Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Orphan Black

One of the few diversions I’ve recently allowed myself from a bizarrely hectic work schedule is a small handful of television shows.  These typically get recorded on my PVR and watched en masse after about 6+ episodes get saved.  To make sure I don’t lose the shows through, I have to run through a manic obsessive blitz to make sure I erase enough episode for future recordings.

One of the new shows that I thought I’d give a shot was Orphan Black.  The concept that I gleaned from the heavily subsidized previews on the Space Channel was enough to get to me commit to the pilot; I typically make a judgement call to see if I’ll give the next three episodes a try, which either impresses me enough to commit for the season (for better or for worse) or drop the show altogether.  Orphan Black’s pilot was more than enough to keep me interested into the seasonal commitment.

Starring the very talented and stunning Tatiana Maslany (also a fellow Canadian), it follows the hectic and disjointed life of Sarah Manning.  Sarah returns to reunite with her quirky (and outlandishly gay) step-brother, as well as try and reconnect with her estranged daughter, currently under the care of Sarah’s foster mother.  This return quickly gets sidetracked by the suicide of a woman who looks exactly like Sarah.  Thinking to make a quick score off the woman’s purse, she finds more just like her, discovering she is one of several human clones.

The many faces that are the main characters of Orphan Black
Thankfully this is where some clever writing and some brilliant acting keeps the cliché from overpowering the show.  The story develops into a compelling web of storylines, portrayed by the very talented Tatiana.  Through the use of modern camera tricks and special effects, as well as some recognizably old-school methods, we see Tatiana portray no less than 4 completely different characters, each with their own idiosyncrasies, never with an overlap making you think these aren’t unique personalities.  In some bizarre and completely comical scenes, she imitates or mocks the mannerisms of another.

The more the clones discern of their past, the more complicated the plot gets.  Who created them and why?  Is someone out to kill them, and if so, why is one of the clones being used as the assassin?  Who can they trust, other than each other?  It is quickly evident that there is a creator entity (think corporate science, not biblical) versus a religious zealously that opposes everything the clones represent.  It is this subtle complexity to the story that really has Orphan Black appealing to me; in the middle of two opposing forces are the many versions of Tatiana, as well as a plethora of supporting actors and plot avenues that can contribute to future episodes.

Thankfully this series is getting better support and reviews, notably different from other equally done shows like Firefly.  Orphan Black has been cleared for a second season, much to my pleasure.  I have yet to complete the first season’s PVR round-up, but I am really looking forward to how this will set up for future installments.  My fervent hope is that the first 10-episode season, which brilliantly executed the four character point of view discovery of their predicament, can fully flourish into a 20-22 episode installment.

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