The start of summer saw the end of one of the most talked about science fiction shows in a long while – at least the end of its first season anyway. Most of that conversation happened because of one very talented actress. Yes, everything about Orphan Black is good – it’s great, even – but Tatiana Maslany is the reason it all came together into a ten episode season that fans are ranting and raving about. After all, every one is Tatiana. (Don’t worry, though, this is mostly Spoiler Free, except for the fact that they’re clones. But everyone knows that.)
Orphan Black is the story of Sarah Manning, an orphan, who returns to New York City to get her daughter, Kira, and her foster brother, Felix, so they can all start a new life. When she arrives, though, she watches a women commit suicide on the train platform – a women who looks exactly like her. Sarah, shocked and confused, decides to steal Elizabeth Childs’s money to fund her escape with Kira and Felix. But there’s a reason why Beth and Sarah look alike, and it’s not because they’re twins.
Most people know by now that Tatiana Maslany is playing clones – that’s been a big selling point to sci-fi fans – but this isn’t your typical clone story, not from an acting point of view, anyway. Maslany does something amazing, and wonderful, and almost once-in-a-lifetime by making every single clone feel different. They are all their own people, with their own lives, personalities, and agendas. And, while I bet it was exhausting to be in nearly every scene (sometimes playing four totally different characters), Maslany’s work speaks for itself. She’s brilliant. Utterly breathtaking, and you’ll find it hard to chose a favorite. It’s a common problem, but I think soccer mom, Alison Hendrix, is my personal favorite. She’s just so great!
So, okay, clones. Clones are amazingly interesting. They open up the floor for a lot of conversations about science and about morality. One of the biggest conversations about Orphan Black is the nature verses nurture discussion, which Cosima brings up. What are the implications that some of the clones get sick, while others remain perfectly healthy? What about sexuality? Cosima is a lesbian but all the other clones seem to be straight, so what is the show saying about that – if they were trying to say anything at all. What does it mean that Kira is, seemingly, the first child born of a clone? What does it mean that Sarah is the first clone to be able to even, theoretically, have a child? Orphan Black is a show with a lot of questions, and it’s a show that will actually answer them…you just have to give it time.
Other than gushing on Tatiana Maslany’s performances, my favorite thing about the show is what I consider to be its biggest draw – at least for me. What do you do when you’re faced with this kind of situation? When you think you’re alone, that you’re the only one who looks like you, and acts like you, and has problems like you do…but then you meet someone who not only looks like you, but is you. What do you do? It’s the big question of fight or flight, and I think it’s one of the greatest way to convey character. Orphan Black does an amazing job taking that question and running with it. Developing, and redeveloping, characters based on their answer to the next big fight or flight question. And, trust me, there are lots of those questions in every episode throughout the season.
Overall, Orphan Black does have a few problems, but it’s a great show. It’s a show to be enthralled by in the given moment, but it’s also a show to sink your teeth into, philosophically, after the episode ends. And really, that’s all you can ask for. I give Season One of Orphan Black 9 out of 10 mystery clones.
– Emily Frances Maesar