Why You Need To Watch BBC America’s ‘Orphan Black’

Published 2 years ago by

Tatiana Maslany Orpan Black 1 Why You Need To Watch BBC Americas Orphan Black

You’re watching Orphan Black, right? If the answer is yes, thumbs up for you and if the answer is no, that’s okay too, but after reading this piece, you’ve got no excuse to miss out on the clone craze. The show from Flashpoint’s Graeme Manson and Spartacus’ John Fawcett began its run on BBC America on March 30, 2013.

The ten-episode inaugural season has already run its course, concluding with “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” this past Saturday, but it’ll return for a second ten-episode season in 2014, so why not torture yourself for the next ten months and become firmly obsessed now?

Orphan Black stars Tatiana Maslany as Sarah Manning, a troubled young mother trying to return home after a lengthy absence to do right by her seven-year-old daughter, Kira (Skyler Wexler). On her way, Sarah runs into trouble that actually isn’t of her own doing. She watches another woman commit suicide by jumping in front of a train. And if that isn’t traumatizing enough, that woman looks exactly like Sarah.

Talk about a winning opening sequence. The beginning of the pilot, “Natural Selection,” doesn’t just show off the high concept, it earns it. Three minutes is all the episode needs to lock you in, as it rocks the appeal of a curious scenario, a good deal of suspense, and a remarkably engaging lead. Thanks to Sarah’s style and mannerisms, you know exactly who you’re dealing with right from the start and thanks to Maslany, she also has an enigmatically enchanting quality that creates a connection from the material to the viewer before even hitting the show’s hook. Then, sure enough, when the lookalike is revealed, it offers more than a hollow shock value. It makes you think and, in turn, gets you involved. And being involved is half the fun because as the season progresses, you meet an abundance of characters to care about, making the need to solve the mystery all the more enthralling.

Jordan Gavaris Tatiana Maslany Orphan Black Why You Need To Watch BBC Americas Orphan Black

One of the key people in Sarah’s life is her foster brother, Felix (Jordan Gavaris). Beyond being family, Felix functions as Sarah’s prime confidant, one of few who gets the juicy details earlier on in the season. Felix is your typical sidekick serving as Sarah’s rock and infusing the show with a sense of humor, and Gavaris pulls it off flawlessly. Felix isn’t a character striving for jokes. The humor is inherent in his personality simply making him a joy to be around. However, his inclusion in the show isn’t just for fun and games. The performances in Orphan Black are stellar across the board, but one of the most enjoyable takeaways is Gavaris’ chemistry with Maslany, something that conjures loads of charming banter, but can switch to offering a sense of calm in seconds.

Episode one also introduces us to Vic (Michael Mando), Sarah’s drug dealing ex. While he appears to be your quintessential low life, this guy’s got some serious emotions and layers, and both build in ways you’d never expect as the season continues. He isn’t necessarily key to the core of the narrative, but Vic often serves as a well-executed wrench in Sarah’s plans and is an entertaining person to track.

And then there’s Beth’s side of the situation. That lookalike that offed herself at the train station? That’s Beth Childs. The initial curiosity of catching sight of someone who looks just like her compels Sarah to snag Beth’s abandoned purse before leaving the station after which Sarah’s degenerate side kicks in, enticing her to assume Beth’s identity in order to make off with her money. In the process, in comes Paul (Dylan Bruce), Beth’s golden boy boyfriend. Paul doesn’t really have much to offer in the pilot besides a pretty face and a little insight into the differences between Beth and Sarah. His character does get some added layers throughout the season, but overall, he’s one of the less interesting characters of the bunch.

Kevin Hanchard Orphan Black Why You Need To Watch BBC Americas Orphan Black

Also in Beth’s court is Art (Kevin Hanchard). To Sarah’s surprise, Beth was a detective so in order to pull off the ruse, she’s got to play cop and make Art think she’s the real deal. However, thanks to a little bit of trouble Beth found herself in prior to her demise, this doesn’t just entail wielding a gun and donning a badge. Sarah has to be Beth in every way, shape, and form including nailing her accent, her behavior, and also knowing every little detail of a very specific case, which results in some fun montages and a particularly smart payoff in episode two.

Orphan Black is packed to the brim with strong supporting characters, but even though folks like Felix do manage to snag the spotlight every now and then, this is Maslany’s show. It’s a wonder how she’s managed to fly under the radar for so many years when she’s this good. Considering Orphan Black is a show about clones, it’s no spoiler that there’s more than one Sarah lookalike out there and Maslany plays them all. Admittedly, there is one giggle worthy moment in episode one, but beyond that, Maslany pulls it off perfectly. She doesn’t just play a bunch of characters that look alike for the sake of the narrative. She creates a variety of different characters that truly feel like different people, ones with their own lives and personalities that you deeply come to care about. When you’re not in awe of what Maslany manages to accomplish, it’s very easy to forget that one actress is playing all of these different women.

