BBC America created its first series for the network last summer, Copper. This year’s original series is Orphan Black. Starring Tatiana Maslany as Sarah (and Beth and Katia and Alison and Cosima), the series focuses on Sarah, who just happened to be in the subway station at the exact moment her doppelganger, Beth, jumped in front of the ride and committed suicide. Sarah and her foster brother, Felix, had always wanted to disappear and start a new life and she couldn’t help but see this as an opportunity.
Checking out Beth’s apartment, Sarah discovered Beth was rather wealthy and had just opened a bank account with $75,000. Since Beth’s boyfriend was out of town for the weekend, Felix could identify Beth’s body as Sarah’s, Sarah could become Beth, take her money and she and Felix could skip town with Sarah’s daughter, Kira, getting their fresh start. When she gets the $75,000, she also checks out Beth’s safety deposit box, holding three birth certificates, all within days of her own birthday. She keeps them.
Well it wouldn’t be much of a show if it were all that simple now, would it? Sarah learned Beth was a police officer, on suspension for a civilian shooting. Paul comes home and to distract him, Sarah give him the best sex he’d ever had with Beth. Sarah’s ex, Vic, who is otherwise a complete ass has a change of heart and all of a sudden is distraught and wanting to pay tribute to Sarah. Felix plays along while Sarah masquerades as Beth. Beth’s partner knows there’s something up, stalks her and takes the money she got out of Beth’s account.
Meanwhile, Beth is receiving mysterious text messages and phone calls, all of which she ignores until she’s faced with another lookalike, Katia, expecting Beth, gets in the car at Sarah’s memorial demanding to know what’s going on before realizing Sarah isn’t Beth at all. Just before Katia is killed. By the end of episode two, “Instinct,” Sarah has found Alison, another lookalike and soccer mom and discovered she’s housing yet another familiar face named Cosima. Roll credits.
Things happen fast and furiously on Orphan Black. Tatiana Maslany is masterful in her ability to play many faces on the screen at once while still allowing the viewer to know who she is, even if she’s dressed as one of the other characters. Once Sarah chose to disguise herself as Beth, she’s been able to slip in and out of each character with ease. Her performance reminds me of Anna Torv as she played the many faces of Olivia Dunham on Fringe. She, too, played versions of herself as masked incarnations attempting to fool others into thinking she was, indeed, someone else. Like Torv, even when Maslany is Beth, we still know she’s Sarah, even if the people she’s playing off of don’t.
Jordan Gavaris as her friend Felix is also pure pleasure to watch. Even though he has her back, he’s just as worried about her daughter and doesn’t like that Kira isn’t the number one person on Sarah’s mind. He worries Sarah may be losing perspective and isn’t afraid to tell her. It was up to him to tell Mrs. S. (the ever enthralling Maria Doyle Kennedy), who watched over them and over Kira that Sarah hadn’t committed suicide. Felix was both comfortable with Kira and disquieted with Mrs. S., a perfect portrayal by Gavaris.
The official story is that Sarah and her many selves are clones, but Sarah hasn’t learned that in the story as of yet. She just knows something is very freaky and very wrong. In trying to get out of her frakked up life, she’s stepped into one that is more than she could have ever bargained for. As a viewer, I want to know more and I want to know now. Judging by the state of the doll found in Katia’s room, she wasn’t happy with what she had learned about who she was, and whatever we learn about her will be through the others now that she’s dead. Katia’s briefcase held more samples and names and identification of others who are no doubt going to be more clones, whether dead or alive we don’t know.
Next week, Sarah learns they’re clones and is reinstated to the police force. We’ll learn how being a cop was helping Beth in her search for clues or whatever else was up to while working with Alison, Katia and Cosima, and whether or not Sarah can pull off the perfect identity switch. Just how easy will it be to go from petty criminal to crime enforcer? Why are they clones and why so many? So many questions, great writing and a great cast to bring it off.
It’s going to be a hell of a ride figuring it all out.