Saturday, 14 December 2013

ORPHAN BLACK: Why it matters so much

Orphan Black genuinely took me by surprise when I first started catching up with the first season a little while ago. I'd been struggling to find something that would both entertain and inspire me following the end of season 2 of the glorious CONTINUUM, and as Orphan Black had been getting so much good press, it seemed like something I should check out. For once, the hype was more than justified.

Orphan Black is one of the most beautifully plotted and paced shows I have witnessed in many years, a little science fiction, a little action and a lot of intrigue, all held together by the masterly multiple performance of Tatiana Maslany.

She plays the core set of characters, all clones, with such different voices, mannerisms and body language that it's very often hard to believe that they are all played by the same person. Of course, there is a lot of digital manipulation of shots with more than one of her in them, as well as a lot of simple but effective camera tricks, but it's her multifaceted and utterly believable portrayal of each clone's different character which makes the show so compelling.

The story itself – a group of clones attempting to find out the secret of their creation while staying out of the way of various villains – is so densely written and constructed with such attention to detail that it's seamless. There are no weak episodes, no plot points (that I can see) which are not given a full exploration, and the whole story plays out with an internal rhythm which never feels forced. The mind boggles when I think of the twists that are to come in series 2 in 2014.

While some may see Orphan Black as overly convoluted, I see it as a very important example of how genre television can cross over into mainstream TV whilst retaining its genre roots and motivations.

At its heart the show is a mystery, but the edge of science fiction, the complexity of an espionage thriller, the urgency of a crime drama and a very relatable examination of personal identity all add up to a series which is as engrossing as it is innovative. Entertainment which doesn't talk down to its audience? That's why stuff like Orphan Black matters so much, and I can't wait for series 2 to begin.

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