Orphan Black

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TV Series Review

Some people cause their own problems. Others seem like they're born with them. Sarah Manning is a good example of the latter.

Sarah thought her life was pretty normal—or, as normal as life can be for an amateur con artist. But her perception changed dramatically when she saw her spot-on doppelgänger step in front of a speeding train.

At first, Sarah treats the suicide as a great opportunity. After all, it's not every day you can so easily assume the identity of another person, complete with bank account and credit cards. But she soon discovers why the dead woman (a Canadian detective) might've been struggling. Seems she and Sarah are clones—products of an elaborate biochemistry experiment—and the realization that there could be scores of her walking around might've been too much for the woman to handle.

Sarah, even though she's got the same biological makeup, is made of stronger stuff, it would seem.

Such is the setup of Orphan Black, the weirdest product to come out of Canada since ketchup-flavored potato chips. Airing on Space in the northern provinces and on BBC America in the United States, Orphan Black has earned actress Tatiana Maslany raves for her work as Sarah … and Beth, the suicide-committing detective … and Cosima, the lesbian microbiology student … and Helena, the self-harming Ukrainian clone assassin … and Alison, the Canadian soccer mom … and—

You get the idea. Maslany has played at least eight different clones so far, all genetically alike but wildly different due to upbringing, life experience and the idea that God must like a little diversity, even in clones.

A stretch? Perhaps, but* Orphan Black* doesn't shy away from such philosophical musings. In fact, it forces viewers to ask what it means to be human at all. The Dyad Institute, the organization behind Sarah and her kin, sees the clones as grand experiments in eugenics—self-guided evolution, as it were—and monitors them all through their supposed best friends and loved ones. Meanwhile, a cult of sorts called the Proletheans believes these clones to be "abominations" in the eyes of God and wants them all dead. The clones themselves struggle, as you might expect, with their own sense of self—even as they meet and befriend one another and, eventually, form their own odd little family.

All that helps turn Orphan Black into a strange yet compelling show—at turns an edge-of-your-seat mystery thriller, quirky comedy and bizarre family drama, with each episode unspooling just a bit more thread for this sprawling, confusing tapestry.

But it also makes for some serious problems. Characters, both clones and non-clones alike, can die in pretty horrible and bloody ways. People are injured and sometimes tortured. Lovers pop in and out of the plot, sometimes participating in graphic sex scenes. Felix, Sarah's foster brother, is gay and has been known to work as a male prostitute. Cosima is shown in intimate interactions with female lovers. Alison and her husband, Donnie, have started dealing drugs. And language is raw, including unbleeped s-words, among others (based on our review of iTunes episodes).

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Awards

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Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Orphan Black: May 30, 2015
Orphan Black: May 10, 2014

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Genre

Drama, Crime, Medical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Author

Cast

Tatiana Maslany as Sarah Manning, Helena, Alison, Cosima and Others; Dylan Bruce as Paul Dierden; Jordan Gavaris as Felix Dawkins; Kevin Hanchard as Detective Art Bell; Maria Doyle Kennedy as Mrs. S; Evelyne Brochu as Delphine Cormier; Skyler Wexler as Kira; Inga Cadranel as Angela Deangelis; Michael Mando as Vic; Kristian Bruun as Donnie Hendrix; Michiel Huisman as Cal Morrison

Director

Distributor

Network

BBC America

Performance

Record Label

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Released

Year Published

Reviewer

Paul Asay Paul Asay