Oh hey, friends! It’s been far too long. Mostly, I’ve missed you all because I’ve had far fewer people to pawn new obsessions off on these past few weeks…Shall we get right back to it, then?
There. I said it.
Now, run along and watch it. Do not pass go. Do not collect two hundred dollars.
Okay, if you’re still here (BUT WHY WOULD YOU BE?!), I’ll endeavour to convince you further.
Orphan Black follows the street-wise Sarah Manning who is pulled head first into a shady conspiracy after she witnesses a woman identical to herself commit suicide. As the layers of the pilot and following episodes are peeled back, it becomes apparent that Sarah is one of an indeterminate number of clones being monitored by the scientists that created them and hunted by religious radicals determined to end what they see as an abomination.
I love being surprised by television. I love going in without expectations. And most of all, I love being pulled in to worlds so quickly and irrevocably that the result is a full on, no holds barred binge-session.
Orphan Black fulfilled all of these things to such a high degree that I accidentally watched the whole thing in three days. (To be fair, there was only the ten-episode first season available, but still).
Characters make up 95% of the reason why I love stories. Whether the plot be hugely intricate or one that barely moves at all, if there’s a complex, interesting, and true-to-life character—I’m sold. Not only does Orphan Black offer an entire cast of wonderfully flawed and believable characters, but also an astonishingly talented actress who played more than half of them.
Tatiana Maslany—winner of the 2013 Critic’s Choice Television Award for Best Actress—plays each one of the clones (ten to date), all of which have multifaceted back-stories, unique appearances, mannerisms and personalities, and most of whom speak with distinctive accents.
Even if you’re entirely uninterested in the Orphan Black concept, you simply must tune in at least once to witness Maslany’s gargantuan talent and the masterful editing that easily allows her to frequent a scene with herself two or three times over.
Check out Maslany’s body double and some of the magic behind the filming:
Impossibly, Maslany playing 75% of the characters in no way overshadows the strength of her supporting cast. Most notably, without question, is Jordan Gavaris who plays Sarah’s darkly sassy, flamboyant foster brother, Felix—a performance that consistently manages to be deeply sympathetic and laugh-out-loud funny in equal measure. Maria Doyle Kennedy (recently of Downton Abbey fame) is a force as their foster mother, Mrs. S, and 7-year-old Skyler Wexler plays the somber and eerily wizened Kira to perfection.
But even with stellar actors in the shoes of amazing characters, it’s the unrelenting forward momentum of the show’s plot that sinks its claws into you right in those first two minutes. And as it speeds along—with you clinging for dear life—it’s got a little bit of everything to keep things interesting.
In a recent aptly named article, The Cult of Orphan Black, Time Magazine had this to say on the subject:
In many ways, that attitude toward the fanbase is typical of the show’s status as genre television that has learned from the mistakes (and successes) of others. Like Lost, Orphan Black has an apparently labyrinthine mythology behind it — but unlike Lost, it’s a show that is happy to offer answers to important questions sooner rather than later. Like Heroes, each new discovery appears to point towards a grand conspiracy behind events, but there’s a throughline (and, ultimately, endpoint) to that conspiracy that grounds the series to prevent the kind of messiness and creative tailspin that that series fell into after its first season. More subtly, it’s also a series that learned the lessons of a show like Buffy and keeps its core cast appreciably small. Audiences know very clearly who they can trust and who to care about.
Is Orphan Black the product of genre fans (or at least, viewers aware of genre tropes) who have been smart enough to look at what’s gone before and recognize what worked and what didn’t, then? There’s something neat about that realization, and fitting, as well. After all, what could be better for a show about clones than for its creators to make it from the most successful DNA of all its predecessors?
Well that says it all folks… Orphan Black is all the best parts of three hyper-popular, fandom-crazed, critically acclaimed series—plus a few things that are uniquely its own.
Do yourself a favour: set aside a few days and jump aboard this crazy ride – you definitely won’t regret it.
See you next week!
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