The genre of science fiction opens up a plethora of possibilities on television. Thanks to its nature, the subject does not demand realism, but if a show feels realistic, there will be many takers. The 2013 Canadian drama Orphan Black is a good case in point.
Starring Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black is a show about a cloning experiment that attempts to tamper with the cycle of nature.
What is Orphan Black about?
Orphan Black opens with a woman named Sarah who witnesses the suicide of a woman who seems to be her look alike. Sarah is intrigued and assumes her look alike’s identity only to find out that they are a part of a huge group of clones who were created as a part of a scientific study. During the first season, we see these women find out about their clone sisters.
Orphan Black focuses on the effects of tampering with nature’s course. As layers are peeled back around the scientific study and its deep roots in the system, the focus on human identity increases as we are often reminded about the power of nature over humans.
What works for Orphan Black?
Orphan Black started airing in 2013 and lasted for five seasons (50 episodes). Across all those seasons, the spine of the show was Tatiana Maslany. Tatiana played all the clone versions of herself. If there was ever a role that demanded the most out of an actor, one can imagine it to be this one as Tatiana plays a soccer mom, a con artist, an assassin, a scientist, a corporate professional, among many others. It is hard to fathom how Tatiana played such varied characters when, most of the time, she was playing them against herself. An earlier episode features her having a dance party with four of her clones and it is in that scene, you marvel at the fact that all four women are being played by the same woman.
Orphan Black is a science fiction show and like many others that came before it, the show relies heavily on strong world-building during its first season. As the audience is introduced to an unbelievable world where an illegal experiment has led to the creation of many clones who are being closely monitored without their knowledge, the show creates a world of horrors where Sarah is challenged at every corner. The villainous Dyad Institute and their research projects that aim to create a new world where they can control the creation of human beings is terrifying to watch.
Orphan Black weaved an intriguing plotline through its run, so questions like who is the original among the clones, who is pulling the string of the Dyad Institute, who is behind neolution and why is Rachel pro-clone are all answered in due course.
With supporting characters like Felix, Donnie, Mrs S and even Kendall in later seasons, Orphan Black developed a powerful bank of characters. The backstory of Mrs S and Kendall has to be the strongest part of the entire series.
The finale of Orphan Black
With a rich mythological world built within the show, Orphan Black had a huge task on its hands when it came to the show’s finale. The cycle of birth and death was at the show’s centre, and in the earlier episodes, the audience is told about the sterile nature of all the clones, but one. The finale ended with Helena, Sarah’s twin, delivering her twins which gave quite a fitting send-off. The newfound family of Sarah, after the death of Mrs S, and her memories of having her baby gave this episode an emotional edge, and it became the farewell that the clone club deserved.
The finale also answered the question about the total number of clones of Project Leda.
Orphan Black was a critics favourite. While the third season wasn’t as great as the first two, the show picked momentum in its later seasons, making it binge-worthy.
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In the initial seasons, it was believed that Tatiana not being nominated for an Emmy was a snub and the move was severely criticised. She was later nominated thrice for the award and won the trophy once. The show also won a Peabody Award.
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