An ode to 'Orphan Black': Why we love this show, returning Saturday
Editor's note: When it comes to loving Orphan Black, we can't hold a candle to TV enthusiast and Times designer Brittany Volk. So we decided to let her tell you all about why she loves the BBC America show, ahead of its season 2 premiere Saturday.
It’s the show that came out of nowhere. And it stars Tatiana Maslany, the most underrated actress currently on television.
I’m talking, of course, about Orphan Black on BBC America.
Real talk: I watch a lot of television. And I can safely say this was my favorite new show of 2013. I loved it more than The Americans on FX. I loved it more than Top of the Lake on the Sundance Channel. I even loved it more than House of Cards on Netflix.
The reason I love Orphan Black probably begins with my fascination with twins. When I was kid, I fantasized about having a twin sister because I was obsessed with the Olsen twins. I identified with Ashley so I was always looking for my tomboy counterpart. There’s only one of me, but the show’s main clone Sarah Manning thought that too, until she witnessed a woman who happened to look just like her jump off a train platform. From there, Sarah stole the look-alike's identity to begin a new life and provide some safety for her daughter Kira.
And that’s just the beginning of season 1's first episode.
From there, Sarah meets more clones who each lead widely different lives. There's Cosima, the science-y, lesbian graduate student, who leads the group (#CloneClub) in trying to figure out their origin. Then there's Alison, my favorite clone, an uptight, gun-toting, pill-popping suburban housewife. (One of my favorite scenes is a party Alison hosts in which Sarah ends up having to pretend to be Alison. So Maslany expertly plays a clone who is playing another clone. If you think about it too hard, it might make your mind melt.) There’s also Beth, the woman who killed herself five minutes into the first episode, the German Katja, and Rachel, a pro-clone (more on that in a bit). Finally, there’s the Ukrainian killer Helena. She’s a little … unstable (and absolutely terrifying!). As the big bad of season 1, she works for a mysterious organization trying to kill the clones.
Maslany’s seven (and counting!) stunning performances make it hard to believe it’s the same actress in each role, especially in the scenes with two or more clones. Each character Maslany plays is relatable. Their backstories and everyday lives are fleshed out masterfully. But each clone wouldn’t make an interesting hour of television on her own - it’s all about the clones’ relationships to one another. (It’s also worth noting how remarkable it is to have a television show centered on empowered women and sisterhood, not to mention things like the ethical implications of human cloning, nature versus nurture, and freewill versus identity.)
If your head's spinning and you're questioning whether it's worth it to dive into yet another television show, trust me when I say the 10-episode first season is worth every minute. The writers ease you into each new character and storyline one breathtaking step at a time. When it comes to season 2, I can only hope that kind of storytelling continues. As Scandal is beginning to prove, there are only so many rugs you can pull each episode before viewers start to get bored with each new surprise. Of course I’d like to learn more about the clones' origins and get into the science behind it, but I also just love watching Maslany’s take on each clone as they learn more about each other.
So what’s likely in store for this season? The last episode introduced us to Rachel, a pro-clone, which was not explained much. Sarah’s daughter is missing, and most likely Rachel and the mysterious organization are behind it. Cosima has come down with a nasty cough that afflicted another clone earlier in season 1. Swoon-worthy actor Michiel Huisman (Nashville, Game of Thrones) is joining the cast. And another clone, Jennifer, is introduced via a video diary that Cosima comes across.
In last Saturday's special Orphan Black: The Cloneversation on BBC America, actor Wil Wheaton (Stand By Me, Star Trek: The Next Generation) said to Orphan Black creators Graeme Manson and John Fawcett that, “As a person who loved the first season of this show, and as a person who’s living in a post-Lost universe, please don’t (expletive) this up.” I couldn’t have said it better myself, Wil.
Orphan Black's second season premieres 9 p.m. Saturday on BBC America.