Title: Orphan Black
Genre: SciFi Thriller
Watched: August 5-6, 2013
Summary: great first season
Lately, there have been a lot of shows using the device of twins borrowing identities. Perhaps it’s a trend, perhaps it’s just a fan fave, as Shakespeare himself went for it in Comedy of Errors and Twelfth Night. In any case, Orphan Black up the ante. Not twins or triplets, but human clones. And there are at least seven of them. Plus, it’s better than last years duplicate thrillers: Ringer (as much as i’m a SMG fan) and The Lying Game (which is pretty good in a lightweight way).
What is crazy impressive about Orphan is that Canadian actress Titiana Maslany (Shakespeare reference right there in her name!) manages to pull off wildly distinct personalities was incredible aplomb. I mean, seriously, you can just feel the different presence of these girls. You can even see quite effectively when one of them is pretending to be another. Watching uptight suburban mom Allison pretending to be punk Sarah is hilarious — and effective.
This show is Science Fiction, but the SF is confined to the clone thing and it’s low budget too. There aren’t a ton of effects. What there is, however, is very good writing, casting, acting, and pacing. It’s a great show really. We can’t know that the quality will survive into later seasons, but this one is break neck. The characters are sympathetic and interesting, and boy is she(s) put through the ringer (sorry SMG). The tone is simultaneously dark and comic, but always tense and unpredictable. There is one bit in the pilot where Sarah (playing Beth) is caught in an impossible situation. She goes to the bathroom to buy herself some time, then does something completely unexpected that actually works as a clever solution. This is very effective thriller plotting. It doesn’t feel forced or overwrought but merely tense.
Importantly, the complex central mystery is drooled out episode by episode, but it is drooled out. We find out quite a lot — although hardly everything. The amount of reveal is very effective in this season, but could be problematic next year as they will not be able to depend on the same dynamic. The show might not be able to depend on the clones even playing their normal lives (or each others).
While Maslany steals the show. Many of the secondary actors are very solid as well. Jordan Gavaris as her (very) gay foster brother is a standout. He about says it all when he sits down at a piano and says, “let me show you a bit of Queen.” Kevin Hanchard is solid as cop twin Beth’s partner.
The show feels slightly schizophrenic with regard to its sexuality. At times, in some episodes (like the pilot), it’s pleasantly steamy. Maslany does a good bit of walking around in underwear (always a plus). But this remains uneven, unpredictable. When two characters close we never know if the camera will linger or cut to morning. In a way, this keeps the viewer off balance. Deliberate thriller style or mere inconsistency? Who knows.
Either way, the show is very much worth watching.