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There's no doubt about it: Orphan Black is one of television's most intense, mind-blowing shows. But, there's going to be a real problem if the series doesn't make up its mind about the mortality of the clones—and soon.
Let me start off by saying that I love Cosima Niehaus. I would be utterly gutted with Orphan Black decided to kill her off, really, because she’s such a wonderful character: smart, sassy, fiercely independent, and one of the best representations of an LGBT character on television in the modern age. (I mean, remember when she told Rachel, “My sexuality is not the most interesting thing about me”? Bad. Ass.) However, that doesn’t change the conclusion that I keep ending up at every time I see new episodes of Orphan Black: Cosima Niehaus, as brilliant and wonderful as she is, has to die.
Why Cosima, of all the seemingly thousands of clones that Tatiana Maslany so brilliantly plays? It seems like series suicide in some ways—Cosima is one of the most-loved characters on the show, and viewers would certainly riot if writers decided to kill her off for good.
But that’s just the reason why Cosima needs to be the clone to go first. Killing off the most innocent and most beloved clone would send a clear message to the audience that hasn’t been intact since the end of the first season: the stakes are high for everyone. Anyone can die, anyone can survive, and we should learn to throw the theory of Occam’s razor—the simplest answer is the best answer—straight out the window when it comes to this show.
At least, that’s how it should be, especially considering that killing Cosima, or any clone off wouldn’t result in the loss of an actor for a show like this—but, right now, it’s not.
The show took a step towards this in season one, but only a small one. Apart from Katja, who we barely got to know before a bullet was planted squarely between her eyes, Helena was the first clone we spent a decent amount of time with to meet a grisly end when Sarah ultimately shot her in the first season finale.
At least, we thought it was her grisly end. Despite the fact that her death briefly acted as reminder that no one on this show is safe, she was promptly revealed to have survived the gunshot at the end of the season two premiere, when she shows up bloodied and nearly dead at a hospital. She’s currently alive and kicking on the series, and this is all after producers insisted she was dead.
In some ways, it almost feels like this lessens the emotional impact of seeing her get shot on the show.
The only other clone that has died so far in the series? Jennifer Fitzsimmons—who, of course, we only know through her pre-filmed diary entries meant to chronicle the effects of her congenital disease. The rest of the clones we know and love—Sarah, Allison, Cosima, Rachel, and Helena—are all alive, despite constant threats of peril.
Now, after Helena was given a sort of reprieve, it’s hard to even feel worried for any one of them when their life is in danger. Take for instance last week's episode, when Sarah was being held captive by Rachel’s boytoy, Daniel Rosen, and had a knife held to her throat. Whereas she (understandably) was terrified, the only feelings I felt were that of being amazed at Maslany's acting abilities. Why would the show dare kill off Sarah, the essential lead, when they could barely commit to keeping Helena dead?
Which all brings us back to Cosima, the innocent, insanely smart clone who could have had a brighter future than most people in this world had she not been born of a science experiment with damaged DNA. She’s currently sick, suffering the same cyst-based disease that was killing Katja and ultimately took Jennifer’s life. It’s thought that, since all the clones are genetically identical, they all bear the potential to develop the condition, but it seemingly happens at different times.
Cosima’s disease doesn’t appear to be very far along, but considering she just started a promising stem cell treatment under the supervision of the Dyad Institute’s Dr. Leekie, her outcome is looking brighter and brighter by the day. And, as sad as it is to say, seeing characters lives come together and get happier makes for boring television. That may be what die-hard fans think they want to see, but shows generally begin to go downhill when writers begin listening to fans instead of writing plots that actually make for more poignant storylines. See: season two of NBC's Heroes.
If Cosima were to die—and to stay dead—the effect would be catastrophic to all the characters. Sarah, Helena, and Allison would lose one of their own, and her death could serve a greater purpose like finding out more about what exactly is killing the clones.
Plus, it would allow us to once again trust producers when they write a scene featuring a character in mortal danger, because, damn, if it happened to Cosima, it could happen to anyone. Otherwise, there’s no emotional impact, no stakes. Right now, when a character dies, who’s to say they won’t miraculously come back at the end of the next episode?
Cosima really is the only clone who makes sense for this right now, too. Sarah, though killing her off would be a shocking and daring move, doesn’t quite work just yet, because she’s still our entry point into this whole insane world of clones, Proletheans, and Neolutionists. Her scenes make up about 70 percent of any given episode too. If she were to die, the show would have to make a huge leap to find new focus, too quick to be considered subtle. As for Helena, she technically already died once, so it wouldn’t make sense to kill her off again. And Allison, as beloved as she is, wouldn’t have quite the same amount of emotional impact as Cosima’s death would.
Still, yes, I and legions of other Orphan Black fans would be inconsolable if Cosima died. But the show needs to reiterate the dangers that these women are facing, and fast. Season two is a huge turning point for most shows and a time for a show to define itself to its audience. Orphan Black has always been a show about the impossible and the unexpected. Now, it’s time for the show to demonstrate that to us.
Tanya Ghahremani is the News Editor for Complex Pop Culture. She tweets here.