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Does Anyone Understand What's Going On in 'Orphan Black'? Asking for a Friend

By Dustin Rowles | TV | April 28, 2014 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | April 28, 2014 |

Confession: I love Orphan Black. I love Tatiana Maslany. I love every clone on the show (except Rachel, because f*ck her). The characters are compelling. The action sequences are great. I often watch each episode twice, in part because I love it, and in part because I need to in order to keep up with what’s going on. I also read other people’s recaps after each episode. But here’s the uncomfortable truth:

I have no idea what the f**k is going on in this show.

Does it diminish my enjoyment of Orphan Black? Absolutely not. In fact, it may even enhance it because there’s a mystery here that I’m trying to figure out, but the problem is, I often don’t know enough about what’s going on to create a set of questions to answer. In other words, I don’t know what the point to Orphan Black is yet, except as an incredibly compelling stage upon which Tatiana Maslany can display her immense talents.

I know the players, but I do not quite understand their motivations. Let’s break it down.

The Dyad Institute — The Dyad Institute seems to be the main villains in our story. Rachel is a leader of that organization. They are devoted to promoting Neolution. In their employ is Dr. Aldous Leekie, who is the face of Neolution. He is working on a project with Delphine, who is both Cosima’s monitor and lover, although we don’t know for certain if her feelings for Cosima are genuine. We do know that Cosima has an uneasy relationship with The Dyad Institute, and that she has a respiratory illness, which is part of the reason why Cosima agreed to study herself on behalf of the Neolutionists.

What we don’t know is if the Neolution people are actually behind the clones in the first place, or what purpose the clones ultimately serve the Institute. But it’s probably nefarious.

Proletheans — The Proletheans are religious nutjobs, who both seem to abhor clones, and want to use them in the service of something evil. Tomas was a Prolethean who trained Helena to kill other clones, but when Helena was nearly killed and subsequently rescued by the Proletheans, Henrik Johanssen ordered his faux-son Mark to kill Tomas because his sect of the Proletheans are interested in the ways that science and religion intersect. He seems to have a particular interest in the offspring of clones, which is why he’s basically trying to nurse Helena back to health and breed her (and they are interested in Kira).

Siobhan Sadler (Mrs. S.) — Here’s where it gets really interesting, because we don’t know with whom Mrs. S aligns, if anyone. She seems to be suspicious of everyone, including the clones, and Sarah’s birth mother. She knows something, namely that the clones are part of Project Leda and that Kira — as the offspring of a clone — is somehow special. But what we do not know is if she was involved in Project Leda, or who is behind Leda.

So, to sum: The Dyad Institute seems to be interested in the clones for reasons having to do with Neolution. The Proletheans’ interest has to do with both God and science, and Mrs. S. is interested because of Project Leda and because — regardless of everything else — she genuinely seems to care for Kira.

The storyline seems to bounce Sarah and Kira between all of these factions like a pinball in a pinball machine, while Felix is there to navigate and Alison is there for advice and comic relief.

Is that an apt encapsulation of what Orphan Black is so far? What are the other questions we are trying to answer? Why did it take so long for these entities to become interested in clones that have been around for years? Does anyone suspect Felix as being a monitor and/or clone? Why does Tomas look so much like Monk?

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.