Judging by last night’s premiere, it’s a little confusing why the new Canadian series Orphan Black should be sandwiched between Doctor Who and Nerdist as part of BBC America’s Supernatural Saturdays. Most of the series opener served as a showcase for Tatiana Maslany, who played one character figuring out how to impersonate another. It felt a bit more like an identity swap dramedy than the sci-fi conspiracy thriller we were promised. But that’s forgivable, because we’re just getting started.
We didn’t waste any time getting to the moment that sets off the whole series. Sarah (Maslany) waits for a train that will shuttle her away from her checkered past. But as she waits, she spots a woman who looks exactly like her — and who jumps in front of the train to her death. Sarah impulsively decides to take on the deceased woman’s personality, and most of the fun in this episode comes from watching Sarah winging it as she tries to be Beth, whose life turns out to be even more complicated than Sarah’s. As Beth, Sarah has to figure out how to act like a cop who’s the subject of a messy internal investigation. And she also has to pretend be Dylan Bruce’s girlfriend, which must be so hard.
If you’ve read the logline for Orphan Black — and if you haven’t, spoilers ahead! — you know that Sarah has many more ringers out there, who are actually clones. I suspect once the Sarahs start to multiply, that’s when the show will really start getting fun. But right now, the highlight is definitely Maslany, who so far mostly has to look flustered and falsely confident in assuming her new identity. The low point is Sarah’s gay foster brother Felix (Jordan Gavaris), who shoots off some mood-lightening quips but embodies a number of ugly stereotypes.
Are you going to keep watching for more clones? Does anyone else think that Alia Shawkat and Tina Majorino are Maslany’s real-life ringers? Speaking of which, how does Orphan Black stack up against Ringer?
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