Doing all these stellar performances justice is an exceptional team of writers. The Orphan Black scribes never introduce anything and forget about it nor do they include elements for the sake of giving themselves story leeway down the road; every single thing from episode one to episode ten has value. Security camera footage, money, lies, the smallest props and more. It’s all been thought out extensively, leaving Orphan Black with far fewer holes than most shows.

Tatiana Maslany Orphan Black 2 Why You Need To Watch BBC Americas Orphan Black

And better yet, all of those details also feel real. While the show does have a sci-fi quality, there are no indestructible superhuman characters here. These are very real people navigating an extreme situation and that ultimately grounds the show’s more surreal components.

If you’re looking for a new show to jump into, Orphan Black is it. It’s exceptional on every front from script to visuals, music, performances, and more, all of which coalesce to offer an undeniably thoughtful and riveting experience. If you’re down to give it a go, the full first season of Orphan Black will run you $16.99 in standard definition on iTunes and I can assure you, it’s worth every penny. But be warned, this one’s got a binge watch quality so don’t push play on “Natural Selection” unless you’ve got time to commit.

While BBC America does have San Diego Comic Con plans, there’s still no word on whether or not they’ll include Orphan Black, but considering the nature of the material and the fact that it’s got a cult quality, a Comic Con presence does seem like a necessity.


Orphan Black season 2 premieres on BBC America in 2014

If you’d like to keep the Orphan Black conversation flowing, you can catch me on “Clone Club: An Orphan Black Podcast.” Discussions of episodes one and two are already live and we’ll be posting new entries every Monday for the next eight weeks.

Follow Perri on Twitter @PNemiroff

Follow Perri Nemiroff on Twitter @PNemiroff
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  1. Tatiana Maslany is AWESOME in this show and she is hot as hell. But yes, you should watch this show, its only 10 episodes.

  2. Funny, I just tracked this show down on Amazon
    after a recommendation of the program from Kevin7.
    Excellent rundown, Perri. I am definitely getting this one.

    • I’m glad Screen Rant has decided to cover the show and I hope we will get weekly recaps for season 2.

      • Yes, maybe Screen Rant will and get Perri on the case.
        This seems to be one of those hidden gems out there.

        • Thanks guys. That’s what we’re aiming for!

  3. After reading this I’ve learnt that everyone and everything in it is great, but not really what it’s about, other than a woman who sees a woman who looks like her kill herself.

    I get that the author REALLY likes the show, but there’s way too much gushing for this to be anywhere near a professional review.

    On the whole I’ll give it a miss, sounds depressing, suicides and drug dealers and oh, yet another mystery show.

    I’m sick of mystery shows now. They so rarely pay off.

    • You read it wrong. This was a professional review.

      What is present is genuine enthusiasm. You can’t fake that.
      And a strong recommendation. Personally, I appreciate the passion.

      • Appreciate that, Robert!

        And strawbear, I’ll be honest, I thought the same thing myself after writing and re-reading it, but then opted not to change anything because I really am *that* excited about it. Also, half the fun of the show is putting the pieces together and meeting all of the clones (and picking favorites), so didn’t want to spoil anything either.

        I can assure you, Orphan Black isn’t depressing in the least and contains one of the more well developed mysteries I’ve seen on TV in a while. Hope you give it a go!

        • You’re welcome, Perri. And stick with trusting your instincts.
          The enthusiasm and passion you expressed reinforced your case.
          Nothing wrong with strong recommendation based on honest impression.

    • Spoilers

      It’s really not a depressing show at all. It’s serious at times, but it’s also often quite funny. One of the episodes is basically a farce. Also, it’s about clones, and is more “a show that has mysteries” than a “mystery show.” It straddles multiple genres in that way.

  4. The series is just “ok”, but it’s worth checking out. I’ve been following it since it debuted. Tatiana is wonderful in it, I love her!


  5. Orphan Black is what you call “MUST SEE TV”. The author is not exaggerating as to how good this show is!!! Believe it!! The lead actress, Tatiana Maslany, delivers so many incredible performances as these different characters – each with contrasting mannerisms and accents. I just can’t say enough about it, but do watch the series!!

  6. Hm.

    BBC America.

    You’d have thought the BBC would’ve aired it in the UK by now. Sounds intriguing, I hope we get it over here because otherwise, I’ll have to hope it appears on the website I’m having to use to watch Bates Motel since there’s no word if it’ll air here either.

    Know what it sounds like as far as the mystery aspect of the show?

    Life On Mars (and its sequel, Ashes To Ashes). Have you seen those Perri and if so, would you say Orphan Black is just as engaging and surprising as those two shows?

    • Haven’t seen Life On Mars, but I might give it a watch!

      • If you watch the British version, the ending in season 2 makes more sense than the US ending and the Ashes To Ashes show is a must-watch after because it answers questions like “who is Gene Hunt?” and properly explains the Life On Mars ending.

        A lot of references might go over people’s heads if they weren’t brought up in England during the 70s and 80s but still great shows.

    • might be because this is actually a Canadian series.
      shot entirely in Toronto.

