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The Clone You've Been Looking For: Why You're Missing Out On The Greatest Sci-Fi Series Since "Battlestar Galactica"

By Joanna Robinson | Case Study In Hotness | June 3, 2013 | Comments ()


OB Header .jpg

This weekend, in addition to running a marathon of all the previous episodes, BBC America aired the first season finale of their curiously addictive clone series "Orphan Black." I'll get into a more spoilery discussion of that finale below (along with, oh yes, some choice gifs), but before I do, I want to have a general discussion about a) how goddamn great this show is, b) how it is, alas, a rarity in the sci-fi genre, and c) how you should drop all your other summer TV watching plans until you catch up on this little gem.

The mark of a truly great sci-fi show, and truly great genre fiction in general, is that it appeals to those outside the targeted demographic. Forgive me for saying so, but there are those Trekkies and Comic-Con devotees (my people!) who are awfully forgiving of sci-fi in general; eagerly consuming the treasures ("The X-Files") along with the trash (oh, say, the third iteration of "Stargate"). As a sci-fi fan myself, I understand the impulse. But as a hyper-picky TV watcher, there are some things I just can't call great. And since the admittedly disappointing end of "Battlestar Galactica," I'd say there's been a hole in your TV schedule where absolutely fantastic sci-fi should be.

What do I consider fantastic, genre-busting greatness? The aforementioned "Battlestar," "The X-Files," Davies-era "Doctor Who," "Firefly," "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "Star Trek: The Next Generation" spring to mind. Here are larger stories: war stories, teenage angst and good old fashioned adventure, told against the backdrop of blasters and pod bay doors. They feature strong writing and often even stronger performances. But the beauty of the sci-fi genre, as any fan will tell you, is that the strangeness of the universe only highlights the normalcy of the reaction on the part of your heroes, be they human, droid or walking carpet.

But I understand, if you're not a sci-fi nut, why you'd be hesitant to try out "Orphan Black." There have been so many nearly-great sci-fi shows in the recent past. The much-anticipated "Dollhouse" was hamstrung by a weak performance and, conversely, "Fringe" pretty much floated by on one amazing performance. But "Fringe" like so many sci-fi series before and after it, became bogged down by its own baffling and inconsistent mythology. ("Lost," my love, I'm looking at you too.) And that fate may yet be in-store for "Orphan Black." It's only had 10 episodes and the early warning signs for mythology malfunctions are certainly evident. But for now? Those 10 episodes are wickedly enjoyable.

To boil it down to its bare bones and nucleotides, "Orphan Black" is about small group of women of different backgrounds and nationalities who discover that they're (near) identical genetic clones of each other. The star of the show and the main reason to watch is Tatiana Maslany who plays no fewer than four characters per episode and, if we're lucky, sometimes even plays one clone posing as another. It's an astonishingly great performance but, thankfully, the show doesn't coast on Maslany alone. There's a solid supporting cast (including an incredibly endearing moppet), decent twists and enough pseudo-science to fog up your lab goggles. So watch it, damnit. End of story.

Now onto some spoilery finale discussion which I'll leave below everyone's favorite clone pumping up the jams.

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What a freaking fantastic finale. We got some satisfying deaths: Helena, RIP and the Isadora Duncan-ing of uptight blonde neighbor lady. We got some poignant deaths, Amelia ye hardly knew ya. Two of our favorites, Cosima and Kira, are in real peril. Felix got off some snappy one liners and Paul wasn't entirely useless. We met the new pro-clone. I'm not over-enthusiastic about her, but I'm willing to wait and see. We got some new conspiracy wrinkles including encoded intellectual property rights, Donnie's sh*tbag status confirmed and the role of the mysterious Mrs. S. still up in the air. I couldn't be more pleased if I tried. I might want to see them cut the police angle of the show next season, but other than that, I'm happier than Alison with a glass of Chardonnay. Here are some visual highlights. Enjoy!

Best Reaction Face: Helena's b*tchy, incredulous chuckle. I will miss that head case. Her wig was always my favorite.
Amelia Reveal.gifAmelia Reveal 2.gif

Best Special Effects: Not too shabby, right?
Clone Hug 1.gifClone Hug 2.gif

Biggest Threat To My Happiness: They kill Cosima, I riot.
Cos Cryface 500.gif

Best Insider Sci-Fi Casting: Hey, it's a Cylon!
Cylon.png

Best Bitchface: The reigning champ.
Felix Better Bitchface 500.gif

Best Curse Words: After we saw what she did to Blonde Neighbor, can you imagine the fate in store for Donnie. I hope it involves a whole VAT of hot glue. And an embosser.
Judas Priest.gif

