Weekly Review: Orphan Black (2013-2017)

When Sarah witnesses the suicide of a woman who looks identical to herself, she decides to escape her troubled life by assuming the life of the deceased woman. In doing so, she stumbles upon a massive secret that will change her life forever.

Orphan Black is a science fiction television series from BBC America. It stars Tatiana Maslany in a variety of roles that show her extreme talent. I will go into this more later. The series also features roles played by Maria Doyle Kennedy, Jordan Gavaris, Evelyn Brochu, Kristian Bruun, and many others throughout its span of 5 seasons.

The series explores the scientific possibilities and ethical ramifications of human cloning. While looking at these issues, the series largely focuses on issues of personal identity with the clones. If I’m a clone, how much of me is actually me? As the series progresses, the theme of family, specifically sisterhood, becomes more and more apparent.

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With a series about a bunch of clones, it’s understandably going to be difficult on the actor/actress portraying them. As I mentioned above, Tatiana Maslany portrays more than half a dozen different characters masterfully in this series. It’s honestly difficult at first to believe that they are all played by the same person.

Maslany has improvisation experience, and I’ve read from interviews that she relied on this skill to develop each character to be their own unique person. I believe she had a different playlist for each character, and she used that to transition from one role to the next. It’s amazing really. Each character has enough different mannerisms to be able to tell them apart, even when they are attempting to look and sound as each other.

Not only is the series a feat for its lead actress, but from a production standpoint, I know how difficult it must have been as well. Throughout the series, there are a plethora of scenes where the clones are interacting with each other. Sometimes that can be as simple as filming the scene multiple times with a body double.

At other points, there are several clones all interacting with each other, and the camera is moving! That is such complex filmmaking. The first time I saw a scene like that, my jaw dropped. I had to watch the behind the scenes immediately.

Many aspects about the story throughout the series can be quite mature. There is a lot of science involved, so if the science fiction genre isn’t your thing, this show might not be either. I know of a few people who lost interest during season three when the Orphan Black universe expanded in a different way than what viewers were accustomed to. The ethical questions that are raised are definitely discussion worthy.

In the end, Orphan Black is a critically acclaimed television series, pretty much throughout each season. The praise ranges from Maslany’s performance to the stories and themes in the series. For me, it’s been one of the best shows on television over the last few years.

I’m sad to see it go. I was not ready to say goodbye, but I understand. There are a lot of shows that continue to go on and on, until the story just isn’t that great anymore. Orphan Black is a series that quit while it was ahead. I can respect that.

I would most definitely recommend Orphan Black to viewers who are looking for something that is thought provoking. It’s impressive from both an acting standpoint and a filmmaking standpoint. Even if the story isn’t really your thing, Tatiana Maslany’s acting is superb throughout.

Take a look at the trailer for season one below.


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