Orphan Black: Season One – Episodes 1-3

A reader suggested that I take a look at Orphan Black, a 10 episode TV series that’s available on the BBC America channel. He suggested that I could get up to speed in plenty of time before the Season Two premieres in late mid April. Here’s what he wrote:

Orphan Black is very different than your standard procedural, even though one of the main characters is a detective.(Actually, she’s impersonating a suspended police detective who unknowingly stumbles into a multiple murder plot). The story is a cross of Blade Runner and Vertigo with lots of clever twists, but it does require suspension of disbelief. Tatiana Maslany, who plays multiple roles, is as good as you would expect from the BBC. I think she’s gonna have a nice career. 

I gave it a look. In fact I watched the first three episodes of Season One on Monday night, taking a break only to watch The Blacklist. As the opening scene of Season One Episode One begins we see a woman exit a train, then hang around on the train platform. We heard the station announcement as Huxley Station – which meant nothing to me other than sounding somewhat British. Now seeing how I am watching this show on BBC America, and I was expecting this to be set in London.

Imagine how surprised I was to hear another train announcement – Next train to New York City …! So much for being in Blighty, unless they’ve built a cross Atlantic railroad tunnel that escaped being noticed by yours truly. So as the show continued with many more surprises and shocking twists, by midpoint of the 1st episode, I’m still at a loss as to where the show is set. Which lasted until I was able to read a few license plates which read Ontario. Further research tells me that this show is a joint effort between BBC America and Temple Street Productions which is surprise, surprise – a Toronto outfit.

To give you a quick précis (lifted from the Orphan Black page on IMDB) – A streetwise hustler is pulled into a compelling conspiracy after witnessing the suicide of a girl who looks just like her. So our lead character is one Sarah Manning. She’s played by the aforementioned Tatiana Maslany. In case you’ve no idea about who she is – she played supporting roles in Eastern Promises (2007) and The Vow (2012). She’s also appeared in a couple of episodes of the Parks and Recreation TV series.

Anyway, Sarah is on the lam from some bad people. And when she gets an opportunity to assume another’s identity – she takes it. Only to find – that the assumed identity is also in deep doo-doo. While it is safe to describe her new identity as not quite in dire straits – there are problems.

What I like best about the show is the tour-d-force performance by Maslany – who once you see what happens to her – you’ll just be amazed at the sheer volume of script she has to learn. I also like her looks and the chameleon like talents that she possesses.

I also liked the element of being out of my own element – meaning I didn’t and you won’t be recognizing most of the locations – unless you are a native.

They do a good job of springing twists and surprises at you. While the actual events are not unbelievable (no one leaps over tall buildings or halts a runaway locomotive) but – as my reader suggested above – you do have to suspend disbelief.

What I didn’t like – Sarah’s impersonation(s) come far too easily. Like going from never even handling a gun to a marksman in mere moments. And some of the police work seemed a bit sketchy to me – when two police officers break into a house and go from room to room – we never hear either of them yelling out ‘clear’. Sarah also handles many of the obstacles that show up in her path far too easily.

I also felt that the show ground to a halt whenever Sarah meets her sole ally Felix Dawkins. To help Sarah and another woman out, he baby sits a couple of kids and gets them all crossed dressed – the small boy as a girl, and the girl as a boy. Yes, Felix marches to the beats of a side of the gay life.

I also didn’t much care for her original nemesis Vic – a low-level drug merchant who Sarah was either involved with (as a lover) or as a co-conspirator in the drug trade.

After three episodes – you do get an excellent understanding of what is going on. Yes, Manning is on the run, actually her life is in deep danger but it takes a while for the writers and producers to give us enough to enable us to wrap our minds around the concept. Speaking of concepts – I saw the show as sort of a reverse Fugitive. In that one an innocent man, Dr. Richard Kimball,  is convicted of a crime, but manages to escape before reaching the prison and then he must track down the mysterious one armed man before the law captures him. The line between the hunter and the hunted blurs.  In Orphan Black – many are pursued for one reason by parties or party unknown. As I said, I’m just three episodes in.

Much of the pr/hype says the show is addictive, and will hook you very easily to the point of becoming an obsession.. I’m not so sure. Maybe it is because the first three episodes were so structurally similar. If you want to investigate the show – you should be able to see Season One on demand from your cable company.

Season Two begins April 19th.

By the way, I suspect that my opinion of this show might be called a minority report. I’ve not checked the ratings, but I am interested in hearing from any of you who can put a more positive spin on the series. So let’s hear what you have to say.

In case you are, like me – late to the party – here’s the frenetic trailer for the series. Kindly ignore the March 30th date as the opening – that was last year.

4 thoughts on “Orphan Black: Season One – Episodes 1-3

  1. Love this show. Tatiana Maslany is just stellar, and it’s consistently entertaining. It’s not without its flaws, but I think by the end of the season, it comes out a really well-formed, well-written, and thrilling series; I’m really looking forward to season 2.

    • Thanks PB – your comment is so perceptive.

      I know that there are many who adore the show – so it is refreshing to see some one who will say that, yes there are flaws – but I still love it.

  2. Maslaney is refreshing (she wasn’t picked off the TV babe farm). She reminds me of the high-voltage character Bruce Willis cranked out in the first season of Moonlighting. I like the marketing tagline “one of a kind,” and the quick turns of plot and the youthful energy of the characters. This is not your father’s mystery show. Orphan Black speeds and swerves like a teenage driver, but so far, the story hugs the curves and the twists are well executed — you certainly don’t see them coming. And then there’s the bigger questions — how many of us are there? And why is someone trying to kill our bunch? I’m looking forward to Season 2.

    • Thanks for the comment. I’m still on the fence about whether or not I will pursue this. However it might be interesting to see how this first season plays out. Especially since both you and Polar Bears16 both express a strong anticipation for Season Two.

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