Orphan Black, Starring Tatiana Maslany

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Welcome to Supernatural Television’s A to Z Bloggers Challenge! Oh yes, I am behind, and I probably will not catch up before they finish, but I will finish! Thank you for reading my posts. I appreciate your comments and I’ve enjoyed the conversation and comments.

Tonight we are watching Orphan Black, an intriguing sci fi show that premiered at Wondercon. (Wondercon is a yearly comic book, science fiction and motion picture convention held in California.) Orphan Black, developed at the Canadian Film Centre by Graeme Manson was produced by Temple Street Productions and distributed internationally by BBC Worldwide. The ten episode American premiere was on March 30, 2013, and I was watching. I think it’s great.

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Tatiana Maslany stars in Orphan Black. Image by Geo Swan.

The show stars Tatiana Maslany who I recognized immediately. She also played Kit on the Canadian television series Heartland, one of my favorite shows, and I was impressed by Maslany’s performance from her first appearance on that show. I was intrigued when I saw her name connected with Orphan Black, and even more intrigued when I continued to read the list of actors on this show–Maslany stars as Sarah Manning, Elizabeth Childs, Alison Hendrix, Katja Obinger, Cosima, and Helena.

Yes, you read the list correctly. Sarah Manning’s identity is the basis of the plot. Sarah Manning discovers she was cloned. Or perhaps Sarah is a clone. Like all great mysteries, the show begins with more questions than answers.

“Natural Selection”

The premiere episode is “Natural Selection.” From the moment she leaves the train certain clues fall into place. We know that Sarah hasn’t seen her daughter in a year because she stops to make a phone call at the train station and ask to speak to the child. Whoever she speaks to on the phone is crying and refuses access to the child and hangs up on Sarah. Sarah tries to find more coins, then gives up. She picks up her bags and starts to walk through the station then notices a well-dressed woman in front of her has dropped her purse and is removing her shoes. The woman turns to face her. She looks like Sarah’s twin.

The special effects here are fantastic–it is a truly eerie scene. The woman is crying–her makeup is smudged around her eyes. She is clearly distraught. The next train is coming toward the two women and Sarah–and the viewers–realize what the woman intends to do. Sarah rushes forward to stop the woman, but she throws herself onto the tracks in front of the train. Sarah, stunned, keeps walking toward her. The train conductor jumps off the train and stops Sarah, waving her back, then looks beneath the train at the woman’s body.  From the start this show has great tension and nonstop action.

A New Identity

Sarah takes the woman’s clothing, shoes and purse and heads for a local bar where she meets up with Felix (Jordan Gavaris) who spent time with her in a foster home.  Felix examines the identification of Elizabeth Childs and admits the resemblance is uncanny. Sarah mentions her daughter, Kira (Skylar Wexler), and Felix reminds her that she abandoned the child with Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy) and disappeared for ten months. There is no mention of where Sarah was for the ten months.

Sarah decides to take on Elizabeth’s identity. At Elizabeth’s apartment, she tries on her clothes and searches through her possessions to learn more about her, then she drives Elizabeth’s car to the bank to access her money. She makes arrangements to withdraw $75,000 from the woman’s savings account the next day then finds multiple identification cards in a safe deposit box.

When Sarah leaves the bank she is grabbed by a man who practically shoves her into a car, angry that she is running late for an appointment. The man is her partner, Art (Kevin Hanchard), calls her Beth, and eventually expresses his surprise that she hasn’t referred to him as “dip-shit.” Art drives her to the police station and Sarah makes another discovery, but this one is not as pleasant. Elizabeth is a police officer under suspension for shooting an unarmed person, Margaret Chen.

Before the hearing, she tries to excuse herself to go to the restroom and nearly gives herself away because she walks off in the wrong direction. Her supervisor points her in the right direction and she waits for an officer in the restroom to leave, then drinks soap, which she vomits all over the table before the hearing can begin.

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Jordan Gavaris plays Felix in Orphan Black 

In the mean time, Felix is at the morgue identifying the body of Elizabeth Childs as Sarah. He does this for two reasons. First, he is trying to convince Sarah’s obnoxious boyfriend, Vic (Michael Mando), that she is dead. He is also trying to help Sarah become Elizabeth Childs. Felix takes Vic to the morgue to prove to him that Sarah has committed suicide and Vic is distraught. Felix convinces Vic that his obnoxious, abusive ways caused Sarah to kill herself. Jordan Garvaris is outstanding in his role as Felix, very impressive.

