Warning: Spoilers follow for the current and past seasons of Orphan Black.
Surprisingly, I’ve only written about Orphan Black once before, in a massive post about a bunch of other shows two years ago. (Tangent: Man, I was REALLY off on Last Week Tonight, but in my defense, the first dozen shows or so, it was still finding its footing.) Orphan Black is one of my favorite weekly dramas, although with the caveat that the first season is the height of the series. The show is currently in its fourth, which has done a lot of good work in righting the ship from the rocky second and third seasons.
The show is anchored by Tatiana Maslany, who does incredible work as a slew of clones. The primary one is still Sarah Manning, who’s Irish-y and street smart, but Helena – the psychotic, Russian-y serial killer and soon-to-be mother – has been my favorite lately. Maslany gets to alternate between various character types, with the work being so convincing that I sometimes forget it’s one actress playing all the roles. In particular, Helena, Alison and Cosima are completely developed and separate characters played well by Maslany.
The current season has worked better than the previous two because they’ve backgrounded some of the super-duper secret conspiracy stuff. I mean, this is Orphan Black, so there is still plenty, like with a new clone that’s an elite hacker. However, they successfully drift away from the “don’t trust anyone!” stuff and into a slightly more grounded storyline that reveals around Sarah trying to follow the leads left by a now-deceased police officer clone, Beth Childs.
However, one element of this season seems more pronounced than the last three – There is WAY more gruesome, gory scenes and images. If you love dental horror, and the idea of parasitic synthetic beings lodged in people’s jaws, then this is a wonderful season for you! If you’re like the rest of the human race though, you have to tolerate these scenes before getting back to the regular storyline. Also, by the way, season four is darker than the previous three, if you couldn’t guess that. The latest episode on May 12 featured a badly deformed baby and another clone who essentially condemned an 8-year-old to die.
While I think this year the show is greatly improved, the prognosis of the show going forward probably depends a lot on whether they can stick the landing on the season four ending and attract some new viewers. The viewing numbers have been between 210,000 and 270,000 for the first five episodes, which are pretty dreadful. It’s cofounded by Canada’s CTV and BBC America, and Netflix is also involved with international distribution, but it’s definitely not a cheap show to produce. It was a late renewal last year, and there is no word on a season five yet.
Plus, Maslany’s price tag probably climbs higher each year, given that the show is 90 percent her, and she’s definitely going to be getting more and more buzz in the entertainment biz. It would help if the show could find some better talent to surround Maslany with as well, since she’s basically in the role of LeBron James on the 2007 Cavs. She can only carry the meek supporting cast so far.
The picture of Maslany as Krystal, the bubbly, blonde bimbo of the Clone World, is from this Wall Street Journal write-up last year. And also, Krystal is awesome, a nice bit of levity in a fairly dark season.