Best Performance By Someone Who's Not Named Tatiana Maslany: This might be my favorite performance from a kid on TV this year. (Exception being the adorable Maggie Elizabeth Jones from the now-cancelled "Ben And Kate.")
Kira 1.gifKira 2.gif

More Conspiracy Fuel: What do these numbers mean? How do they tie into Cosima's Tag Number: 324B21?
Numbers Consipiracy.jpg

Who Took Kira? Was it pro-clone Rachel? Or Mrs. S.? And how very much are they going to die when Sarah gets ahold of them?
Rachel 500.gif



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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • Scorptilicus

    Anyone else think that Mrs. S is the female scientist in that picture?

  • gnibs

    "The mark of a truly great sci-fi show, and truly great genre fiction in general, is that it appeals to those outside the targeted demographic."

    Yes, Babylon 5 had SO much crossover appeal.
    /sarcasm

  • Pajiba_Pragmatist

    Ok, I'm clearly becoming obsessed. If you want your world view of actors blown, watch this 8 minute interview with Felix.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

  • Pajiba_Pragmatist

    One more: Here's an interview with the two of them. Either these two are world class actors (think Bull Durham scene about 'just glad to be here). or they are two of the more thoughtful people plying their craft on TV today.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

  • F'mal DeHyde

    Isn't he Canadian? I thought I heard a little bit of American Southern twang a couple of times in that first one.

  • Pajiba_Pragmatist

    There are chunks of Canada where southern twang isn't unusual, but that's Calgary-Edmonton area, not Ontario where he is from.

    If you recall, back in 1988 when Canada hosted the Winter Olympics in Calgary, the official uniform featured cowboy hats. The three prairie provinces of Canada blend a bit with the US plains states in terms of culture.

    http://www.canadiandesignresou...

  • While the first episode was a little shaky, I decided to stick with it. The second ep hooked me, and I have looked forward to each new twist and reveal. I will buck the trend and say that Alison is not my favorite clone. Sarah has that survival streak I admire and the astoundingly bad taste in men I would expect. And Cosima is just friggin adorable with her science and frequent pot smoking. I really hope they find a way to fix what ails her.

    Felix bugged me for a hot second, but thereafter, I found him delightful.

    So bummed we have to wait until next Spring!!

  • F'mal DeHyde

    Allison grew on me but she's not my favorite either.

  • googergieger

    BG was a piece of shit. So I guess I'll pass.

  • Three_nineteen

    I'll keep watching as long as they don't have to go to Ireland for six episodes to find Kira.

    The whole "special child" thing is something I was hoping to avoid. It would be nice if they don't follow that plot for too long.

  • PaddyDog

    Quite possibly the funniest comment I have ever read on this site.

  • I'm hoping for more Alison & Felix scenes in the next season. I love the two of them together.

    Did you all catch the BBC America ad with the actor who plays Felix talking about how amazing Tatiana is at playing all those characters? I was totally thrown by his natural voice!

    In closing, Felix 4 eva.

  • clancys_daddy

    Sorry just not feeling it.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    A Maslany interview about the season finale:

    http://www.etonline.com/tv/134...

  • $32857398

    I love how no one disputes that Alisson is everyone's favourite clone. She won me over when she turned her craft room in the most menacing torture chamber EVER.

  • blurgh

    #teamhelena4lyfe

  • snrp

    Um, #teamCosima.

  • Rochelle

    I've helped a couple of clients put craft rooms together, I'm probably not going to mention alternative uses, but I will be thinking of them. *rubs hands in glee*

  • Muhnah_Muhnah

    Heh, I love the header pic. They look like such science geeks...sexy ones, but still.

    Maslany is a goddess and I will fight anyone who says otherwise. I'm so crushed that I have to wait for a second season, but at least it will be something to look forward to.

  • emilya

    ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh...was the noise i made at the end of the first season finale, which was closely followed by the panicked realization that mrs. s (or katherine of aragon as i prefer to think of her) could be a baddie. did the pro-clone remind anyone else of tyra from fnl? everytime we meet a new clone, i can't help but think "goddamn maslany is an amazing actress."

    this is absolutely my favorite new show of the season and i can't believe we have to wait 9 months-ish for the new season. i started watching when pajiba posted the first 2 mins of the show and was instantly addicted and the bf and i have had many in depth discussions about whether you have to think sarah is a redeemable character to enjoy the show (i say no, he says yes or that liking her helps overlook the not as strong quality of writing in the first ep).

    i really just love this show so much! gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah

  • profession: none, or starlet

    Why wouldn't Sarah be redeemable? She's no angel, granted, but above all she's a street kid, a hustler, and a survivor. She's incredibly resourceful under pressure.

