Orphan Black’s second series debuts in just a little over a month, but before it does, let’s take a look back at where all of the craziness — and all of those clones — began.
Orphan Black is a show full of stereotypes. And don’t get me wrong, that’s the beautiful thing about it. It takes the stay-at-home suburban mother (Alison), the scientist (Cosima), the rebel (Sarah), the gay man (Felix) and even the detective that comes straight out of CSI (Art), and drops them into one of the least stereotypical situations to have been explored on mainstream television.
Usually, you’d be watching a cop show to see these characters, or a drama in the suburbs, or even some sort of action show where Paul and Sarah chase each other around with low, gravelly voices. But never, I don’t think, you’d see them together in an ordinary scenario. It takes the extraordinary to bring people together, and Orphan Black is certainly extraordinary.
It’s such a fascinating show because it takes these figures that we know- the mother, the cop, the spy- and it throws them into a pot that’s slowly being boiled. Everything is heating up, and no one knows what the hell is happening. This isn’t the world that Alison is supposed to belong to, nor the investigation that Art knows how to lead.
There’s a mystery at Orphan Black’s heart, one that gets more and more complicated as we get to know our characters better and better with every episode.
But to begin, we get Sarah.
1×01 – “Natural Selection”
Orphan Black doesn’t start out small, Sarah immediately facing a mirror image of herself when she approaches a woman at the train station, stepping out on the tracks to kill herself. Her name is Elizabeth Childs, and although Sarah doesn’t know it (yet), she’s about to steal the identity of a fellow clone. She takes Beth’s bag to meet her foster-brother Felix, musing over the identity of Beth- and how she looks like a carbon copy of Sarah. .
Felix tells her that anything-a twin, for example- is possible, taking Sarah’s stolen coke to try and sell, running into the man she stole it from, her ex, Vic, while he does so. Sarah meanwhile, investigates further, for the purpose of self-interest. She has a key to this strange, well-off woman’s flat, and intends to use it. What she’s not so prepared for is a room full of photos featuring a woman that isn’t her… But so easily could be.
Sarah could fit into Beth’s life- or at least pose in the photos for it and making small talk- so easily, and that’s what gives her the idea to steal Beth’s savings- because shit, it just might work. Beth’s dead and Sarah needs money if she’s ever going to get her daughter back- and more than just the ten grand that Felix can get for her stolen drugs.
And so the plan begins, Felix ringing up to identify Beth’s dead body as Sarah’s, while Sarah, posing as Beth, visits the bank, securing a 24-hour withdrawal, and discovering a safety deposit box with three birth certificates inside it as well, Beth’s second, pink cellphone chirping at her all the while.
She makes her exit, only to be pulled up by Art, and pulled further into Beth’s life, Sarah pretending to be a Detective that clearly, has made some sort of mistake.
It’s just like that, that Sarah’s heist becomes complicated. Not only because Beth is a cop; arguably the worst kind of person to commit a crime against, but because she finds herself in the middle of a relationship with Art- and then Paul when she retreats to Beth’s apartment after Beth’s therapy session. This isn’t a faceless person whose life Sarah is stealing. Or rather, a mirrored reflection of a person. Beth isn’t some freak anomaly that she can ignore the consequences of, Sarah is forced to realize, and suddenly, things get very, very complicated. (“The clash rock,” Sarah tells Paul as he questions her outfit. “Yeah, but you don’t.”) So naturally, Sarah solves Paul’s questions with the ultimate distraction: sex. (Orphan Black just has everything man, and the pilot shows us that it isn’t afraid to use it all at the same time, either.)
Just when Sarah thinks a crisis has been avoided (she gets her money and ditches Paul, watching from the sidelines as Felix and Vic orchestra a memorial for her), things only get messier. Art follows Sarah, finding and taking her cash from the boot of her car, while her daughter turns up with her guardian at the funeral. Sarah leaves in tears, thinking about how she’s going to get out of this one, when Orphan Black reminds us what;s really pushing this story: clones.
Katja pops up in the back of Sarah’s stolen car, asking who she thinks is Beth, why she hasn’t been responding. She’s sick, and she wants to see Beth’s “scientist friend.”
But Sarah can’t help her, she really can’t, Katja getting shot fatally through the dashboard of the car, Sarah only just making an escape herself.
The episode ends with both Katja and Beth’s pink phones ringing, someone calling for the dead and getting Sarah instead, when she finally gives in and picks up.
