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He Said, She Said Review Site

Orphan Black: Season 1

What She said:

She

I think The He was highly amused when we started watching Season 1 of Orphan Black and I admitted that I had no idea what the show was about. He already had a clue, and knew that it would be much better for me to realize the premise as we went along. Indeed, this show is full of surprises, and it really is best if you have no idea what’s going on when you first start watching. So, if you don’t know much about Orphan Black but enjoy sci-fi thrillers and have an interest in checking it out, go, do it now, and do not read on. It’s a good show so just go watch it. If you don’t mind spoilers and want to know more in advance, then you can continue to read through this review. But I’m telling you, there’s something better about the experience if you don’t know much going into it.

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Don’t say I didn’t warn you…big spoiler coming up. Ok, so Orphan Black tells the story of Sarah Manning, a not so great person who grew up an orphan and is now a petty criminal. One day, Sarah is going about her business when she witnesses a suicide on a train platform. She realizes that the woman who killed herself looks nearly identical to her, and out of impulse steals her wallet. Curiosity brings her to the woman’s home, and Sarah sees that the life this woman had was actually quite nice. She decides then and there to assume this woman, Beth Childs’, identity without missing a beat. This means taking on Beth’s life as a police detective and her boyfriend, Paul.

As you can imagine, this is no easy task, and even Sarah’s quirky foster brother, Felix, thinks she’s bitten off more than she can chew. Of course, things become more and more complicated for Sarah, as she becomes aware of other women who also look JUST like her, and it appears that someone has been murdering them. Apparently, Beth was well aware of what was going on, and was actually acquainted with some of these women. It is at this point that Sarah gets clued into the reality—she is a clone; one of several walking the earth. A handful of the clones all know each other and form a sort of sisterhood. They include Allison Hendrix, the soccer mom, and Cosima Niehaus, the Ph.D. student down in the United States. I should mention that this show is Canadian, and this is where the bulk of the events are set. There is also an evil clone, Helena, who thinks she is the original and has been brainwashed into killing the others. There are plenty of interactions with her throughout the first season.

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We get to watch Sarah try to figure out what exactly is going on and unravel her origins. This involves discovering an underground scientific movement called Neolution and the Dyad Institute, which apparently created the clones. In the meantime, the lives of Sarah and the other clones are in constant peril. The Dyad Institute has them under surveillance, and it’s unclear whether they want what’s best for them or something much more sinister. The Proletheans, some sort of religious extremist group, wants them all dead, and that is who has unleashed Helena on them. To further complicate things, the police are searching for Beth Childs and eventually Sarah Manning as they investigate the recent deaths of the Sarah lookalikes. They do not fully understand what is going on either, but begin to piece peculiarities together over the course of the season.

Sarah has a lot of new drama in her life, and it’s not just herself she’s worried about. She actually has a daughter, Kira, who has become of interest to everyone. In fact, the clones are typically sterile, and so that fact that Sarah has produced an offspring is extremely important. Between you and me, it seems that young Kira may have some superpowers bubbling under the surface, but we’ll wait and see there.

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So, as you can see, there’s a whole lot happening in this show. I’m sure you’re confused as heck by my description, but I assure you that it all plays out in a much more logical way on screen. I did not find the show particularly difficult to follow. In fact, it’s pretty fascinating. There’s a lot of mystery wrapped within mystery, and the concepts are quite strong. I’m very interested in knowing what direction this show goes in during Season 2, as there’s a lot of room to grow and move forward.

I would say the feel of this show is much like a sci-fi version of Alias. Intrigue, excitement, and action abound. The production value of the program is also quite good, which makes everything very easy to take in. When you think Canadian TV, you may think amateur or small time, but I assure you, this is none of the above. It’s actually a very well-produced series that is well thought out and with complex components.