  • BlackRabbit

    Take a breath. :)

  • esmme

    AH thanks for the Isadora Duncan line -- I definitely told my roommate she should start watching the show because "someone gets Isadora Duncaned" and then we had to have a long conversation about the perils of fabulous style and convertibles.

    I also love that the show is smart enough (and has enough faith in viewers) not to just reveal the whole conspiracy or even pretend to give away the sinister corporate motivations. It's carrying out the big mystery beyond the first season in the way that Lost did, but I'm more optimistic that these guys won't let it all crash and burn.

  • By third iteration of Stargate are you referring to Atlantis or Universe? I'm not saying that the implications of your answer will involve explosions in your private tower of the Pajiba citadel. I'm typing it.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    Better not be Atlantis. It's a mildly stupid show but I love it so very, very much. SGU's first season was incredibly bad. God, I hated Chloe.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    What are you talking about? SG:U's first season was fantastic, because it dealt very well with old school sci-fi issues. "Light" was the best episode in a sci-fi series for years.

    The second season was lacking. It was more like the other Stargate series, which are very much fun to watch, but not high in quality.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    Well, let's see... magic rocks which allowed Lou Diamond Phillip's character to impersonate the Commander and have sex with his SO, Chloe standing directly under a hole to watch while some aliens were cutting into the hull to invade the ship, Eli's magic phone he used as a flashlight that had the longest battery life ever, the constant stupid decisions, mawkish love stories and dark and unappealing sets... the only thing I liked about it was Robert Carlisle.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    You're nit-picking.

  • Well, Atlantis is exactly the sort of show that sci-fi people love, but I can accept that it's not going to work outside the genre. Universe's first season I liked though the second season was better. Kind of BSG-light at times, but I really enjoyed the gradual growth of Eli.

  • PaddyDog

    Of the many things to love about this show, nothing is better than when Alison and Felix pair off together. Obviously Maslany has great chemistry with the Felix actor but for some reason it really shines when she's playing Alison. Those two deserve their own spin-off.

  • Jen13

    I love the Alison and Fe pairing too. You know she needed a gay BFF in her life.

  • dizzylucy

    I love this show. I tried it out on your recommendation on the podcast, and it's been solidly great all season. I'm not a big sci-fi fan, and I see it more as an action/drama/thriller than happens to have some sci-fi elements. That might change as it progresses, but I'm hooked, and will be hoping for an Emmy nomination for Tatiana.

    I'm usually so engrossed in the story I forget it's the same actress playing all the roles, she's that good. They're all so different, it's amazing. I wish Helena hadn't died, she was strangely fascinating. And Allison and her neighbor was horrifying, yet entertaining. I knew it, Donnie!

    DID someone take Kira? That open window made me wonder if maybe, just maybe, that kid is as quick on her feet as her mother, and got out before they grabbed her.

  • Samantha Schltr

    I agree with you on Kira. They have suggested that that she is a little psychic and it is possible that she ran (yet the previous episode she was acting completely out of character).
    And I agree that I keep forgetting that it is the same actor!

    Oh, I love this show and keep whining that I have to wait until next year.

  • Jim

    The numbers "3-24" on the wall? That bank of elevators only goes to those floors. Over the left shoulder of the camera-man is likely a similar marking "25-45". Maybe. That's how the elevator banks were laid out when I worked in Toronto.

  • JoannaRobinson

    OR ARE THEY!?

  • Elena

    It totally is! I've been in that building before! I wish it was tied into the conspiracy though...

  • Jim

    Why of course! Just like that movie poster over your right shoulder.

  • disqus_3uXZ39fCyv

    Disappointing ending of BSG?? Most satisfying ending ever.

  • Rochelle

    I just started watching, based on previous Pajiba and Uproxx raving. Loving it!

  • toblerone

    I'm glad to see this show is finally getting some Pajiba Love because it seemed like, for a while there, it was being completely dismissed.

    Easily the Best New Series of 2013 (followed by Hannibal) I.M.O.

    And Tatiana Maslany better get some Emmy love because there isn't a better actress (or at least one as versatile) on T.V. at the moment.

    I also have to applaud the show for setting it in Toronto instead of an American city. Canadians aren't all "aboots" and "ehs".

  • John W

    I was shocked at the scene involving soccer mom clone and the garbage disposal.

  • Pajiba_Pragmatist

    Yeah, it gave you a far different feeling about Alison. She's probably a bit closer to Helena in mental stability than the other two.

