Who doesn’t love clones?
Who doesn’t love a conspiracy?
If you take that and one actress that plays at least 8 characters, you have a clone conspiracy jamboree.
After all of the fuss online, I gave Orphan Black a shot last year. I wasn’t impressed initially. I did a 4 episode binge watch and gave up. I thought it was just “ok” and did not warrant the fervor it had online. After it wasn’t canceled and season 2 began, Orphan Black’s online cheerleaders started up again. I begrudgingly continued my binge watch and ended up becoming a fan of the show.
Tracing back my issues with the show, I did not take to the lead actress Tatiana Maslany. I had never heard of her before this show. Worse still, I couldn’t relate to her. Upon my initial viewing I felt her characters weren’t nuanced enough for me to buy her being multiple characters. I wasn’t sure she would be able to keep up the multi-character gimmick while keeping the show interesting for me to watch. It wasn’t until Allison, the soccer mom, showed up that the show stopped feeling like an actor’s performance reel. Allison has all the hallmarks of a stereotypical, conservative, suburban housewife. Her comic relief enhanced the show’s otherwise serious and thriller vibe. It also showed the versatility of Maslany’s acting skills. It’s easy to pull off wildly different personalities like a Russian versus a punk but average personalities with unique quirks such as Allison makes Maslany shine. Tony the Trans Clone was interesting too. I’d hoped he’d be a little more of a stereotypical male with short hair and a suit but he, as presented, made for an interesting nature vs. nurture thought experiment.
The mythology of Orphan Black has your standard mysterious and layered back story with a secret tightly controlled by a big, powerful corporation. We’ve seen this story before. What differentiates this story from the run of the mill story with this same framework is the direction, the pacing, the location, and the characters’ peril. It also doesn’t hurt to have guest stars such as Matt Frewer as Dr. Aldous Leekie, Matthew Bennett and Michelle Forbes who are both Battlestar Galactica alums. While Orphan Black is a Canadian science fiction production, it doesn’t have the same feel of other similar productions that you’d see on the Syfy channel or the CW.
My only current complaint about the show is the lack of realistic danger and a faulty “big bad” corporation. So far, we haven’t seen *why* the existence of clones and knowing about the experiment, the patent, etc. is something the Dyad Corporation would kill over. Not only has Dyad done a piss poor job of hiding the clones and the project, it unclear who is at the top of the whole thing and who stands to get punished if the project is discovered. Have we met them? Are there more people higher up the food chain controlling things? Is the government involved? Are all of the underhanded dealings and strong-arming happening because people don’t want to go to prison and/or be sued? If they had a patent and funding, what are they legal ramifications of the clones and what is the punishment should “the wrong someone” discover the whole thing? Is this a US legal issue or Canadian? Where are the smarmy lawyers?!? Even knowing all of those answers, the security force is sloppy and isn’t good at their job because there is no way these clone women should slip away so easily and so many times. The two officers investigating the clones are wasting time and department resources. The suspended officer is bouncing ideas off of Felix? I like Felix but you may as well collaborate with a cat. The unsuspended officer seems like she should let the whole thing go. Her motivation for staying with the case doesn’t make sense. Also, I like Helena but the Prolethean storyline is confusing, damned good in its wackiness and creepiness, but their overall goal is unclear… other than that they are crazy… which may the point.
With the entrance of Michelle Forbes, I wonder if the story will get a bit more dangerous and the stakes will rise for all involved. I am excited about Forbes because if you need someone to be crazy and evil with a smile, she’s your girl! I’m sure she won’t be a series regular and will die like Matt Frewer but I plan to enjoy her mustache twirling while it lasts.
Orphan Black doesn’t seem to be in any danger of being canceled. The story is moving at a compelling pace while holding back just enough to give the writers time to address the mythology in a way that will make sense to the audience. Let’s hope the writers continue to have enough leeway to reveal the story so it doesn’t back them into a corner and provide the viewers with a few more seasons worth of conspiracy and clones!
Orphan Black airs Sundays 9/8c on BBC America.