BBC America’s Orphan Black ends its stellar first season this Saturday, preceded by a marathon. I heartily endorse using the tikme to catch up on what quickly became one of the best shows of a rotten season.
You may know it as “that clone show,” but Orphan Black isn’t exactly a genre piece. There are some outlandish aspects to it, of course, including a group called the Neolutionists, who believe that man should be capable of tricking himself out however he likes. Even with a tail, should he want one! But what holds the piece together is the central performance by Tatiana Maslany as any number of differently accented women.
There’s Sarah, the tough-as-nails Brit, our entryway into the world of the clones, all of whom are in various stages of understanding their origins. Then there’s uptight soccer mom Allison; lesbian scientist Cosima; an American cop who offs herself in front of Sarah in the pilot (and whose identity Sarah assumes to escape her abusive, drug-dealing boyfriend); a sickly German; and a deranged Ukrainian. There is never a moment when the accents slip, and there is never a moment when you find yourself watching the magic of technology rather than the more impressive (and more invisible) magic of performance. One must remind oneself that a single actress is playing all of these roles; Maslany never calls attention to the feat.
There are also the hot, oft-naked men in Sarah’s life, her gay best friend and the cop’s ex-military boyfriend, providing eye candy in a way that Maslany is never asked to do.
Because it’s on cable with a cable series’ shortened season, Orphan Black has the freedom to play fast and loose with the lives of its plots. Sarah’s impersonation of cop Beth comes to an end sooner than one expected, though her co-workers remain integral to the story. And as the final episode arrives, all of the different plot strands–the shooting of an innocent bystander by Beth, Sarah’s estranged daughter, the Neolutionists–are set to collide. Tense, sexy, and elegantly chilly, Orphan Black is exactly the kind of show that transcends what could have been a laughable logline. Please watch it so we can talk about it forever?