Saturday, 5 July 2014

Orphan Black (Season One)

Orphan black TV poster
Cool poster, but it doesn't look like the actress?
In the interest of celebrating the end of season two of Orphan Black, I thought I would do a review on the first season of this show!

"Sarah Manning, a British orphan now living in America, witnesses the suicide of a woman named Beth, who looks exactly like her. Assuming Beth's identity brings Sarah a new apartment, a nice boyfriend, and trouble that includes a deadly conspiracy."

Orphan black tv sarah manning close up gif
Sarah Manning: queen of perfect faces.
Okay, let's get to it, shall we? I fucking love this programme. Like, I want to climb to the top of the Empire State Building, rip off all my clothes and declare my undying love for this show at the top of my lungs (preferably holding Tatiana Maslany in my arms and swatting away the planes that try and bring me down).

The premise of this show I'm going to leave unspoiled because watching it all unfold is pretty satisfying, even though I did know a lot about the show before watching it, objectively, I think it would have been pretty awesome if I hadn't known what happens at the end of the first episode, so I will not rob you guys of that experience. Although you'll probably guess it within the first half of the episode/after watching a trailer for the show what the, for a lack of better words, "twist" is. I put "twist" in inverted commas not because I'm being sarcastic and trying to diminish the impact of the reveal, but because it's not something that's thrown onto the audience with a "HAHA, betcha didn't see that coming!" and is more slowly teased out and allows the audience to semi figure it out themselves before confirming suspicions. I will simply say that it allows actress Tatiana Maslany to assume a fair few different characters, and I cannot tell you the number of times I've forgotten that it's one actress that is playing all these very different characters. I've watched interviews with Tatiana Maslany and the rest of the cast and thought to myself, "wait, where are the other- oh wait." Each character is individual and unique, with different accents and speech patterns and mannerisms and ARGH SHE IS PHENOMENAL.

Clone pow-wow. The girls discuss the deals and Alison is inclined to accept it. But while Cosima and Sarah also see benefits, they're extremely wary of working with the people who carelessly created them.
The editing is pretty damn fantastic as well.
Now, unlike Rookie Blue (a t.v show I reviewed on not too long ago here), Orphan Black is all about the long run. In Rookie Blue, conflicts and story lines are introduced and resolved within the episode, whereas in Orphan Black, it's introduces (lots) of conflicts and (lots) of story lines (you've got the overarching one that's the "big picture" and you've got various sub-plots and then the sub-sub-plots), and they are examined slowly, allowing them to play out what feels like naturally. They're not rushed and they play out nicely and also go into the consequences of the reactions of the characters, which, in turn, allows for a chain-reaction of stories and of course these are carried over lots of episodes.

Sarah is a pretty well rounded character. There are points that I agree with her actions and there are times where I'm shaking my laptop going "NO?!" and wondering what the hell has gotten into her head - but at all times I am rooting for her. Within the first three seconds on screen she swears in front of a child and steals a dead woman's bag - the audience know straight away what kind of character she is. But as the episode unfolds, she becomes a very sympathetic character very quickly, which means that she is simultaneously the awesome badass but also the (somewhat naive at times) vulnerable character that means we can grow attached and begin our journey into getting really invested in this show.

orphan black tv show alison hendrix gif
One soccer mum to rule them all.
I think that the character development is very well written as well. There were characters that were introduced that I didn't like to begin with, but as I got through a few more episodes, climbed up my ladder of character ranking. Like Alison Hendrix for example, an uptight suburban soccer-mom. When we are first introduced to her, I didn't warm to her very much at all, she seemed like not a lot of fun and was a very negative force on the story lines. But, as time went on and we got to know Alison better, she quickly became one of my favourite characters. She has some of the wittiest lines and most moving scenes of the show. Plus, she's totally nuts - what's not to love? A quick youtube search for the trailer of season one of Orphan Black will probably lead you to think that it's a really dark drama - and at points, it is! But there is a lot of humour in the show. Like I just said, Alison (eventually) becomes one of the funnier characters, but I think that most of the comedy is derived from three main points - Sarah's foster brother Felix / scenes featuring Cosima Niehaus, the stoner/hippie scientist /  scenes where Sarah interacts with any of her look-a-likes, but most specifically Alison.
orphan black tv show felix screenshot
You have so many different hairstyles in a ten episode season...

