Orphan Black – Series Review

Today we’re going to step away from the big screen head back to the small screen to talk about one of my all time favorite TV shows – Orphan Black – a show that I firmly believe deserves to be in the conversation of top tier science fiction shows ever.

Orphan Black kicks off when a woman sees another woman kill herself at a train station by jumping in front of an oncoming train.  Right before she jumps she makes eye contact with the first woman and they look exactly alike. After seeing the woman jump, the first woman, shocked at the resemblance, takes the purse that was left behind and begins to try and figure out who that person was and starts to take over her life a little bit.  Little does she know what she has gotten herself into – she and the woman who jumped are clones.  Soon she discovers that she (Sarah) and the jumper (Beth) are not the only ones.  First there’s Sarah, a drifter who dabbles in running cons on people. Then Beth, who was a cop. Then Alison, a suburban house wife with a wild streak.  Cosima, a bisexual evolutionary developmental biology graduate student. Helena, an assassin raised in a convent in Eastern Europe.  Those are the big ones but the list goes on.  Over the course of the show’s 5 season run, these women (with plenty of help from some other amazing characters) try to unravel the mystery of who they are, where they came from, who made them and why.

Now, as I said, all these women are clones of each other.  To make a show like that work, you have to have – HAVE TO HAVE – an actor that can back it up and oh my God does Tatiana Maslany absolutely make this show what it is.  Tatiana plays each and every clone on this show and she is fucking astounding.  Season after season, episode after episode, I was constantly in awe of her acting ability.  Each character she plays is incredibly distinct. Each clone, at their core, is a very different woman.  Tatiana sinks into each character so effortlessly, so seamlessly that you will forget that they are played by the same woman.  Each character has distinct personality, set of mannerisms, way of speaking, accent, and way they move and to think that they are all played by one actress….  I don’t think I went more than one or two episodes without stopping to think to myself how amazing an actor Tatiana Maslany is. It never did and never will cease to amaze me what she was able to accomplish. Without an actor of Tatiana Maslany’s caliber, this show get’s cancelled after one season, if it even makes it past the pilot.

As good as Tatiana is and as good as the characters she plays are, the other characters are just as good. Each clone brings their own set of friends and family to the whole and they each add a great element to the overall show.  Whether it’s Sarah’s Irish freedom fighter foster mother and modern artist foster brother, or Alison’s suburban husband Donnie.  Whether it’s Beth’s partner Detective Art Bell or Cosima’s girlfriend and fellow scientist Dr. Delphine Cormier, each of these character’s bring a fantastic new element to the show.

When getting into a show like this, a show with a  deep mythology and lot’s of twist and turns, the main question is – is the story worth watching? For Orphan Black, I would have to say mostly.  With any long running shows (does 5 seasons count as long running?) there will be up and down seasons, but I think Orphan Black had more ups than downs.  I will admit to forgetting plot points and some details over the years which caused some confusion when new seasons started but that happens when watching a show as it airs. If you’re going to binge this show, I think you’ll really enjoy the story. Honestly, Orphan Black is one of those rare shows that knows to quit when it’s ahead.  Poorer writers could have stretched this story well past it’s prime and severely weakened the overall integrity of the show.

If the “is the story worth it?” question is the main one, then it has to be closely followed by “did it have a satisfactory ending?” For my money, it absolutely did.  Giving 5 years to a show with a central mystery to unpack and not getting any answers, much less satisfactory ones, would be incredibly frustrating and thankfully, the Orphan Black writers didn’t leave us hanging.  Over the 5 seasons, we get enough answers leading to new questions to push the show forward and keep you entertained and eventually lead to an ending that nicely wraps up both the overarching plot and the character’s individual story arcs.

Orphan Black is a fantastic sci-fi show with some of the best acting on television and a story that never really runs out of steam over it’s run. As it stands, I think Orphan Black is a criminally underrated and under-watched show.

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