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From the Beginning – An Orphan Black Primer

From the Beginning - An Orphan Black Primer

Guest Review by Darwyn Carson – “Just one. I’m a few.
No Family Too. Who Am I?”

Last year no one knew what to expect. The burning question was:  “Who is Orphan Black?” 

This recap is for anyone who saw Orphan Black’s virgin season and want a
fast refresher and for anyone who’s curious about the buzz surrounding the techno-thriller.
So if a catch-up marathon event isn’t in your future either, read on for a summarizing of selected season one highlights.

There was this girl. Pretty much all we knew and
isn’t there always a girl? This one was youngish, sporting a rock and roll
street-smart vibe, exhibiting empathetic traits and a quick mind; but not a lot
of impulse control.

All this is unveiled right at the top of episode one:
Natural Instincts. Sarah Manning fresh
off of a Metro train spies a smartly dressed young woman some ways down the
platform of the nearly deserted station. Clearly distressed, the woman paces to
and fro, only stopping to slip out of her high heels.  As Sarah heads her way, the lady removes her
tailored jacket, then folds it with care before placing it atop her lined up shoes.

Sarah, an expression of caring on her face, is
close now. She can almost reach out and touch the stranger, but before she gets
the chance the suffering woman turns to her. It is then that the city-tough,
seen-it all, probably done-it-all, Sarah is struck dumb. Before her is an exact
look-alike who doesn’t seem, at all, surprised that her mirror image has approached
her from behind. It certainly doesn’t stop her from completing her next order
of business. Without a pause, she moves past Sarah, who’s been shocked into
stillness, and takes two steps into the direct path of an inbound train.

Confusion and anguish ricochet across Sarah’s
face, with the full impact of what she’s witnessed, and she tries to get closer
to perhaps verify that which she thought she saw. The area, though, is already being
cordoned off and she stumbles back down the platform where she comes upon the
dead girl’s handbag. It sits alone. Unnoticed. Next to the shoes and the
jacket. She snatches up the handbag—and walks away.

Sarah, an orphan raised in foster care, could
actually have—as foster brother Felix, aka Fee, later points out—a twin sister
she never knew existed.

Sarah doesn’t really care. She needs a quick score
so that she can retrieve Kira, her daughter, out of the clutches of her once
foster mom, Mrs. S. This doppelganger’s suicide, though traumatic, seems to be
a gift she shouldn’t refuse. She has no attachment to the deceased—one Elizabeth
Childs (Beth)—who may or may or not have been related to her. But, she will
make use of their uncanny resemblance.

She plans to mimic Beth in the world long enough
to bleed her bank accounts, and anything else of value, dry. Then she, Kira and
Fee can skip town together and be a family of three. Of course if it were easy,
it wouldn’t be a television show.


The challenges are plentiful. But to name a few;
there’s Vic, Sarah’s not so calm boyfriend, spitting mad at being ripped off by
her and unwilling, at first, to believe she’s dead.

There’s the fact that Beth Childs is a cop and
under investigation for shooting an unarmed civilian; something Sarah learns only
after she’s taken over the police detective’s identity.

There’s Art, Beth’s partner on-the-job, who doesn’t
understand why she hasn’t been answering his calls to go over their officer involved
shooting story.

And then there’s the other boyfriend. Paul, Beth’s
boyfriend who returns home from a business trip and is puzzled by his
girlfriend’s spontaneous changes in behavior. And she’s so passionate… Hmn…

And of course, there’s the bit about Sarah and
Beth being clones and the fact that someone is trying to pick them off—kill them—one
by one.

Besides Beth and Sarah, we have Cosima, the
brilliant mind and PhD student in the area of evolutionary developmental biology.

Enter Alison, a suburban housewife and soccer mom performs
in Community Theater and is parent to two adopted children.

Helena was born and raised by nuns in the Ukraine
and has been brainwashed to believe the other clones are aberrations and need
to be eliminated. She has become an assassin of clones.

By taking on Beth’s identity, Sarah’s jumped into
a whole pile of nothing good, but by the end of the first episode, the switch
is near complete. She’s been ID’d in the morgue by Fee as Sarah Manning and taken
over Beth’s job, her digs and the boyfriend.

But nothing is ever, quite, just another day at the

As they dig deeper and deeper into what this
cloning business is all about, they come to know that, with a few exceptions, they
can fully trust no one but each other. Crazy Helena, who is after all, crazy,
doesn’t count in this equation.   

Even Sarah’s birth mother, whom she meets for the
first time, delivers a cryptic message when she says: “Don’t trust Mrs. S.”  This being pretty hard to do since Mrs. S is
caring for Kira and seems determined to hold on to her until Sarah proves
herself stable enough to care for her child. When she disappears with Kira at
the end of the show, Sarah’s willing to put herself into the very hands of the
people who created her and the others if it means getting her little girl back.
She’s willing to walk into the den of the Dyad Institute and Dr. Aldous Leekie.

You don’t know who is in on the grand experiment
and who isn’t, who has been hired as a “watcher” and who hasn’t.

Tatiana Maslany is the lifeblood of Orphan Black
and I daresay, even with an excellent cast working alongside her, she is what
makes the show work so well. By the end of Season One she had donned the personas
of seven clones with seven distinctly different personalities so seamlessly, it was easy to forget one was watching one woman and not five or six
separate beings.

Season Two, premieres Saturday, April 19 at
9:00pm ET/PT on BBC AMERICA. Who’s not excited?

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