Beth’s identity is no longer a coincidence that Sarah can deny or ignore the complications of. This is something far more dangerous, “Natural Selection” giving us – and Sarah – a glimpse of what Orphan Black has in-store.
And what they do have is far beyond what we could ever imagine.
1×02 – “Instinct”
“Holy shit. Holy shit it’s true. Someone is killing us.”
And just like that, we pick up where we left off.
Sarah buries Katja’s dead body while Felix hangs around at the funeral after party, Vic uttering a telling line: “I can’t figure out why she killed herself… It’s just not Sarah.” Because no, it’s not Sarah. Beth is the one who killed herself, Sarah just slipping into her life because she thought it would be easy money. She thought that Beth’s life was easy, and even easier to slip into, something that’s not proving to be true at all.
Especially when she finds that the money she’d stolen is gone, Felix opening up her briefcase to find police files relating to Beth’s shooting and Art’s card, rather than the 75,000 dollars.
Well. It’s back to playing Beth again, then. Sarah isn’t portraying her particularly well, though, in Beth’s apartment, Paul clearly catching onto the fact that something’s wrong: “We’ve been here before.” “No Paul, we haven’t been here before.” Every aspect of Beth’s life is deeper than it looks, and it’s taken that one level further when Sarah tries to immitate it, always one step behind Art and Paul’s questioning. If it weren’t for the undeniably physical proof that she looks like Beth, questions would have already been asked.
And as it is, they’re already being thought.
Things aren’t any better on the Kira front, either, Felix and Sarah’s former guardian, Mrs S., not budging on granting Sarah custody, calling Kira a gift that Sarah doesn’t value the worth of. A possibly sweet sentiment, that, if you’ve seen what comes later, can also seem a little suspicious, considering the focus that Kira comes to garner later in the series.
Sarah has to go clear Beth’s name with Art, but before she does that, she has another impersonation to make, stepping into Katja’s accent for a little while, breaking into her hotel room and taking the briefcase that the mysterious woman on the phone wants. But when she gets there, the room is already trashed.
Something’s chasing Beth- and Allison, and the woman on the phone- and they’re chasing Sarah now, too. Luckily, the front desk has Katja’s briefcase, after she hands over her credit card for the damage, Sarah cracking it open to find medical files and blood samples- from a whole lot of different women, from all over the world, that look just like her.
There’s also an address inside, for Alison Hendrix, the woman who Sarah thinks is talking to her over the phone. So she takes a drive near her suburban neighbourhood, only to find…
A soccer mom. This isn’t the technological mastermind that we or Sarah were expecting, and that’s because Alison isn’t the one behind the phone calls.
But she is your new favourite character, and Sarah and Alison’s scene together at the soccer game gives us the first knock-out scene of just how versitile Tatiana Malsany proves to be in this show. “Natural Selection” and “Instinct” only really set up the idea of these mutli-character, one-actress conversations that the show has become known for, Alison and Sarah’s scene so powerful not only because of the subject matter, Beth’s death, but because of how almost instantly, it’s so easy to imagine these characters as such fully, different people. As soon as Alison picks up that knife that just minutes ago, she’d been using to cut oranges, it’s like… It’s like someone different, another actress, is standing opposite Sarah, playing Alison, and honestly? That’s just the beginning of the kind of amazement that you’ll feel watching Orphan Black.
Sarah calls Alison a bitch (which undoubtedly she is, among so many other things that we’re lucky enough to get to see), before going back to Beth’s therapist where she weasles her way into getting another police hearing, still in this game to try and get access to Beth’s money.
Which, by the end of the episode, Art still won’t give up. But things have progressed, Sarah just waiting on what the verdict is. And things progress in other ways, as well, Sarah making a late night detour to Alison’s house to finally meet that stranger over the phone: Cosima, yet another “twin.”
“How many of us are there?” Sarah asks. A question that, entering season 2, we still aren’t sure on.
Memorable Quotes (Especially with a little hindsight)
- “If that was my boyfriend, I’d jump in front of a train too.” …Alright Sarah, you can take the high road for now.
- “…Aren’t you supposed to wait like, three days before rising?” FELIX!
- “Every time I think I know something, I’m wrong.” Us too, Sarah.
- ALISON’S TALKING TO HER CLONE, SOMEONE WITH THE EXACT SAME FACE AS HER, AND YET: “…Hide your ugly face on the way out of here.” (…Can you tell that Alison is my fav?)
So until next week, when we look at episode 3 & 4, tide yourself over with season two’s promo, and maybe grumble a little at how Tatiana Maslany didn’t win the Golden Globe for these roles.