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Orphan Black’s near-perfect first season managed to slip quietly under the radar

Orphan Black’s near-perfect first season managed to slip quietly under the radar

Orphan Black, Season 1images

Written by John Fawcett and Graeme Manson
Directed by John Fawcett and T.J. Scott
Aired Saturdays at 9 pm (ET) on BBC America

Despite heavy praise from both critics and fans alike, Orphan Black’s near-perfect first season managed to slip quietly under the radar—only successfully generating mainstream buzz a few days before the finale aired. The high-concept sci-fi show’s main premise involves an orphaned young woman, Sarah Manning, who unwittingly stumbles headlong into an illegal human cloning conspiracy after witnessing her doppelganger’s subway suicide and attempting to steal the dead woman’s identity.

Though the show’s premise initially sounds reminiscent of any generic sci-fi set up, Orphan Black’s story is far from ordinary. The tightly-woven and thoroughly well-written plot (thanks, in part, to a modest ten-episode season) is bursting with complex twists, excellent characters, and a believable, fully-realized world. Nothing in Orphan Black’s universe seems impossible or unrealistic, and each episode further expands the show’s unique setting without overshadowing its own fascinating cast of characters.

Perhaps even better than Orphan Black’s surprisingly original storyline is the show’s supremely talented leading lady, Tatiana Maslany. With seeming ease, Maslany portrays roughly half a dozen (and counting) members of the cast (including Sarah Manning), each complete with their own accents, distinctive mannerisms, and various individual nuances. Whether she’s playing neurotic soccer mom Alison, eccentric college student Cosima, or deranged self-abuser Helena, Maslany so thoroughly and effortlessly encapsulates each character that it’s hard to remember only one actress is playing them all (especially when the doppelgangers appear on screen together, as they often do). And, best of all, the supporting cast easily keeps pace with Maslany in all of her various forms, though notable stand-outs are Jordan Gavaris as Sarah’s bitingly funny foster brother Felix, Dylan Bruce as Sarah’s secretive love interest Paul, and Kevin Hanchard as a detective who’s beginning to unravel the truth about Sarah’s past.

Though the first season ended in early June, the second season won’t premiere until early 2014, which leaves plenty of time for newcomers to catch up via instant video, reruns, or DVD. Easily one of the best new shows of the past TV season, Orphan Black is definitely worth watching.

Ashley Laggan