Clone Club welcomes back its favorite clones for season 2 of the BBC America original series Orphan Black, created by John Fawcett and Graeme Manson, and starring Tatiana Maslany, Tatiana Maslany, and Tatiana Maslany.
*This review will contain some spoilers from season 2.
In season 1, we’d seen the Frankenstein-esque side of science, the sterile laboratories and the ookey procedures that led a man to have a tail. The scientists (Matthew Frewer’s character Aldous Leekie included) kept running around trying to catch Sarah Manning, the un-manned clone. We even saw that this life of science and bureaucracy corrupted the heart of a mysterious clone named Rachel. Okay, we get it, science in the wrong hands is bad. But season 2 distorts the issue when the world stops being so black and white. We’re introduced to Mark when he tries to kidnap Sarah from the diner in episode 1.
Kidnapping Sarah? This is the MO of Dyad, the freaky clone-making clinic, headed up by Rachel or Leekie (who can tell which really runs this show?). He’s not Dyad, though. He’s a member of the proletarians, a religious group kind of like the Amish if the Amish wanted to spawn a race of perfect human beings. Mark’s got the old “in love with the boss’s daughter” story line, but the boss’s daughter’s got a rebellious soul (you would too if your father took the ovaries of a clone, mixed them with his semen, and shoved them up your uterus). He eventually helps the girl, Gracie, escape, so…does that make him good or bad? What was it that the proletarians were doing that was so bad in the beginning? We see them welcome Helena into their family and give her the babies she wants, but we also see them repeatedly lock up Gracie in a cell and artificially inseminate all the young women with the boss’s children. Yuck!
So, the scientists are stereotypically wicked. The religious freaks are peaceful on the outside and evil science-loving on the inside. (Boy, I wish they’d have twisted it where we realize the proletarians weren’t actually bad, just to break out of the old tropes, oh well.) What, then, is good? The show suggests neither science nor religion is pure, and life is only about family. In this season, the clones stop calling each other clones and start calling each other sisters. When it’s “only clones allowed,” Felix says that includes him, not because he’s a clone of any kind, but because he’s their brother. Helena, despite being scrambled in the brain, pan has been accepted into their family, and they even have a dance party–Sarah, Helena, Cosima, Alison, Felix, and Kira. All the more distressing when Cosima is struck with a potentially fatal polyp disease that has destroyed her uterus and now spreads to her other organs. But Cosima doesn’t want to take the most obvious cure–Kira’s bone marrow–because even though Kira isn’t technically Cosima’s daughter, she is still considered family. It doesn’t matter anyway because Rachel, despite trying to be human and caring and perhaps even familial, dashes Cosima’s chance at rehabilitation with one (or a few) stomp of the foot. No worries, though, because Duncan (aka Swan Man) has left a clue to unlock the secrets of their biology. Dun dun dun.
Orphan Black continues to be a resume building platform for Tatiana Maslany as the show introduces more clones. We see briefly the video of a now dead school teacher clone, but much more impressively we meet Tony, the transsexual clone. Yes, Maslany is now also playing a man! It’s more than just the facial hair and the deep voice. With all the strutting, you do believe in her performance. And while we’re on the subject of her talent, let’s get another award for Tatiana, yes? The moment when Sarah sees Helena back from the dead after having shot her through the heart last season is raw and visceral, not at all like the phony astonishment that modern television tries to pass off as genuine shock. We also meet a non-Maslany clone in the form of a little girl, which is perhaps the moment when the series jumps the shark. The whole point was that they had lost the instructions on how to make a clone, so the idea that one of their failed attempts to remake the clones without the instructions actually didn’t fail seems a little far fetched.
Clones aside, the character count on this show has gotten ridiculous. You’ve got six clones, four monitors, two cops, four people from Sarah’s family or relationships, four Dyad scientists (including the newly initiated Scott), four proletarians, various bodyguard baddies, a whole slew of backstory nutters trailing Mrs. S, and even a new love interest for crazy Helena. One of the more interesting additions to the cast is the appearance of Kira’s father, Cal, furthering the family theme. Sadly, there are now so many characters, the writers don’t always know how to use all of them. When Felix says, “There’s no place for me here,” there’s an ironic undertone because that point going forward, he’s just a damsel in distress or the errand boy. This is particularly disappointing because the road trip that starts the season promises a new layer to Felix, but it never really develops. However, Alison’s husband Donnie takes on an entirely different role in her life and in the show, creating a fascinating, and frankly hilarious, new dynamic in their relationship.