Orphan Black: Seasons 1-3 – TV review

Spoiler-free review

Orphan Black is a show about clones and their quest to discover where they came from and remain safe. There is plenty of intrigue, drama, sexy romance and violence along the way. The show centres around an ensemble largely played by one actress, Tatiana Maslany, who impressively pulls off every clone being a different person.

Though Maslany’s accents are not flawless, the subtle mannerisms make her characters distinct. The consistency is possibly the key to her multiple performances working. The importance of consistency in accents is best demonstrated by her brother, Felix (Jordan Gavaris), whose exaggerated and loud English accent doesn’t sound like any person I’ve ever encountered in London, but across all three seasons he sticks to it without fail, which helps with suspension of disbelief. Maslany, with her many characters, could more easily be suspected of, and forgiven for, a bit of inconsistency, but she nails it. She is helped by perfectly executed special effects; cloning effects are cheap and easy, but often noticeable. In Orphan Black, the camera swoops around the clones and they regularly interact to the extent that it is very easy to forget all their parts were filmed in separate takes.

The first two seasons have a satisfying structure. There is no clear arc in each individual season, making it flow in a similar way to tv-greats Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones. The pacing, however, is ever so slightly too slow. Orphan Black is not a boring show, but not every scene feels essential. What is shown and what isn’t often seems inconsistent. Sometimes characters will re-cap something that has already been seen, and other times less exposition will be spent explaining something that happened off-screen.

Season three is weaker than the first two. The special Effects team may excel with duplication, but the Mexico set looks just like that, a set. There is a sense that they pushed themselves a bit too far. The introduction of new plot-threads, though potentially interesting, detract from the sense that the overall show could be a tightly-packed single story. Instead it feels like the storytelling will now introduce elements that can keep the show going for as long as it possibly can. Though it hasn’t quite jumped that shark, other shows that follow a similar route eventually do and become very poor. While season three may be weaker plot-wise, the characters remain entertaining and likeable and Maslany’s performance only gets better.

7/10

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