It was with quite a bit of curiosity that this examiner began to explore 'Orphan Black: Season One.' There was a copious amount of hype which isn't always helpful to a show's cause, but in this case, it worked.
Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany) is a troubled young woman who happens upon another young woman that looks exactly like her. Instead of a tearful reunion, this other woman hurls herself in front of an oncoming train. Sarah takes her purse and, thanks to their similarity, identity. She is Beth Childs, a detective, and Sarah sees that she has quite a cozy life. Her friend Felix (Jordan Gavaris) who was a fellow orphan and grew up with her, disapproves of this risky endeavor but when Sarah discovers that by playing along as a police officer, she could have access to $70,000, she realizes that it would change life for her and her estranged daughter.
Unfortunately, she becomes entangled in a homicide that Beth may have committed, Beth's nosy (but handsome) husband Paul (Dylan Bruce), and her own past that has come knocking. Add to that, the knowledge that there are more doppelgangers of her and that someone is killing them one-by-one, and we have just found the tip of the iceberg.
Things begin ambiguously enough though reading this review might, unintentionally, give you an idea about some of what is going on. It's best to go into the show with no knowledge or preconceived notions. Oh well, here you are.
The show starts off with a bang and wastes no time putting our protagonist into the thick of this situation. What begins (and stays) as a case of stolen identity shifts into a police procedural, then a thriller, before turning into an unconventional family drama and finally a bonkers science fiction/evil-all-seeing entity home stretch. There are a lot of genres touched upon here and it helps to keep things interesting as we never get to bogged down by any of them. Expect just enough humor throughout to appeal to most of your viewing sensibilities.
As we progress throughout the season, some of our questions and suspicions are answered, but the finale opens up an entirely new set of problems for our hero(s). The pacing is never overly rushed and we are given enough information to stay interested but never at the expense of plausibility.
If you wanted to see a tour-de-force performance, it goes to Maslany for her sheer workload. There are about ten total clones all played by her, many times three or four in a scene at the same time. Yowza. Each incarnation has a dramatically different personality and perspective. You will likely find a favorite, not necessarily Sarah, with whom we spend most time.
Special features include: a look at the background of the show, Maslany's appearance on the Nerdist, some short featurettes called 'Orphan Black: Insider.'
Simply put, 'Orphan Black: Season One' is one of the best non-comedy television shows this examiner has discovered in quite some time.
If you are intrigued by what you read, there is no reason not to dive right in.
Not Rated 450 minutes 2013