There’s this show you may or may not be watching; it’s called “Orphan Black”. And in Saturday night’s latest episode — “Knowledge of Causes and Secret Motion of Things” — the show sort of upped the ante and changed everything. Which means it’s the perfect time to sit down, binge watch, and join the Clone Club already, damn it.
Now, you’ve likely heard the name bandied about on the Internet for awhile now, but for the unaware and uninformed, allow us to break it down. “Orphan Black” is a BBC America series starring the so-talented-it-is-stupid-and-borderline-unfair, Tatiana Maslany. The face of our sisterhood like no other — and by that we mean clones — Maslany is in a league of her own on the talented actor front. She rests on no laurels and is nothing if not 100 percent committed to her many, many, many different roles. She’s arguably the best actor on TV right now. After all: who else on television is playing a series of clones?
The series itself runs more like a psychological crime thriller, with conspiracy theories, good cop/bad cop-esque shifts of allegiances, and mega-mystery layered into its premise to boot. In essence, it is so much more than the sum of its parts.
Science, religion, the government, body autonomy, and humanity all collide within the series’ framework: the state of humanity and what it means in our non-stop world of evolutionary and scientific advances. Never before has our world been so subject to the whims of human ingenuity: positive ramifications or otherwise. It’s radical, it’s feminist, it’s fun and funny: this is the Stefon club of TV shows.
Because, you see, these are clones that only just found out about their origins, and the mystery of who/what/where/when/why and how is just the beginning. Within it there are factions of folks vying for control while the clones themselves are struggling for autonomy and self-governance. (You know: they want to be treated as people!) Just when you think someone is the “bad guy,” the show is quick to remind you that it might not be all that simple: the cornerstone of riveting storytelling. It’s a richly layered story with something for everyone.
And someone for everyone. Just because these women are clones played by the same person, does not mean they are identical people. There’s Sarah Manning the punk rock grafter with a biological daughter named Kira. (She also comes with a cavalcade of baggage and a best friend/foster brother that often steals the show, Felix Dawkins.) There’s Alison Hendrix the uptight, Type-A soccer mom with a predilection for booze and pills. And we’d be remiss to not mention self-professed geek monkey Cosima Niehaus with brains and dreads in equal measure. Or Helena: the Ukrainian angry angel with vengeance and redemption on the brain.
Plus a handful of others, because apparently the series’ creators Graeme Manson and John Fawcett like to push Maslany to the limit. But we don’t want to ruin all of it for you.
Because when we say that you forget it’s the same actress playing all these wildly varied parts, we mean it. You literally forget that the Clone Club’s founding members are all one person — and it goes well beyond good make-up and a solid wig. Maslany’s chops boggle the mind. The show literally lives and dies on her incredibly capable shoulders.
“Orphan Black”’s ability to hone in on topical issues of the moment — nature versus nurture, female body autonomy, the reach of super-secret government projects, the intersection of religion and science — is what makes it so riveting. And it also gives the show a bit of urgency as its clones’ very existence is being pawed at by the hand of these frontier fringe groups. Proletheans; Neolutionists; the government; scientific mega-corporation; the police — and quite possibly a group or two more. Everyone wants to get in on the illegal cloning experiment action turning “Orphan Black” into more than its sci-fi roots: it’s part investigative hunt, psychological thriller, criminal conspiracy balancing act, and dissection of humanity in the push towards the future. It literally has something for everyone. (And it’s often quite funny to boot!)
This week, the tables were turned in a really big way. What was once up may now be down — and that rollercoaster is what makes it so engaging. With a season and a half under its belt, it’s an easy catch-up, with nary more than a mini-binge commitment. And with this recent game-changing episode, the time to do it is now. The series airs on BBC America, with certain cable providers’ On Demand network also carrying the episodes alongside Amazon Prime and several other streaming providers (a list of which can be found here.)
So get in on it now, feel cooler than your friends, and welcome to the trip.