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Tatiana Maslany plays all of the clones in this show, including our main character, Sarah. I was actually already familiar with her from her days as Kit on my other favorite Canadian TV show, Heartland. She was kind of evil on Heartland and so I admit that it took me a little while to warm up to her, but I have to give Maslany some serious kudos. She manages to play several different characters who look alike, and yet give them each individual identities. The contrast between Sarah and Allison is stark, and Maslany has to quickly switch between different mannerisms and accents.

Supporting Maslany is Jordan Gavaris as Sarah’s foster brother Felix. Yes, the guy is totally weird, and at first I thought he’d be a little too much for me to handle, but he slowly emerged as one of my favorite characters on the show. He is pretty amoral at times, but not when it comes to family, and that is what really redeems him. Dylan Bruce plays Paul, Beth’s boyfriend, who actually winds up being a fairly significant character. We also have Kevin Hanchard as Detective Art Bell, Beth’s former partner, Michael Mando as Vic, Sarah’s somewhat deranged ex-boyfriend, and Maria Kennedy as Siobhan Sadler, Sarah and Felix’s former foster mother and the current caregiver to Sarah’s daughter. 

Overall it’s a very solid cast that compliments a well-written storyline. I found Season 1 of Orphan Black to be a fun watch. It’s not the best show ever, but it has a lot to offer and I look forward to checking out Season 2.

Thumbs up.

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What He said:

He

The She is right. I did know the general premise of this show before watching it. I did not know the all the details about it, in fact I knew none at all, but I did know what this show was about. She’s right too that, as we got closer to the show and I realized she did not know what this was, I didn’t say anything. I didn’t say anything on purpose. If you know me, you know I like the element of surprise when watching something new.

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The look on her face when the story was revealed was priceless.
I also agree with her that if you like science fiction, but don’t know what this show is about, you might want to skip this review until after you watch the show. It might be worth it. Consider yourself warned.
Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany) is a criminal. It is revealed that she stole some drugs from her drug dealer ex-boyfriend and planned on using the money from the sale of the drugs to run away with her daughter, who is in the care of a foster parent.

But that’s nothing compared to the crime she is about to commit. Sarah is standing on a train platform one evening when she witnesses a suicide. As the train approaches the tracks, a woman steps in front of it and…well I think you can guess the rest. She’s shocked by what she has just seen, but not so shocked that she can’t take advantage of this opportunity to steal the woman’s wallet (and later identity).

Something about this woman stands out though. When Sarah opens her wallet to see how much money, credit cards, etc. this woman has on her, she gets a glimpse of her driver’s license she notices that the woman looks like her. I’m not talking about a minor resemblance, I’m talking about twins separated at birth. She looks exactly like Sarah and this freaks her out. She was an orphan, so it’s technically possible she had a sister out there, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t shocking when you find a total stranger that is your spitting image.

So, who is this doppleganger? Beth Childs is the exact opposite of Sarah in every way. Sarah doesn’t really have a home, Beth has a very nice home. Sarah’s boyfriend is a drug dealer and violent to boot. Beth’s boyfriend is a clean cut, former service member, and a successful guy. Sarah is a criminal and Beth is a cop; which makes for some amusing situations when Sarah poses at Beth at work. Sarah has no idea why she and Beth look alike, but Beth is aware of why they look alike.
But Beth and Sarah never met, how can she be aware that they look alike? Well that’s because, there’s more than two of them. Triplets? Nope. Four of them?! Five!?! Not quite. The exact number isn’t important, the fact that they are clones is what matters. I did say this was science fiction. The most important of the others are Alison Henrix and Cosima Niehaus.

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Alison is a soccer mom from the burbs. She’s pretty much the anti-Sarah. She is all about that picture perfect life…or at least the portrayal of it. Alison is extremely uptight. Besides dealing with the stress of knowing they are all somebody’s lab rats, she has to cope with the fact that her life is not as perfect as she wants it to be. Alison is the kind of person who wants her life to be it is in an old-fashion. It couldn’t be further from the truth actually. Alison is addicted to pills to help her cope with her emotional issues and she likes to drink too. I wouldn’t call her an alcoholic – she doesn’t constantly have a drink in her hand – but she does mix booze with her pills from time-to-time. She is uptight, probably insane technically speaking, but absolutely hilarious; especially paired with Sarah’s brother.

Speaking of Sarah’s brother, man is this guy a character. Felix “Fee” Dawkins is Sarah’s foster brother. Despite the fact they are not biologically related, these two are as thick as thieves.  Like her, he’s involved in a variety of criminal activities. Sarah gave him the drugs she stole from her ex-boyfriend, so I’m assuming she was relying on him to sell them and give her the money. He may or may not be a prostitute. Either that or he’s extremely promiscuous.  He’s also extremely flamboyant, flat out weird at times, and absolutely hilarious at others. Alison is horrified by him, but the two of them actually become fairly close, as she realizes neither is perfect. Their scenes together are comedic gold. I did not expect so much comedy from this show.

Anyway, back to the other main clone. Cosima is a PHD student in the U.S. (most of the characters live in Canada). She studies evolutionary development ironically. She is doing research and test to try and figure out who they are; or more specifically where they came from. Cosima and Sarah butt heads from time-to-time.

Alison butts heads with Sarah originally too, but since they’re both in Canada and are together a lot more regularly than either is with Cosima, they form a bit of a bond. Sarah, Alison, and Felix are on their own. Cosima is off doing the research to figure out what they are and who made them, but she’s not very involved in the day-to-day activities.
Cosima does have someone to deal with on her end though.  Delphine Cormier is another PHD student at the same university as Cosima. They share common interests, but Cosima is not exactly sure who Delphine actually is. She suspects she might have something to do with the people who created them.

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There are a lot of characters in this  show and it’s tough to fit them all in, but I’ll give a little recap.  Detective Art Bell (Kevin Hanchard) is Beth’s partner, but Beth is dead and Sarah is posing as her, so there’s some tension between them. Sarah has trouble playing cop and Art notices. There’s also tension between Sarah and Beth’s boyfriend Paul (Dylan Bruce), who also notices Beth seems different. Sarah also has issues (I’m sensing a theme) with “Mrs. S”, who was her foster mother and now watchers over her own daughter. Oh and I would be doing the show a disservice if I did not mention Helena – an insane clone who does not see eye-to-eye with the rest of the clones. I won’t say much other than she’s one scary bitch.
What can be said about Tatian Maslany other than wow?! She’s playing so many different characters here and many of them are quite different from each other and she plays them all convincingly. She shows some amazing range here. Sarah is tough and street smart. Alison is trying to be a good person, but it’s questionable whether she actually is or not; but damn she’s funny. Cosima is almost strictly about the science of their predicament. She’s fascinated by it, while others are scared. And Helena is an animal. This chick isn’t just a villain, she is a savage. She is very versatile though. She’s like the professor from Gilligan’s Island. She can survive with very little.

Jordan Garvaris is also excellent as her foster brother Felix. Felix sort of disgusts you at times, at least at first. He’s pretty amoral when it comes to how he makes a living for himself. He’s also a bit of a man whore. He sleeps with so many people that it’s gross at a certain point. He reminds you of a wild animal in a documentary that just walks up to humping anything he finds appealing. But, once you get past that, he’s actual pretty likeable. He  cares about Sarah and her daughter very much. Hell, he really starts to care about Alison too and I dug that. It’s easy to love somebody you are related to. You’re practically forced to in a sense. However, I always found something appealing about an odd couple that is thrown together, not related, and got each other’s back. That’s real emotion in my opinion.

I actually can’t think of anything bad to say about the show. It’s not the greatest show I’ve ever seen, but it’s very entertaining. It’s got action, thrills, and is surprisingly funny. If you like all of that – and are a science fiction fan too – I suggest giving this show a look. It’s worth it.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This review was given the He said, She said seal of approval on February 8, 2015.

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