Monday, February 3, 2014

10 Reasons Why You Should Watch Orphan Black

It's been awhile since I did one of these posts but when I finished Orphan Black last week all I wanted to do was shout at everyone until they sat down and watched it for themselves. It really is a brilliant and original sci-fi show that has tonnes of mystery and scientific intrigue while also being very character driven. It's also a really hard show to discuss without giving away major plot points and spoilers so if you could all just go watch it and hurry back that'd be great. I'll just wait here while you do, don't worry you'll get through the first 10 episodes quick as a flash - it's that addictive.

Premise: Sarah Manning, petty criminal and general let-down, finds herself thrust into a dizzying mystery after she witnesses the suicide of a woman who looks exactly like her. Stealing the deceased woman's wallet she sets up an elaborate plan to take on her identity long enough to clear her bank accounts and start a new life with her daughter Kira and her foster brother Felix. But of course things don't work quite so easily. Sarah quickly discovers the reason why Beth threw herself in front of a train. Sarah isn't alone, Beth isn't the only person who looks like her - She's just one of many. But why do they exist and why is someone trying to kill them all? (cue X-Files music)

Or if that was just a jumble of word salad (avoiding spoilers is HARD) then maybe just watch the trailer.


1. Tatiana Maslany

To be honest this could be reason 1 through 10. She is phenomenal and even if the rest of the show was utter garbage I'd still watch it. She's that good. Of course she is though, she has to be. Maslany has to play half a dozen different people, often three at a time in a single scene, and while a certain amount of commendation needs to go to the make-up team and writers for making them completely independent characters visually, the fact that Maslany is able to transform into so many characters is a testament to her skill as an actor and an indicator of how vibrant a career she has ahead of her. You can tell which character she's portraying from a close-up of her face, or from a long shot of her walking away from the camera, hair and other distinguishing factors covered up. Add to this how often she plays one character masquerading as another, letting just enough of their accent or mannerisms in to let the audience know we aren't seeing the real Alison or Sarah but covering enough to fool everyone on the show. I just can't.

2. Felix

Felix isn't the most original of characters (gay English artist with ample sass) but I love him. He adds much needed levity and reality to the bonkers situation he's found himself mixed up in thanks to having a foster sister who turns out to be a clone. It also helps that Jordan Gavaris is absolutely magnetic and rocks the long winter coat look.

3. The hearty mix of normal fuck-uppery and sci-fi insanity

There's a lot of stuff going on in this show which I'm not going to reveal because spoilers (obvs) but perhaps the reason it garnered so much attention when it came out (and why I loved it so) was the way it mixed the insane unreality of sci-fi with the sorts of problems everyone goes through, clones or no. Sarah got stuck on a shitty path and is trying to get to a place where she can raise her daughter without worrying that she's going to end up sending her daughter down the same path. Cosima is struggling with a budding relationship, and Alison feels trapped by her suburban lifestyle. They're clearly there to help set them up as people rather than carbon copies of one another (clones have feelings too you guys!) but they're such normal insecurities and feelings that they actually help to make the science fiction part of the story feel more grounded.

4. Wardrobe/Colour theory

Maslany might be doing the lion's share depicting a multitude of characters but she isn't doing it alone. Each character is designed to look completely unique - different hair colours and styles, different fashion styles etc - but it goes deeper than "the science one has dreads" or "soccer mum wears a lot of cardigans". Each character has a colour that they wear almost exclusively. Cosima wears burgundy/maroon, Alison wears pinks, Sarah wears black when she's herself but navy blues as Beth, Helena is in yellows and khaki greens. It's a subtle way of establishing their character roles further, pink for the suburban housewife, black for the outcast/punk but it also reminds me of the colour theories on Breaking Bad and when I'm on my second viewing I'll be checking to see if it goes any further than this.

5. Eye Candy

As with any good TV show there are plenty of pretty people to oogle while you get your 40 minute dose of science fiction. As it turns out being a clone that someone wants to kill doesn't stop you from falling in love and wanting to have sexy-times with that handsome guy (or girl) over there. It doesn't meet Game of Thrones levels but prepare to see plenty of ass and steamy shower scenes throughout the series.

6. Oh Hai there Toronto!

I'm probably biassed from my recent holiday and the fact that my family hails from Toronto but I really love that the show is set there rather than in New York. It makes sense given that it's a Canadian production but there's something about films and TV shows being set in places that aren't instantly recognisable that adds some reality for me. It's more normal, more ordinary. There's also the added fact that I actually do recognise the settings in the show and can proudly point to Felix's loft or the bus terminal and say "been there".

7. Whodunnit? 

Nothing in this show is what it seems, everyone is hiding something or covering something up for someone else. You'll find yourself suspicious of everyone, side-eyeing the shit out of any new person or unexpected nice act. Everyone seems to have an agenda but it's almost impossible to be sure who is working to get themselves ahead and who is working for the "bad guy". Is there even a bad guy? Is there only one bad guy, or are the clones facing trouble on multiple fronts? Each episode opens new doors for the story to travel down and while the big picture looks to finally be coming into focus you can't help but wonder which side of the story we're getting and what surprises are waiting patiently in the shadows.

8. Cosima and Delphine

When I threw out a tweet asking a few of you if you'd seen this show Alice replied that before OiTNB this show was the apple in the lesbian community's eye. I'm assuming that's based on Cosima and Delphine, two science nerds whose friendship and subsequent relationship gives Cosima strength amidst all the clone-drama while she's back in America studying. I can't say much more about their relationship without some heavy spoilers but let's just say that the development between the two is complicated, messy and amazing. I loved the scenes the two have together and the storylines that developed around them but even outside of the brewing relationship they were two girls I'd love to hang out with. I wouldn't understand a word of the scientific mumbo-jumbo they sprouted but I'd sit there smiling like an idiot, just enjoying their company.

9. It's not just sci-fi

This really goes off the earlier point but if anyone has been thinking "yeah it sounds alright but I don't really do sci-fi..." then don't worry. It's definitely a science fiction show but I'd say it's probably a drama first. It's also got aspects of police procedurals (think more in the vein of Sherlock than CSI), family drama and black comedy. The best genre shows are always the ones that infuse other elements into them, it brings in a larger audience and it stops it from ever getting formulaic or staid. For the same reasons people found themselves liking The Sopranos even though they never liked gangster films or enjoying Game of Thrones even though they usually dislike fantasy, people will gravitate to this show and connect with the generic ties that best suit them.

10. You have nothing else to watch.

Sherlock has finished, Game of Thrones and OiTNB aren't back for a couple of months and New Girl and Girls aren't exactly shows you can binge watch. You need another show to fill your down time and if it's the kind that will have you addictively watching until 3am then more the better right?


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