Pieces of a Life

Felix and Sarah meet, trying to piece together the life of Elizabeth Childs. Felix notices the birth dates on the identification papers found in the safe deposit box are all within a month of each other. Sarah doesn’t see a connection. She is still trying to find a way to see her child and Felix reminds her that she disappeared for ten months. Sarah insists she’s trying to fix it, and Felix comes back with a great line. “Talk to the angels, Sarah,” he says. “You’re already dead.” He has made a great point–how can she see Kira when she has now become Elizabeth Childs?

The irony is fantastic. She has found a woman who resembles her physically in every way, but whose life is completely opposite of her own. She takes on the woman’s identity, and her own life becomes fragmented. In a way, she has become two people, living the life of two people. It is impossible for her to stop being Sarah completely because she still has a child and her foster brother, Felix. On the other hand, she’s already gone too far in taking on the identity of Elizabeth Childs. She is living the life of two women, one who is dead, and one who everyone believes is dead. This has all happened with 24 hours, so quickly that Sarah hasn’t even had time to rest, think, plan. She is also receiving non-stop calls from an anonymous number on Elizabeth’s cellphone.

As if matters couldn’t get worse, Child’s boyfriend, Paul (Dylan Bruce) who was out of town, comes home early to show her support during the hearing. He is surprised to see her at home and asks too many questions about the hearing, so she finally silences him by having sex with him on the kitchen counter–there is a lot of graphic sex, violence, and drug use in this show.

A Funeral

Vic decides Sarah needs a funeral and visits Felix to make arrangements. He needs closure. Felix likes the idea of a wake and promises to make arrangements. Sarah/Beth asks to borrow Paul’s car because she can’t find her keys and he looks confused, reaches into a box and hands them to her. Elizabeth drove a very nice car. However, as Sarah gets into the car we see Al watching her from across the street–either Al is not on the level or he does not trust Sarah/Beth.

Sarah returns to the bank to pick up the $75,000 in cash. She stops by Felix’s apartment and finds notices for the wake. While she’s  inside, Al breaks into the trunk of her car and finds the money.

Sarah shows up at the wake, watching from a distance. Felix is speaking to her on the phone, which is a bit unbelievable. He was her foster brother and the other members of the mourning party would certainly have noticed him chatting, smiling and laughing on the phone. Sarah reveals that her plan is to start over with Kira, Felix and the money.

A Clue

Vic finally asks Felix to shut up. Felix tells Sarah he has to get off the phone and suddenly Sarah notices Mrs. S driving up to the wake with her daughter, Kira. She is stunned. She walks back to her car, crying, trying to figure out what to do when another woman climbs into her back seat asking “Beth” why she hasn’t responded to her calls. She had red hair and speaks with an accent. She introduces herself as Katya and tells Sarah she brought the samples, the suitcase for Beth’s friend. She continues to introduce herself. Sarah says, “Yes, I get it, you’re German, I’ve seen your birth certificate.”

The woman is coughing up blood. She begs to see Beth’s “scientist friend.” Sarah tells the woman she cannot help her and gets back into her car. The woman opens the back door and climbs into the car behind her. Sarah tells her to leave. Katya tells Sarah that Beth’s partner, Al, is following her. Sarah tells her again to leave and she says, “Just one. I’m a few. No family, too. Who am I?” Sarah is stunned and is staring at Katya when someone shoots Katya in the forehead through the front windshield. Sarah ducks down and tries to drive with her head down. Elizabeth’s phone is ringing. She answers the phone, and the episode closes.

The Future of the Orphans

In the next episode, “Instinct,” Sarah of course will be forced to continue the charade, pretending to be Elizabeth Childs, but now she is also trying to stay alive as it is obvious someone is trying to kill her and the other women whose identities were in the safe deposit box as it becomes increasingly clear that one or all of the remaining women are clones. Obviously, eventually, Sarah will question whether or not she is real.

I believe this show will do well. I am impressed by the acting, writing, and plot, though the graphic sex is a bit much for me at times. I am interested to see if it will be picked up for another season.

Source:

  • “Natural Selection.” Orphan Black. Writer: Graeme Manson. Dir. John Fawcett. Perf. Tatiana Maslany, Dylan Bruce, Jordan Gavaris, Kevin Hanchard. BBC America. Running Time: 60 min.