Monday, May 05, 2014
Here in the colonies ORPHAN BLACK airs on BBC America on Saturday nights (but I found it ON DEMAND). And it is phenomenal!
Tatiana Maslany deserves not one Emmy for Best Actress in a Drama, but nine – one for each character she plays. ORPHAN BLACK is about clones, but it’s less sci-fi and more character suspense/conspiracy. It takes place in the present on planet Earth so right away it’s groundbreaking for science fiction. If you can put up with a story that’s not set five years after the Apocalypse, with evil robots controlling the world, and everyone dressing like punk rockers and driving rusted 1998 Buicks you might enjoy this show.
Series creators John Fawcett & Graeme Manson have devised an ingenious mystery and their storytelling is superb. This show moves like a bullet train. Things are always happening. There are most twists than in a helix. And along the way they actually ANSWER some questions. Yes, those lead to more questions but at least you’re getting some reward. (If LOST answered every question they posed over the course of the series the finale would still be airing.)
What’s amazing to me is that they’ve found a fresh way to tell a “you never know who to trust” series. God, we’ve seen a million of those. The good guy turns out to be the mole and the bad guy turns out to be the Pope. In this show they really keep you guessing. And because you care about the welfare of these cuddly clones you’re carefully trying to size everybody up. You’re watching for little tells. You’re thinking back to past conversations. Normally you’re saying – “Gregory Itzin? Bad guy. Next.“
Shows like ORPHAN BLACK also live and die by how good their villains are, and Matt Frewer is deliciously understated and evil. Who knew Max Headroom could be so scary?
Kudos also to the technology. There are some scenes where there are three Tatianas on screen at the same time and it looks seamless. (I only wish they were all watching PARENT TRAP and commenting.) Forget making Superman fly – clones even hand each other things! We’ve come a long way since THE PATTY DUKE SHOW.
ORPHAN BLACK is a series you have to watch from the beginning. But it’s not like one of those shows that starts off slow and you have to get four hours under your belt before it starts to click. The very first scene of ORPHAN BLACK hooks you right in. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
The show is produced in Canada. I hope the US doesn’t do its own version (with Megan Boone) or ANIMAL PLANET doesn’t do its version with sheep.
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM