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Thursday, 1 May 2014

Orphan Black Returns


Series two of Orphan Black, affectionately known throughout social media as Clone Club, came roaring back with a fast paced high intensity première. At the end of series one Sarah Manning discovered that her daughter Keira (Alphas’ Skyler Wexler) and foster mother, Siobhan Sadler (The TudorsMaria Doyle Kennedy), had disappeared. The clones (including Sarah) learned they would receive protection if they signed their individual rights over to the Dyad Institute. The series one finale also introduced the newest clone Rachel Duncan; she is an executive with in the Dyad Institute overseeing their protection wing. New viewers (and possibly old ones) will be left with whiplash or burns on their hands after watching the first episode. I freely admit there were some callouses on my hands afterwards. Writer and series co-creator Graeme Manson did not place any training wheels on this episode. He assumes the audience is smart enough to acquire all of the information needed from the brief series one recap and the characters’dialogue.


Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black’s resident Swiss Army Knife, continues to teach a master class on portraying multiple characters. In the series two opener Maslany portrays five different characters: Sarah Manning, Alison Hendrix, Cosima Niehaus, Rachel Duncan, and Helena(spoilers…she is alive). Maslany is skilled at differentiating each clone through dialect, body language, and a plethora of wigs. Even the manner in which a clone interacts with other cast members differs. Sarah and Felix (Jordan Gavaris) have a big sibling/little sibling relationship,but Alison and Felix are the show’s odd couple.

Sarah continues to serve as the show’s focal point. Nearly all of the actions undertaken by the other characters (including the clones) eventually have a direct impact on Sarah. Sarah is still driven by the same motives as series one, creating a happy and safe life for her daughter Keira. This time the intensity is heightened because Sarah does not know what has happened to her daughter and whom to trust. Sarah’s desperation leads her to make irrational decisions, such as impersonating Alison and Cosima in order to confront Rachel.

Alison, the show’s desperate housewife, continues to inject a bit of levity which helps keep Orphan Black from becoming too dark. Even though Alison brokered a deal to protect her family at the end of series one, she is quickly pulled back into the Clone Club. Alison uses her underworld connections to secure an illegal gun for Sarah from a local pharmaceutical and weapons dealer named Ramon (Alex Ozerov). If Ramon sticks around could Orphan Black turn Alison into Mrs. Robinson? Or Ramon could become series two’s Vic (Psych’s Michael Mando)? Alison continues to have fantastic energy with Felix. When Orphan Black is able totake a breath, hopefully we will get a sequel to series one’s Alison and Felix centric episode.


Orphan Black’s most romantic couple Cosima and her monitor Delphine Cormier (Evelyne Brochu) continue their tango of love and lies. Though Cosima is loyal to her fellow clones, she wants a happy ending with Delphine. Unfortunately Delphine’s loyalty is constantly being tested by her employers at the Dyad Institute. In addition to being Orphan Black’s romantic lead,Cosima is the show’s Explainer-in-Chief. Cosima’s dialogue is often used to explain the cloning technology to the audience. This reviewer is thankful the explanations are less wibbily wobbly timey-wimey and based more on current (or near future) science.

Rachel, the newest clone, currently is the ‘Big Bad’ of series two. However the episode ends with the return of a potential rival for that crown. Initially Rachel comes across as just another ice queen. As the episode progresses Graeme Manson attempts to give Rachel some depth by introducing her super power, manipulating men. She clearly has Paul Dierden (Dylan Bruce,Arrow’s assistant district attorney), Dr. Aldous Leekie (Matt Frewer, 1980’s pop icon Max Headroom), and her henchman Daniel Rosen (Battlestar Galactica’s Matthew Bennett)wrapped around her fingers. This reviewer believes that Paul may have more sexual chemistry with Rachel than Sarah. The jury is still out; I will require more evidence before ‘shipping’ Rachel and Paul.

I am sure the writers will continue to peel back layers as series two progresses.Orphan Black is a strange alchemic mixture of drama, comedy, and science fiction that consistently delivers forty-five minutes of entertainment. Perhaps this is due to the show being a product of BBC America and the Canadian television channel Space. Hopefully series two will not fall victim to the dreaded sophomore slump. This reviewer believes that Orphan Black would benefit from longer episodes. The creators are doing a wonderful job of building the show’s mythology, but I afraid some characters and concepts (looking at you anti-cloning religious zealots) may get lost or sacrificed due to time constraints. Series two of Orphan Black got off to a roaring start, but viewers should remember to wear gloves or have episodes of series one readily available.

Orphan Black Continues Wednesday's at 9.00pm on BBC Three 

Contributed by Mo Walker 

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