THE DYESSERTATION: 'Orphan Black' explores individuality of clones, rising star Tatiana Maslany

The Daily News



After witnessing the suicide of a woman who looks identical to her, Sarah Manning snatches Beth Childs’ abandoned purse on the platform. Then, Sarah arranges with her foster brother, Felix, to identify the woman as herself in order to fake her death, take all of Beth’s money and escape with Felix and her daughter, Kira. But it isn’t that easy, and Sarah gets sucked into a mystery: Why did the now dead Beth look just like her — in fact, why and how are there multiple women who look like her? 


While “Orphan Black” is a science-fiction show, it isn’t heavy on the genre but more of a mixture with drama and thriller, with some violence, as the women attempt to figure out how and why they are clones. It showcases the humanity and identity of the clones, the difference between nature and nurture. It also brings to light the morality and ethical issues with human cloning. It’s definitely a show that makes you think.

The topics aren’t even way off in the science-fiction realm, just more advanced in the areas of cloning than we are today. Shortly after the season wrapped up, the Supreme Court ruled that human genes cannot be patented. While the show is based in Toronto, it will be interesting to see if this ruling comes into play for season two.

One of the best parts of “Orphan Black” is the acting, specifically that of lead actress Tatiana Maslany. Maslany plays the multiple clones, therefore taking up most of the cast. The special effects and Maslany’s portrayal of each distinct character (including different accents) can lead you to forget they’re all one actress. It almost seems impossible that one person can pull it all off. 

Filming a scene that features more than one clone can take up to 17 hours, complete with body doubles, a tennis ball for direction and a camera that memorizes movements for when Maslany plays each character. Despite the process being so technical, Maslany manages to be creative with her acting.

When Maslany didn’t receive an Emmy nomination, I felt anger toward the Emmys that I have never felt before. Those 10 episodes made Maslany become one of my favorite actresses, and all of her intense work deserved at least a nomination. It takes true talent to make this show work, and Maslany has that.

Jordan Gavaris portrays Felix, Sarah’s foster brother who gets roped into the mystery. The chemistry between Gavaris and Maslany makes for a realistic brother-sister relationship, as well as the unlikely pair of clone Alison, the “soccer mom,” and Felix. 

While his character can at first seem like a flamboyant gay stereotype, the show takes the time to make him multi-dimensional, including clichés. In defense of his character — saying the criticism of the character has mainly been from heterosexuals — Gavaris made an excellent point about treatment of queer characters in media during a Comic Con panel, notably: “There are so many more interesting things to Felix than who he’s sleeping with.”

Multiple celebrities, including Kevin Bacon and Patton Oswalt — who said Maslany is “the best actress alive right now” — have endorsed the brilliance of the show. I hope the building hype will garner more views for the second season and ensure seasons after that.



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