  7. I watched the first episode. It looked dumb and soapy and only just sci-fi enough to call itself sci-fi. This review does no better in selling it. Whoopy-doo that the actress plays many different characters. If the story is just soap, then it is.
    I didn’t like it….But I hope you folks do, and it stays on a hundred years. Have fun.

    • Watch the second episode, maybe the third if you are still not convinced. This show is NOT a soap. It IS pure sci-fi, with a lot of science stuff going on. The first few episodes are just a set-up which introduces different parties and characters. The real story kicks in after that.

      • Okay. It’s been getting a lot of buzz. And I’m impressed that you didn’t go off on me. I’ll give it another shot. But just ep two. That’s it for me if it don’t work out.

        • @Derek Logan

          Funny thing is, I didn’t think much of Hannibal despite the massive buzz about it for weeks but when I persisted and got to the end of episode 3, I realised that actually, it was a pretty good show.

          Mybe push yourself to watch episode 3 too and if it’s not that good at that point, drop the show?

          That’s what I’m gonna do when I finally get chance to see it.

  8. Damn, I’m going to check this out for sure now. Surprised I never heard about it. Then again that’s why I come on Screenrant; to find gems.

  9. Surprisingly, it just does not seem that great to me…I must be over-indulged in such shows lately. I have found I am a bit disappointed with most (not all) British TV shows. They always seem to offer more to my tastes in description than fulfillment in actual presentation and digestion. I will likely give this one a pass.

    • Hey, I’m British and I agree, most of our shows are crap compared to American made shows, even if our talent features heavily in those US made shows (Hannibal, The Borgias, Game Of Thrones etc).

      • You’ve become over-indulged by good TV? I don’t see how that’s possible. I’m American and I feel like our TV is boring crap. It consists of music competition programs, soaps, situation comedies, cliche cop/medical/political dramas and a few weak action/sci-fi shows. Awesome shows are either cancelled (Pushing Daisies, Dollhouse, Firefly, Sarah Connor Chronicles) or have had a breezy run and have left us (Fringe, Lost) or are entertaining but kind of eh (Revolution, Once Upon A Time).

        The fact that I can’t get this on an American network station is quite depressing, but at least I have friends with DVRs. This, Doctor Who, Sherlock and Luther are all that’s keeping me from losing total interest in new TV.

        Just had to put in my fannish two cents. On a similar line, people have been raving about Game of Thrones and Mad Men forever and even after trying them out, I could still care less. Diff’rent strokes.

        • I wouldn’t even say over-indulgence of good TV because honestly, the only shows that looked interesting on British TV are/were:

          Game Of Thrones
          The Borgias
          The Following
          The Newsroom
          Life On Mars
          Ashes To Ashes
          Mad Dogs

          Out of those, only three of them are British made. The rest are American, Canadian and Kiwi made. That’s why other than those shows, I either have the TV switched off or I keep it on the BBC News channel as background noise because as I said, every other TV show here is crappy drama, crappy comedy, dumb reality shows or crappy drama/comedy/reality shows from America.

    • Well then I guess it’s a good thing Orphan Black is Canadian and not British.

      • thank-you for pointing out that simple fact.

        the author of this review states it shows on BBC America.. but it is NOT a production of BBC America or even BBC.

        It is a Canadian production, shot in Toronto.

  10. anyone who was reading comic books in march was slammed with ads for orphan black. i watched the first episode and turned it off after 5 minutes. however i kept saving the shows when they aired so that if the time came where i ran out of stuff to watch, id try it again. well that time came a while later and i had 6 episodes saved up. so i started #1 again and you better believe i had a marathon that day. its so compelling that i could not stop watching. tatiana is amazing as are all the actors but to me its fascinating to see her create these truly individual characters who act and speak differently with totally different accents. it really is a great show.

  11. Have I been wasting my time with defiance? I want it to pick up, maybe I’ll watch Orphan Black.

    • I like defiance too but this show is much more good sci fi …

  12. with a bit more special effects it has lot of potential
    and how lovely when tatiana talks with herself!

  13. I would totally have Tatiana Maslany’s baby. And yeah, the show is cool, too. ;)

  14. You should have talked about it sooner.

  15. Thanks screenrant for reccomending this!! I just caught up and gotta say i love it!! Tatiana manslany is awesome and love her performances. Shes pretty kick ass. Im in love with her now haha. Only bad thing is we gotta wait almost a year or how ever long just to watch another 10 eps. Wish there were more eps per season. Cant wait for season 2!!

  16. this show is just awesome. provocative and thought provoking. One of the best new Sci-fi tv shows ever. I just love it. And the lead actress should get awards for her performance.

    It really is this good.

  17. I honestly love this show. My son and I have watched, since this began. I just retrieved the first two seasons, so my sister can watch and catch up before she watches Season 3.

    I also believe – Tatiana Maslany should have received some type of an AWARD, for her playing all of these characters.

    Excellent job. Waiting for the new Season 3 to start 04/18/2015