By now, I’m sure we’ve all had it with vampires and werewolves, teen drama and grown-up monotony. We’ve seen the same, re-hashed version of World War Z on both big screens and small, the same episodes of NCIS and Law and Order 37 times a piece. There’s a good reason shows like The X-Files, Once Upon a Time, Parks and Recreation, Supernatural and LOST attract such passionate followings, even if some of these are no longer on the air (bless you, Netflix). These days, we’re incessantly craving something outside the norm.
So when BBC America’s Orphan Black broke ranks in 2013 and became the first drama in a long time to not fit the “Zombie-Werewolf-Vampy-Police-Procedural” bill, we raced into the light like moths to a flame. It was sci-fi and thriller/drama all rolled into one. There really wasn’t a way to simply categorize the show without leaving something to be desired.
Orphan Black follows the life of one Sarah Manning, a British-born, troubled 20-something who decides to make a half-hearted attempt to turn her life around. Through a series of random and disturbing events, viewers discover that, while Sarah has one goal in mind – to pack up her daughter and colorful yet grounded foster brother Felix, and flee for a new life elsewhere – circumstances push her completely in the opposite direction where she unceremoniously finds that she is “just one, I’m a few, no family too… who am I?” (Clones. If you didn’t catch the answer to that riddle, or hear any chatter whatsoever about the show, she’s one of many clones. You’re welcome.)
That’s right. Cloning. I know what you’re thinking: “Ugh, not another sci-fi cult hit. Hasn’t this been done to death before?!” The answer to that is two-fold: No and no. Allow me to elaborate. This isn’t just your ordinary “My evil twin is killing everyone and pretending to be me” soliloquy, it’s a remarkable twist on a taboo subject that leaves the viewer thinking. When one clone remarks on the idea of human genome experimentation as abhorrent and vile, the other finds it utterly fascinating. While one displays violent tendencies and sociopathic behavior, another lives peacefully (albeit rigidly) as a suburban soccer mom. The question of “nature vs. nurture” is absolutely present.
If technicalities and script writing alone don’t win you over, consider that with numerous identical characters present, there was really only one way to visibly and convincingly portray every one of them: hire a single actress, the über-talented Tatiana Maslany, to play each individual clone. And seriously, the Canadian-born Maslany has more than just taken on the challenge – she’s killed it.
In fact, while watching the series, it’s easy to forget that each separate clone is, in fact, all Maslany. So detailed are her performances that her crew and castmates can identify which persona she is portraying that day simply by the way that she walks onto set. Even the slightest facial tics take on a distinctiveness. That Maslany has the uncanny ability to portray numerous characters in a single episode without batting an eye has even become something of a silly joke – even co-stars Dylan Bruce and Jordan Gavaris quipped at their Nerd HQ panel last summer that there was no need to introduce anyone on the stage besides Maslany because they “[were] all Tatiana Maslany.”
If you’ve made it this far and still aren’t convinced that Orphan Black should be your next marathon on Netflix, I have only two words left to convince you:
Seriously. She’s reason enough to watch. That and maybe the fabulous, lovable Felix Dawkins (I honestly believe I’d still watch the show if it were pared down to one character and simply titled Felix Makes Fun of the Suburbs While Looking Fantastic).
Okay, just watch the show already.
Don’t forget to mark your calendars: season two of Orphan Black premieres Saturday, April 19 at 9 p.m. on BBC America.
Photo Credit: © Steve Wilkie for BBC AMERICA and © BBC AMERICA