Orphan Black is back

BBC America’s riveting sci-fi show returns for its second season

By TRESS KLASSEN
On April 15, 2014

  • Sarah (Maslany) stares down the recently-revealed Rachel (Maslany), a clone with suspicious alliances. Courtesy of Temple Street Productions

Featuring high-stakes drama that ensnares clones, cops and rogue scientists in an ever-evolving conspiracy, the first season of Orphan Black managed to straddle multiple genres and defy clichés while delivering breathless action and gut-wrenching revelations.

Over the course of 10 jam-packed episodes, the show, which is filmed in Canada and airs on BBC America, follows the dramatic journey of Sarah Manning, a petty criminal and former foster kid who carries an air of rebellion and disregard for rules. In the opening moments of the pilot episode, her devil-may-care attitude is shaken to the core when she witnesses her apparent doppelganger's suicide.

After stealing the woman's identity as Elizabeth Childs and accidentally assuming her job as a detective, Sarah discovers she's a part of something much bigger and more dangerous than identity theft. The suicidal woman who looked just like her is actually one of multiple clones who mirror Sarah's appearance and who are the (not for long) hapless subjects of an illegal science experiment.

As the season continues, viewers learn of 10 clones. Three are presumed dead and never appear on screen, leaving the show's star, Tatiana Maslany (Parks and Recreation), with the daunting task of playing seven distinct characters, all with different accents, mannerisms and motivations.

Fortunately for viewers, Maslany is more than up to the challenge. Though she was egregiously snubbed at the Emmys, Maslany has accrued almost a dozen awards and nominations, including a Critics' Choice Award and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Lead Actress in a Television Drama Series.

Surrounded by a stellar cast who play her non-clone compatriots, Maslany becomes increasingly intertwined in a multifaceted and violent web of deceit and manipulation. As she tries to piece together the truth behind her origins, she fights to survive the murderous advances of one of her fellow clones, Helena, who has been religiously indoctrinated to believe that she must kill off her lookalikes.

The stakes are high and the special effects superb, as Sarah fights off Helena - it's wonderfully easy to forget that in reality, it's Maslany trying to stab herself, Maslany jamming a metal pole through her body double's torso.

Meanwhile, Sarah must also maintain her double life as Elizabeth the detective, giving viewers the immense pleasure of watching Maslany play Sarah, who is pretending to be Elizabeth. As if she doesn't have enough going on, Sarah also teams up with a few friendlier clones, including Alison Hendrix, a soccer mom, and Cosima Niehaus, a graduate studying, conveniently enough, evolutionary developmental biology.

As the identical trio attempts to investigate their creators, they are thwarted by numerous threats and distractions. While Alison faces off with her surprisingly vitriolic suburban neighbors, Cosima is seduced by Delphine, an alluring French scientist, and Sarah tries to avoid her drug-dealing ex-boyfriend and protect her young daughter, who is in the care of Sarah's former foster mother.

With a premise as complex and detailed as the plot is unpredictable, Orphan Black never stops to let viewers catch their breath. Characters are killed off without warning or ceremony (though when Sarah fakes her own death, her friends manage to host a wake), and new enemies, allies and clones appear as quickly as Maslany shifts between accents and wigs. This series is one of those rare shows that's got it all - flawless acting, impressive special effects, tight writing, a fast-paced plot, a sense of direction and occasional heart-wrenching emotion that should elevate this show to the top of everyone's must-watch list.

Orphan Black's second season premieres on BBC America April 19, so there's still time to embark on serious binge-watching. The show's exhilarating first season is available on Amazon.

 

email: arts@ubspectrum.com


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