‘Orphan Black’ Postmortem: Tatiana Maslany on That Shocking Clone Death

Ethan Alter
Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the “Clutch of Greed” episode of Orphan Black.

Having trouble breathing, Clone Club? After the ending of this week’s Orphan Black installment, “Clutch of Greed,” you may never breathe easily again. That’s because the second episode of the show’s final season climaxed with former Topside assassin Ferdinand (James Frain) committing clone-icide by stomping on the chest of poor M.K. until her sternum shatters. It’s an ugly, violent end to a clone who has already been through so much, and if it was upsetting for you to watch, you’d better believe it was twice as upsetting for Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany to perform. “Shooting it was really awful,” the actress tells Yahoo TV. “I was wearing this chest rig; it was just vile. Not a fun day.”

At the same time, Maslany feels that M.K.’s tragic death is in keeping with her tragic life. Born Veera Suominen in Helsinki, Finland, the mask-wearing computer expert befriended a fellow Finnish clone, Niki, who was later murdered by Ferdinand. She and the killer have been on a collision course ever since, with M.K. almost killing him last season before Sarah stopped her. In a painful twist of fate, M.K. is impersonating Sarah — who in turn is dressed as her clone nemesis, Rachel — when she confronts Ferdinand, allowing her sister to continue her search for her daughter, Kira. But he immediately sees through her disguise when he notices the telltale burns on M.K.’s face. “This is like two revenge fantasies in one,” he says, proceeding to raise his foot and bring it down over and over again on her chest.

“I was nervous about it,” Maslany admits now about M.K.’s murder. “It’s super-violent, and being so aware of the images you put out into the world as a storyteller, I was aware of what that image is.” Still, as has been previously established, the world of Orphan Black is a violent place, for clones and nonclones alike. “The story we’re telling, especially this season, is about patriarchy, male violence, and ownership of women’s bodies, and the need for women to have control over their own destiny, their own ideas and bodies and voices. To have M.K. be so brave in stepping in for Sarah knowing that she is sacrificing herself felt like the correct story point,” Maslany says. “M.K.’s always had this tragic past, and has this tragic end. I hope that people felt for her and it means something to them. And I hope they hate Ferdinand!”

According to Orphan Black co-creators John Fawcett and Graeme Manson, that tragic end very nearly came about in Season 4 rather than Season 5. “M.K. was scheduled to die in last season’s finale,” Fawcett says. “We streamlined it at the eleventh hour, and she was allowed to live. But we knew that Ferdinand was going to be back and exacting revenge for what she had done to him.” Had it happened last season, the duo says that the “mechanics” still would have been very similar, up to and including the fact that M.K. would be impersonating another clone at the time of her death. “The switcheroo idea was always there,” Manson says. “It was one we’d been turning over for a while.”

In the end, the duo decided that delaying M.K.’s death would deliver maximum dramatic impact. “I think it’s better at the beginning of [this] season, because it really makes the audience uncertain about the future of the Ledas,” Fawcett says. “They’re living in fear, and if the audience is living in fear for their favorite characters, that’s a good place of concern for our girls going forward. It’s a tough season — all bets are off!”

Manson drives that last point home: “Nobody’s safe. It’s the final season, and there’s going to be attrition. You’re going to have to wait and see who’s next.”

Orphan Black airs Saturdays at 10 p.m. on BBC America.

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