge emotional punch seeing Don allowing himself to be this vulnerable. In the same way Sally cut Don off, he does the same to Peggy before he doubles over shaking looking like he is having a panic attack.

And now for the super swoony heart swells to a thousand times its normal size sequence.

Mad Men 7.14 Stan phoneAs soon as Peggy gets off the phone to Don the first person she calls is Stan and what starts as a conversation about Don turns into an apology swiftly moving into a declaration of love. In person these two always end up bickering with Peggy taking whatever positives Stan says twisting it into a criticism. On the phone they are perfect and Stan brings this up segueing into a confession and one I have long been waiting to hear. Peggy is all a fluster as she unpacks everything that has just been said while seemingly only just getting this is how she feels too.

What this delivers is a showcase of every amazing Elisabeth Moss facial expression, a hit parade if you will from a whole heap of confusion to the best smile I have ever seen. The hand on her heart gesture is something Stan can’t see and it comes with an abstract “and you’re here” but it is pretty much one of the greatest things this show has done. We don’t know exactly what point Stan leaves Peggy talking – I suspect it is before he hears her say “I think I’m in love you too” – and come sprinting to her office, but we hear him coming and it is magical. It has been a long time coming and yet it is also a huge surprise that they went there. Just look at that smile (and yet another amazing Peggy dress).

Mad Men 7.14 Peggy (stan)One other pairing almost became a thing as Joan asked Peggy to go into business with her, first setting up a lunch while adjusting the TV for Kevin while he watches Sesame Street. Ultimately Peggy decided to stay doing what she is doing because this is what she loves doing, but we did get one final fabulous and slightly contentious Peggy/Joan scene.

Mad Men 7.14 Joan and KevinGoing back a step and Joan’s relationship with Richard was all sunshine and let’s try everything until she realized that she isn’t ready to be on vacation forever. There is still work to be done with Ken reaching out to her for her expertise and while McCann could never appreciate her skills there are plenty who know what Joan is capable of, including herself. By answering the phone while she was having a discussion with Richard about their relationship it became abundantly clear they want very different things in life.

Mad Men 7.14 JoanAs Joan clutched the phone to her chest (while wearing the most fabulous leopard print robe) I definitely uttered “what an asshole” out loud.

But ending Joan’s story with Holloway Harris (got to have two names) made me so ridiculously happy.

Mad Men 7.14 Holloway HarrisCue all Broad City Yas Kween gifs please.

Stepping away from connections and revealing truths on the phone to highlight some other moments that made this a truly satisfying way to end Mad Men.  First up Pete, Peggy and the cactus.

Mad Men 7.14 Pete and PeggyPeggy pushes buttons and it isn’t a coincidence that pretty much all of her significant relationships have been just as heavy on admiration and antagonism. The first moment in the episode to get those misty eyes going came as Pete and Peggy said goodbye; in the same way Birdie has so much history between Don and Betty, “a thing like that” is so connected with Pete and so Peggy saying it back to him is loaded with so much meaning. For all that has gone on between them, there is ultimately warmth and respect. We’ve come a long way.

Mad Men 7.14 PeggyIn this shot Peggy is looking at Harry Crane how we all look at Harry Crane while wearing an incredible green and orange outfit that I need in my life.

Mad Men 7.14 Peggy (stripes)This ensemble is a harder one to pull off and yet I am still all in. Peggy’s costuming and style this season really reflects how far she has come.

Mad Men 7.14 StanThe highlight being her McCann entrance outfit, which is hanging on the back of her door. Nice Halloween decoration on her Roger Sterling (via Bert Cooper) gifted art.

Mad Men 7.14 DonDon staring out to the ocean he once waded out into and the cut from him meditating to the 1971 Coke commercial made me go from huh this Don ending is kind of unsatisfactory to HOLY SHIT THIS IS EXCELLENT. Don is going home after all. The cycle will probably continue, but at least he now has some semblance of self.

Mad Men, I’m going to miss you.

The Wish List: Leslie Knope’s Blouse from the Parks and Recreation Series Finale

25 Feb

Find your team and get to work! April Ludgate was the focus of the TV Ate My Wardrobe Parks and Recreation goodbye for both her style influence and how the show managed to capture the anxiety of not knowing what you want to be/do so brilliantly through this character. Parks is all about the team so while April is our style icon, it is perhaps fitting that the leader of the team gets the Wish List costuming honor from the series finale.*

*Please be aware that as I write this the screen is still blurry from the mess these last two episodes have made me.

Throughout the seasons Leslie’s look has got more polished and her blouse collection cannot be rivaled. Floral prints are a repeated motif and this is something we see in the finale; however it is the striking black and white blouse which makes our list.

Parks and RecreationIt mirrors one of our favorite current trends with the lady tux and from a distance the black trim has that effect. The ‘Quiana’ blouse is by Diane von Furstenberg and I would very much like it in my life. And here is a closer look (albeit through a window shot):

Leslie Knope

And here is one last April Ludgate outfit to covet for good measure:

April Ludgate Parks and Rec finaleIn the future there will be more sweaters underneath dresses – I kind of like how the future costuming is pretty similar to the clothes of now – and this green dress is T by Alexander Wang. Digging the specs too.

And to round things off how about a song to carry on the Parks related tears and The Gabe Dixon Band’s “All Will Be Well,” which was used during the montage sequence as Andy and April drove to the Grand Canyon in the season 4 episode “End of the World.”

 

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