TV Series Review: Orphan Black

Save for releases from Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, movies suck for the most part these days. Moviedom seems to be afflicted with the curse of prequels, sequels, prequels to sequels, sequels to prequels, remakes and remakes of remakes.

Although television is afflicted with curse of mind-numbing reality shows, there is no denying the fact that the best entertainment today is found in television rather than movies.

There are tons of great shows on television and if you were to try to take them all in, you would end up a veritable couch potato. For a cinephile, this would be the ideal life only if you have a stash of wealth somewhere to keep you going. Unlike in TV-land, reality bites. So, every now and then; you take in some of the many shows available during the free moments that working life allows you.

One of the great shows on television is Orphan Black. Its storyline comfortably situates it under multiple genres of science fiction, drama, action and thriller. The storyline in Orphan Black revolves around how the lead character, Sarah Manning, chancing upon the suicide her cop-look alike, Beth Childs, sucks her into a vortex of high stakes corporate/biotech research conspiracy that has spanned 4 seasons and 40 episodes of one of the most compelling, intelligently written and brilliantly acted television shows you will find today.

Sarah assumes Beth’s identity and uncovers the fact that both she and Beth and a slew of others are identical clones created by Neolution, a seeming new age scientific movement that is merely a cover for a biotech corporation known as the Dyad Institution seeking to profit from a reproductive biotech technology that seeks to advance the evolution of human species through scientific research.

If you are a fan of sci-fi movies and television shows, there is enough convoluted and exciting biotech nerdy stuff in the storyline to satisfy the cravings of your inner geek. But by far the greatest thing about Orphan Black is the incredible acting range deployed by the uber-talented actress, Tatiana Maslany, in portraying the lead character, Sarah Manning and a slew of other clone characters.

As of Season 4, Tatiana Maslany has played 11 clone characters on the show with 5 of them being recurring characters. She breathes distinct life into each character carefully creating and nailing their respective and distinctive nuances which endears them or earns them the dislike of the viewer. From the renegade-bad ass-rock-chick-doting mum, Sarah Manning, the Ukranian blonde psycho, Helena, the demure braids — wearing lesbian evolutionary developmental biologist, Cosima Niehaus, the bi — polar sub-urban soccer mum, Allison Hendrix to the ice-queen, one — dimensional CEO of the Dyad Institute, Rachel Duncan.

Maslany plays each character distinctively, sculpting their individual personalities and nuances with such precision and fluidity that you get sucked into each character’s world forgetting that they are all played by the same actress. It is a testament to Maslany’s brilliant artistry that in any scene involving 2 or more clone characters, the fact that all the characters are being played by one actress is lost on the viewer as they will be convinced that the characters are separate and distinct persons even though they all look alike.

Any actor will tell you it is difficult to give life to a single character to make them endearing and memorable to the audience. It takes extraordinary acting chops to effortlessly achieve this feat with multiple characters as Maslany has done in Orphan Black.

Although the show started showing in 2013, Maslany received her first ever Emmy nomination in 2015 in the category of Best Lead Actress in Drama. Unfortunately, she had to come up for nomination the same year the universe determined Viola Davis should go into the record books. Not taking anything away from Davis’ performance as Annalise Keaton in How to get away with Murder but that performance is one — dimensional compared to Maslany’s multilayered tour de force performances in Orphan Black.

Viola Davis won the Emmy Award making it the first time a black actress would win that particular award. Kudos to her. No doubt Ms. Davis is a brilliant actress and would win any acting award even if all she had to do was read names off a phone directory. But that award should have gone to Maslany as no other actress on the nomination list for that category was more deserving of it.

Fortunately, this year; she has been nominated again in the same category. Anything less than a win for Maslany would be an unjustified and unforgivable robbery. One actor playing multiple characters is not a new concept in movies or television but no other actor has pulled it off with such conviction and brilliant authenticity as Maslany has done in Orphan Black.8/10

Lawyer, movie reviewer, music lover, one time regular writer of unhappy poems inspired by Rock songs, daydreamer and people watcher… in that order.