Orphan Black: The Weight of This Combination

Posted on April 19, 2015

Orphan-Black-Season-3-Episode-1-Television-Series-BBC-America-Tom-Lorenzo-Site-TLOPinTatiana Maslany and Ari Millen in “Orphan Black” on BBC America

Seestras are doing it for themselves!

Okay, we just wanted to open with that line. It just barely has anything to do with the episode. Sue us; we’re excited.

But yes, the sisters of the clone club really are on top of things (or appear to be) and taking care of things – when they’re not locked in boxes with talking scorpions or having psychotic French fingers jammed into their vacant eye sockets, that is – but before we get to all that, we suppose the big story of the season 3 opener has less to do with the Clone Club Seestren and more to do with the brothers in the group.

And we have to say, we came into the season with some trepidation regarding the boy clones because we hadn’t been given any indication that Ari Millen could handle playing multiple characters as deftly as Tatiana Maslany can. It turns out, he can’t. He tends to play every one with the same wild-eyed crazy look, only varying the intensity slightly with each portrayal. It doesn’t help that he has far fewer hair and makeup options than Tatiana has to help him create each portrayal, but even so, we remain unimpressed with his ability to change up body language and facial expressions in comparison to Tatiana’s eerily flawless portrayals.

Granted, the Castor clones were raised together by the military, which means that they would have to be far more alike than the Seestra clones, who were all raised in wildly different circumstances. If the show really plays that up; that confusion in the audience as to which male clone we’re looking at from moment to moment, it could be to the story’s benefit, but we’ll just have to see how it shakes out on that front. We’re nervous, though. Think about it: would this show have been nearly as successful or interesting if some other actress had been cast to play the Leda clones? Tatiana Maslany and her acting skills are the entire point of the show – for us, at least. For this episode, we admit, we found each of the boy clones to be … less than fascinating, shall we say. Every one of the Leda clones came to us as a fully formed character, completely distinguishable from the other ones. Every time a Castor clone shows up, we spend the first half of his scene wondering who he is or if we’d seen him before.

Although we feel we should be given a little leeway on the confusion front, because this episode was determined to hit you with everything it had, spinning your head and making you wonder what’s going to happen next. From Delphine turning herself into Rachel 2.0 (“She looks good,” Felix says admiringly, speaking on our behalf, as he so often does) to Boxing Helena (and her new sidekick) to yet another rousing game of Guess the Clone (although any fan of the show could’ve told you that was Alison before she even opened her mouth because Tatiana’s just that awesome)  it’s all pure Orphan Black narrative wackery goodness and we were thrilled to see the show come back with so much energy and confidence. After all, if you don’t believe that your show is awesome, do you think you’d take the risk of adding a talking scorpion to the cast?

In addition to all the narrative wackery, we got some truly well-drawn emotional bits; especially  the heart-wrenching breakup scene between Cosima and Delphine. Our emotional response to this scene seemed to have come out of nowhere, because we were never particularly invested in this relationship, but the two actresses sold the hell out of their heartbreak. We were also mighty pleased to see Felix stand up a bit for Siobhan by telling Sarah that he’d have turned Helena in too, if it meant saving Sarah and Kira. Fortunately, it appears Sarah may begrudgingly see his point, because we’re not sure we’d want another full season of Sarah vs. Siobhan. When these two team up, they’re unstoppable, which makes their constant bickering and backbiting one of the great tragedies of the story so far, we suppose. Time to see them come together as the kickass team we know they are. And speaking of teams, our moment of actress-confusion (because there’s got to be one in every episode) came when Delphine and Sarah were having it out after Sarah-as-Rachel’s little spankfest got out of hand and almost turned into a homicidefest. We sat there watching the two actresses go back and forth and thought, “Say, this is a killer teamup. It’s got real possibilities. These two have great chemistry together,” momentarily forgetting that practically all of Delphine’s scenes since the beginning have been with Tatiana Maslany. When the boy clones manage to induce that kind of response in us, we’ll be ready to call them a success.

Not that we consider this season opener anything but a rousing success on the whole. Tatiana got to dazzle us with her skills, every major character got a moment (including the glorious Hendrixes planning to take out a local politician, which makes us wonder if she’s going to wind up buried under their pool or something), the story’s shooting off in all kinds of crazy directions, clones are in danger and other clones are forging strange alliances. This is all EXACTLY what we need right now.

Also: if we can’t get Tatiana an Emmy for her amazing clone work, can we at least give her one for voicing the most engrossing scorpion we’ve ever seen?

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[Photo Credit: Steve Wilkie for BBC AMERICA]

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