  • toblerone

    Meh... I still love Alison.

  • John W

    Speaking of which, I knew she had to go, but I wish they had kept Helena around. I felt she deserved some kind of closure. They mess her head up and then unleash her on the world.

  • alannaofdoom

    Alison's jaw-hanging-open-in-horror expression = exact mirror of my own at that moment.

    I, too, will miss Helena - her physicality and reactions were always so delightfully WEIRD. Sugar on the jello, people!

  • Pajiba_Pragmatist

    I really love the show, but HATE the "patent" plotline. It would never, ever stand up in any court, anywhere.

    Shit, the mere fact of going to the press (or the US Congress, or the EU Parliament) with the issue would create such an gigantic public shitshow that no company could ever face.

    Even if I were to go with some kind of alternate reality legal system, the only likely outcome would be that the clones could not "sell" the information of their genome (or Kiras). Only EvilCloningCompany would have rights to sell the information.

    Seriously, why'd they have to do that????

  • Three_nineteen

    I spent the whole episode wondering how any contract documenting the illegal activities of a major corporation could be enforceable. Why did the clones think signing that would help them in any way?

  • Pajiba_Pragmatist

    ok, so devil's advocate here. Let's say the cloning was carried out in a country that does no abide by any known anti-human cloning conventions. And that, from ages 0-18 their "parent" or legal guardian gave verifiable parental consent that allowed for round-the clock monitoring.

    All that may be legal, but here's the question:Once they become of legal age, was monitoring them illegal? It isn't a violation of the 4th Amendment, that's for sure.

    Assuming that they used a cloing-legal country, what other acts has the EvilCloningCorp undertaken that would be strictly illegal?

    Donnie works for them, so he can give permission to enter the home, plant devices, etc.

    I think one obvious problem would be medical tests without knowledge. The monitor could had over trash with DNA, but not allow them to be drugged and 'scoped...

  • Three_nineteen

    Well, they lied to a lot of the parents who thought the clones were their own children. Allison and Cosima, at least, thought their parents conceived them through in vitro fertilization, I think. As for the monitoring, I guess it depends on how strict the stalking laws are.

  • apocalipstick

    What world do you live in? Companies are already patenting gene sequences in patients. The Angelina Jolie story showed us that a Myriad medical owns the patent on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene. As far as media shitshow, well, maybe if they patented a cute blond girl. Anything requiring the explanation of complicated concepts would go right down the memory hole. And if you think the Republican house would go against the right of Big Medical to own your very organs, you don't understand their view of capitalism.

  • Three_nineteen

    Cloning humans is illegal, and any patent would be unenforceable. The company should have had to show the end product of the DNA sequence and its usefulness to society to obtain a patent, which obviously they didn't. Both the patent and the contract they were trying to get the clones to sign would never stand up in court, because the company would have to show that it broke the law.

  • Gordon

    Myriad owns patents for methods of diagnosing the likelihood of a patient with mutations TO those genes getting cancer, not for the genes themselves (which they obviously did not invent and therefore cannot patent). This has been misreported a lot, I know, becauseā€¦ well, the accurate version is a mouthful.

  • Pajiba_Pragmatist

    Dead accurate here. The whole "they patented your genes and now they OWN you" doesn't work.

    In fact, lots of this has been discussed to death as part of efforts to prevent stem cell research by arguing an embryo is a person under the 13th and 14th Amendments. Basically, the courts say embryo doesn't count as protected under 13th and 14th, but "human being" does.

    Beyond that, there are strict rules preventing the patenting of a human being - and frankly what you would normally seek in this case might be a "method" patent. Something covering how you create clones, but not the human herself.

    BUT MOST IMPORTANT - PATENTS ONLY LAST FOR 20 YEARS!!!

  • Martin Holterman

    My thoughts too. Sometimes legal training does not help one's enjoyment of TV series. (Usually?)

  • Rochelle

    Legal training constantly threatens my enjoyment of many shows - esp The Good Wife

  • PaddyDog

    Try having legal and science training. My hubby claims I ruin 9/10 shows just by commenting on the plausibility of plots.

  • Rochelle

    It only took a couple of lost boyfriends, but I've learned to keep my mouth shut.

  • BlackRabbit

    I would permanently set your TV's to the SyFy channel. Bwhahahaha!

  • toblerone

    I liked it, If only because it's got Monsanto written all over it.

  • sean

    Not missing a thing. I love this show. I do wish it were on HBO or Showtime so we could get a lot more sex and nudity. I can live with what we have, however.This show is so much fun. Frustrating that we have to wait til March or April 2014 for more.

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