Let's start with Felix, shall we? No? Well fuck you, it's my blog.

Like I just said, Felix is Sarah's foster brother and acts as her main confidant. He gets all the juicy details and everything that Sarah thinks about and her feelings and such and acts as the middleman between Sarah and the audience - the audience gets the information we need to understand what's going on through him without it feeling like information is just being fed to us point blank. He also acts as the voice of reason, calling Sarah out on her crazy plans. But he's much more than just a vessel through which we receive essential info, he's very much a character in his own right. Sassy, snarky and not willing to take anyone's bullshit, he's a very loveable character who infuses much needed comedic relief when the show gets a bit too heavy. Starts off as the standard sidekick-type, but does eventually come into his own.

orphan black tv show cosmia screenshot
Light of my life.
Next up: Cosima.

Cosima is one of my favourite characters. She's quirky and funny and also brings a lightness to the show when it gets a bit dark. But she is also a contributing factor to the darkness in the show - she deals with a lot of science-y type things and introduces the audience to some of the more sinister aspects that the programme wants the audience to consider instead of getting swept up solely with Sarah's storyline. But she is also a bit of a relaxing factor. Alison is crazy and Sarah has so much going on, it's a nice break to have a scene or two with a character who isn't running about like a headless chicken. I can't quite put my finger on what it is that draws me to Cosima, she's just ... really cool. I can't explain it, but that's it, she's just incredibly cool. She's the type of person I would really want to be friends with. But I think she might be a bit too smart to be my buddy. No offence friends of mine, you're just the right level of dumb for me.

She also made me want to get a nose piercing and dreadlocks, but both of those would have been a dreadful, dreadful decision. Nonetheless, all I want in life is to be her. I've gone off on a tangent. Cosima, similarly to Sarah, has her moments where I'm pressing my face against the screen shouting "What are you doing?!" in reference to her actions because they are dumb. Cosima, you are smart, but you can make some very stupid choices. But that's half the fun I guess; flawed characters! If every character made the right decision all the time and everything went to plan and no-one fucked up, then it was be awfully boring. I wouldn't care. There would be no tension whatsoever because I know that everything is going to be okay. But that's not the case with Orphan Black. It's not afraid to hurt its characters. I mean really torture its characters. And thus tension is introduced. If something bad happens, I don't automatically know they're going to be okay, because they might not be.

I don't want to harp on too long about the characters of the show though, they are characters you will discover when you watch the programme, because trust me, you're going to watch it. I may have to climb through your computer screen and tape your eyes open a la Clockwork Orange, but damn it you will watch it and love it.

I think that the first episode is solid, but I wouldn't say that it hooks you right in. I think that, like many television series, that in the first episode the show is still finding its feet, but it finds itself very quickly and is standing tall by the end of the second episode, ready to go full steam ahead from the third episode onwards.

Tatiana Maslany is definitely the hidden gem that has broken out in this programme. Without her, it would be an average thriller t.v show, but she brings it to another level that is just an absolute joy to watch. I'm glad that I've not seen her in something prior to watching Orphan Black because I sometimes feel that recognising an actor can detract from the viewing experience because I'm too busy thinking about where else I've seen them - but at the same time, I'm absolutely amazed I've not seen her before. But worry not dear readers, her talents have not gone unnoticed. She has been launched into award nominations with big names like Clare Danes and Julianna Margulies - and beat them. She has triumphed with a slew of awards under her belt and it's clear why.

You go girl.

I have rambled nonsensically enough at you, so final words: Go. Watch. Orphan. Black. There's only ten episodes in the first season, you can power through that quickly enough and join me watching season two in no time at all!

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