Orphan Black (2013-present) is a BBC America original series. Does that mean it’s British, or American, or…Canadian? Who knows, but check out the first season and stick around for the season 2 premier on BBC America April 19, 2014.
It’s the old foster-child-turns-out-to-have-a-secret-past story. Maybe she’s an alien, or an angel, or a government experiment. In this case, Sarah turns out to not only have a long-lost twin but a bunch of clones scattered all over the world. When someone starts killing them off, the surviving clones find each other and dig into the story of their creation. But it’s more complicated than that. Sarah disguises herself as Beth, one of her recently deceased clones, and discovers that there are people hired to follow the clones around and take clinical readings of them. Beth’s hired stalker is her boyfriend, who Sarah follows back to the supreme baddie, Matt Frewer, and a guy with a tail. Okay, I didn’t say the writing was brilliant. But what pulls Orphan Black out of mediocrity is Titiana Maslany’s performance. Or shall we say performances? The first thing you notice is the accents. “Wow, her British, American, and Russian accents are so convincing, which is her real accent?” (She’s Canadian.) But it’s so much more than that. You can change makeup and outfit to disguise a person (kudos to makeup and wardrobe, by the way), but how do you convince the viewers that each of these people have lived separate lives in wildly different environments? It’s in the body language, the walk, the eye movement, the speech patterns, and Maslany becomes them all.
This isn’t to downplay the skill of the rest of the cast. Jordan Gavaris, Kevin Hanchard, Dylan Bruce, Michael Mando, Evelyne Brochu, and Maria Doyle Kennedy all contribute a lot to the show. Gavaris in particular holds his own as Sarah’s foster brother Felix, and watching an interview with him will blow you away, in particular in discovering that he, too, is Canadian. When we meet Sarah in episode one, she’s trying to avoid her ex-boyfriend, Vic. With the upbringing she’s had, reflected also in Felix’s stash of drugs on his first sighting, it is believable that Sarah was involved in such a messy relationship, but as the show goes on and we see her develop and display her intelligence and courage, she distances herself from that life more and more. But she still has ties to the old life. Her little daughter Kira is being raised by her former foster mother, Mrs. S, and she’s desperately trying to show Mrs. S that she is a well-adjusted adult now, capable of taking care of her own daughter, which is a hard thing to do when you spend half your time pretending to be a dead cop that looks like you, being followed around by government monitors, and the rest of the time hiding from people who want to kill you.
You won’t be blown away by the writing (a tail, you guys), but that isn’t to say the writing is bad. The show does eventually get quite addicting. So definitely check it out, even if it’s just to convince yourself that not all the most talented people come out of Britain.