Welcome to Clone Club
Orphan Black may go down as one of the most underrated TV shows in recent history and I will spend every waking moment of my life (or maybe just a few 400 Project posts) to make sure that doesn’t happen.
For those who haven’t heard of the show, here’s the premise: a drifter named Sarah sees someone who looks just like her commit suicide and steals her identity, hoping to get enough money to make a new life for her and her daughter. But once she discovers that this woman who looks just like her, Beth, was actually her clone, she joins the fight with her other clones (or sestras – we don’t use the “C” word) to find out who they are and why they were created.
I have a few suspicions on why the show wasn’t as popular as it should have been (the campy sci-fi or lack of network promotion), but here are some reasons why it gained such a strong cult following – Clone Club – and why you should be watching it now that all five season are completed (don’t worry, no spoilers):
Remember this name – because in the future Tatiana Maslany will be the Canadian Meryl Streep (already there’s Oscar buzz about her supporting roll in the upcoming Jake Gyllenhaal film, Stronger). It obviously takes strong acting chops to be the lead in any show – let alone three or four leads. In Orphan Black, Maslany plays up to eleven different characters, and every single one of them is unique. I swear there were times watching this show that I forgot she was playing these characters, or wondered why only half the cast was there while watching cast interviews. What she does in this show is nothing less than spectacular, with mastering several accents, creating unique body movements and quirks for each character and even playing characters pretending to be other characters. It’s a legitimate crime that she’s only received one Emmy for her performance.
Not only is Maslany’s acting as these characters incredible, but each of them are so well written that you can’t help but root for them. This is very much a character-driven story, even when the story itself gets a bit convoluted. Everything is rooted in the characters and their development and growth, like any good form of storytelling should be. The writers also do a great job at subverting expectations. There are two characters in the first season – one a psychopathic serial killer and the other a lazy suburban father – who eventually become some of the most complex, humorous and sympathetic characters of the series. Even one of the main protagonists, a power-hungry corporate clone named Rachel, somehow became one of my favourite characters.
The Future is Female
At the core of Orphan Black are themes of women’s rights. The more the sestras learn about their biology, the more they have to fight against what the men who control them want them to be. From corporations trying to patent their bodies to being used just for their fertility, each clone is constantly battling for their own humanity – which is obviously very relevant in today’s political climate. And in a refreshing twist on basically every other show ever, 80% of the characters are female (don’t quote me on that math). I remember watching the first season and thinking, “All the male characters only exist either to support the female characters’ stories or just as eye candy… oh. So that’s what this feels like.” That’s not to say the show doesn’t have diversity or give depth to its male characters though – it’s just nice to see a show (especially one run by two dudes) give women the centre stage.
This is really just an incredibly well acted and well written show that never got the praise and recognition it deserved outside of its own fanbase. So if you’ve been on the fence about watching this show, I highly recommend giving it a shot. Welcome to Clone Club!