Orphan Black premiered on BBC America in March, and the season finale was earlier this month. Rumor has it the show will air on BBC 3 in the UK, but no air date yet. A second season is coming next May.
The show, as we quickly realize from the trailer, is about clones. Tatiana Maslany plays almost all the characters in the show, all different versions of the same genetically engineered person. We start with Sarah, the main character. She is a bad-ass Brit, has an excellent collection of Clash t-shirts, and terrible taste in men. She witnesses the suicide of her doppleganger, Beth, a homicide detective. Later, we meet Helena, a religious crazy person, Allison, an uptight soccer mom, and Cosima, a lesbian pot-smoking evolutionary biologist. Of course, all of these are played by Maslany. She detailed her process of getting into character in a few interviews. She created separate playlists for each character, and would listen to that playlist before each scene. For the first two or three episodes, I was acutely aware that this was all the same actress, but by the end of the series I just thought of them as completely and wholly different characters, as real and diverse as any other non-Maslany character in the show. Still, when you look back and think about it, it is an amazing bit of acting. More confusing when you think of Maslany playing Sarah pretending to be Beth. At one point Helena pretends to be Sarah, but we could tell before the reveal, because of the look in her eyes. Amazing bit of acting. And think of all the time, during scenes like this:
when she was just acting to nothingness, and had to respond to nothingness later on. Acting into a vacuum. Reacting to a future or past performance she herself had given/would be giving. She is pretty amazing. Also, she makes me want to hit the gym for the rest of my life.
So, the plot. Sarah sees Beth commit suicide and makes the split-second decision to pretend to be Beth. She stays at her apartment and makes use of her car and cash (and boyfriend). All this is a terrible decision and Sarah doesn’t really think of the consequences, even when the dead body on the train tracks is identified as ‘Sarah Manning’, instead of ‘Beth Childs’. She does it to avoid a stupid no good boyfriend, who she punched and from whom she stole 20k worth of drugs. Brilliant move, Sarah.
The only person she can rely on is her foster-brother (they’re both orphans) Felix, who is awesome. Seriously, though, if this guy is in on the conspiracy, I’m going to be really upset. The writers come up with a lot of reasons for Felix to end up in suburbia, interacting with suburbanites, and those might be my favorite moments of the show.
Sarah finds out she’s one of many clones pretty early on in the show, and she also finds out that someone is killing her fellow ‘sisters’. Things get pretty dramatic pretty quickly. We meet other clones, and the three main surviving girls (Allison, Cosima, Sarah) work to find out who has done this to them and how deep it goes.
Part of what is built into this show is not knowing who to trust. Each of the clones has a ‘watcher’, someone in cahoots with the people who created them. There are medical tests, conducted while the girls are asleep. Lots of speculation on who is watching whom, and who works for whom. I won’t give anything away.
Add to that, at least 1 of the clones is sick with some genetic tuberculosis type disease, and, oh yeah, there’s someone murdering them. These girls don’t have easy lives.
The show isn’t the greatest thing since sliced bread, but I really enjoyed seeing what was going to happen next. I found it got a lot better toward the end of the season. Part of this was due to Sarah no longer acting like a lone wolf and starting to be invested in the fates of her ‘sisters’. I’ve enjoyed the progression of all of the characters over the course of the season, and it gives me a feeling that the show-runners know what they’re doing. Hopefully, anyway.
Occasionally, I get a little irritated with the show when people are making obviously stupid mistakes for no discernible reason. Really, you’re going to walk into the street without looking? You’re going to let someone die with no proof that they are what you think they are? You’re going to leave your important secret files just laying around while entertaining a potential enemy? You allowed the government to declare you dead and didn’t think your family might find out?
Why are characters on TV so stupid sometimes? Those moments made me really irritated and very unsympathetic. Sometimes, if you’re going to run out into the road, you’re going to get hit by a car. If you’re a fictional character, I get to judge you and think you’re stupid.
Other than these moments of glaring stupidity (maybe this stupidity is written into their DNA?), I enjoyed all the characters and the story arc. I’m looking forward to the next season immensely. Half of the fun is just watching Tatiana Maslany work, but it’s a lot of fun, so I’m fine with that.