Good, Bad & Ugly Review: Orphan Black Season One

Directed By: John Fawcett
Written By: John Fawcett and Graeme Manson
Starring: Tatiana Maslany, Dylan Bruce, Jordan Gavaris, and Maria Doyle Kennedy
Studio: BBC America

Synopsis: Sarah (Tatiana Maslany), a British orphan now living in America, witnesses the suicide of a woman named Beth, who looks exactly like her. Assuming Beth’s identity brings Sarah a new apartment, a nice boyfriend, and trouble that includes a deadly conspiracy. (Source)

The Good:
Learn this name: Tatiana Maslany…because she is going to be a huge star. Ms Maslany is a Canadian actress with very little in the way of previous credits but she was a revelation in this starmaking turn as a whole fleet of different characters. Playing all of the clones in ORPHAN BLACK, Maslany goes way beyond just different wardrobe, hairstyles and accents…instead she makes each character seem so distinct that it is hard to remember that one woman is playing all of the parts. Her mesmerizing talent is most on display in scenes where she is playing more than one clone especially any scenes where she is playing the deranged clone Helena but also in the handful of scenes where the clones Sarah, Alison and Cosima are all in one room trying to figure out the conspiracy behind their creation. It is no wonder she won the Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Actress in a Drama (beating out heavyweights like Claire Danes and Keri Russell) and she really deserves to snag an Emmy nomination this year too.
That conspiracy is also one of the selling points of the show. With all of the twists and turns in the clone saga it would be really easy for a show to fall prey to overreach under the weight of all of the shadowy figures and groups but ORPHAN BLACK juggles the various clone conspiracy stuff masterfully.
And the supporting cast is really good too especially Jordan Gavaris as Sarah’s flamboyant hustler foster brother Felix and Maria Doyle Kennedy (who I remember fondly from THE COMMITMENTS) as Mrs. S, Felix and Sarah’s foster mother.

The Bad:
The weakest part of the show has to be Sarah’s impersonating Beth, the clone who committed suicide and worked as a police detective. Even on a show about advanced cloning it was a bit of a leap to buy a street hustler playing detective. Plus the romance Sarah started with Beth’s boyfriend was a bit of a slog to get through at the beginning too (no knock against Dylan Bruce whose Paul actually got interesting as the season went on).

The Ugly:
Ever have one character on a TV show you enjoy that annoys you so much that you can’t bear to watch them onscreen? That would be what I felt towards the character of Vic, Sarah’s loser of an ex-boyfriend. The character was awful and I really didn’t want to see ass much of him as we were given in this first season.

Best Episode: Entangled Bank
This episode was great it advanced the overarching plot, featured a masterful performance by Maslany and shone the spotlight on my favorite of the clones in Alison whose perfect suburban life was falling apart all around her. This episode had a lot of really funny moments as well as some truly creepy ones as we got a substantial amount of Helena in this one. and even the stuff that I am not that big a fan of (Paul and the police stuff) was done well and actually fit more seamlessly in this episode than any other. And that ending was just heartbreaking.

Worst Episode: Natural Selection (Pilot)
The pilot episode did a good job of setting things up and gave the first glimpse into the talents of the lead actress but there was just a bit too much of ancillary character that I really didn’t care about (the aforementioned Vic and Beth’s partner on the police force) that it dragged a bit for me.

Final Verdict: ORPHAN BLACK is smartly written and capably directed (by show creators John Fawcett and Graeme Manson) with fully formed characters that make the outlandish premise seem not quite so out there and an amazing performance by lead Tatiana Maslany in multiple roles that never feel like they are being embodied by one actress. A triumphant bit of sci-fi that never insults the viewers intelligence and leaves you wanting more.

Rating: B+


  1. Mila By C. · June 24, 2013

    i actually really liked this series


    • Derek · June 24, 2013

      I was shocked that I ended up liking it because I had a preconceived notion that it would be kinda blah since it was a BBC America production and i haven’t been too enthused by those offerings (Copper and Ripper) all that much.
      Glad you liked the show and that you stopped by!


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