Blog - Watch Orphan Black

Watch Orphan Black

by Caley Tibbittz Collopy
 

I heard mixed reviews about BBC America's Orphan Black when it debuted, and decided to skip it. Regrets, I've had a few --

-- so many, it's almost like they've been cloned and have different accents and haircuts and stuff!

Two of the TV shows I've been most impressed with since I've developed the kind of skill and taste needed to rise above the rank of Casual Viewer are Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Broadchurch. The latter is one of the most perfectly conceived and executed stories I've ever had the pleasure of enjoying, whose pickable nits are so small they really aren't even worth mentioning; the former is a brilliant achievement on a lot of levels, but suffers from somewhat scattershot plotting in places.

Orphan Black is what would happen if someone spliced the DNA of both shows, perhaps in a cloning lab of some kind.

In case you haven't heard, it's about a group of women whose paths cross in the discovery that they are all genetically identical. They are illegal clones, and someone is hunting them down, presumably to keep the secret of their provenance (I'll just assume I've used that word correctly) a secret.

The writers, directors, and especially the wonderful Tatiana Maslany deserve a mountain of praise for creating a space in which the disparate personailites of each clone breathes vividly on their own and spark with wonderful dramatic chemistry in conjunction with the others. The question of nature v. nurture naturally arises, and it's handled with intelligence and resonance in way I desperately wish franchise-killer John Logan had had even half the capability of exploring or even bloody understanding.

Star Trek: Nemesis was a painfully dumb clone story with a painfully dumb and artificial clear-cut moral divide between the "good" and "bad" selves; nothing in Orphan Black is nearly as tidy.

In devising the lead character Sarah Manning's lives (her old one and the new one she assumes), it would have been easy to run out of inspired steam and have something in the mix be a cheap contrivance, but every new revelation and upset feels very real. Furthermore ('cause I'm still typing), the antagonistic forces never feel cheap or hyperbolic. Even the "monsters" in the mix come across as disturbingly human.

Watching Sarah come to realize she has a calling beyond her own selfish needs to the greater good in the face of versions of herself both better and far worse is handled perfectly. I like watching characters who had no intention of becoming a better person get caught up in events that force them down that path anyway.

The other thing I like about this show is its deft employment of humo(u)r. NBC's watchable but wonky Believe is overly dark and then forces humor in like a sledgehammered stake. The jokes in this show feel like they just happen -- like they do in life. They make it look so damn easy...

Sarah's foster brother is the main source of levity; the role could have cross(dress)ed the line into parody, but in keeping with the rest of the enterprise, his ridiculousness is warm and human. And then bitchy and human.

Whether you view casually or want to be a writer when you grow up, you need to watch this show. It's smart entertainment, and it's a writing school in 10 parts.

...and a second season, debuting 04/19. It's on Xfinity On Demand right now. Binge.

Fishcakes for all,
-Caley Tibbittz

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