“Orphan Black” is a show about clones, but you wouldn’t know that from the first episode. In fact, unless you’ve seen the commercials or read the advanced reviews for the new series, you wouldn’t even realize that it’s science fiction. And that’s what makes “Orphan Black” so intriguing. Judging from the pilot, the series is poised to be unpredictable, with twists in every episode. BBC America’s second original series certainly looks to be a good one.
When “Orphan Black” begins, its protagonist Sarah is a seedy, street-smart character hoping to regain custody of her young daughter. After she witnesses a woman named Beth, who looks exactly like her, jump in front of a train, she takes the dead woman’s purse and assumes her identity. At first everything goes well, with Sarah moving into the well-off Beth’s apartment and planning on using her money to run away with her daughter. Then she meets yet another woman who could be her twin, only to see her get shot through the head. Now Sarah must find out why there are so many duplicates of her and who wants them dead.
Sarah and her doppelgangers are actually clones, which viewers will discover in future episodes. Not introducing the premise of the series in its first episode can either be brilliant or blindingly stupid. Considering the way the premiere played out though, in this case it seems to be the former. Series creators Graeme Manson and John Fawcett have weaved an intricate story whose surprises are sure to be revealed strategically over the course of the season’s 10 episodes. Just as Sarah has no idea what is going on around her, neither does the audience, which makes the show so interesting. As the mystery unfolds regarding the existence of the clones and their assassinations, viewers will surely be compelled.
Another reason to watch is Tatiana Maslany’s performance as Sarah in addition to the other clones. Maslany really shows her talent in her ability to portray multiple different characters over the course of an episode. The complexity she instills in Sarah alone is a pleasure to watch. Also entertaining is Jordan Gavaris as Sarah’s foster brother and only friend, though his comic relief can be slightly obnoxious at times.
Today’s must-see television revolves around serialized dramas concerning characters not usually featured on the small screen. So will clones be the next zombies? It’s possible.
The Setonian gives this 5 out of 5 stars.
Sean Quinn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.