Orphan Black: Season 1 DVD Review: Send in the Clones

Written by Brandie Ashe

I wish I had seen this show without knowing the premise–a premise that, with the title of this post, I admittedly have now ruined for anyone who does not yet know the treatise behind Orphan Black, the new BBC series starring Tatiana Maslany as a young woman drawn into a far-reaching mystery. Of course, the DVD release of season one already spoils the mystery in its tagline: “A clone is never alone.” Still, it would have been interesting to watch this intriguing show from the start not knowing the twist that lay ahead–even if that twist is the crux of the entire series.

Maslany plays a multitude of roles here–indeed, an entire bevy of genetic doppelgangers that comprise half the cast–but her primary character is Sarah, a troubled orphan who encounters her lookalike at the train station one evening. Seconds later, her double throws herself in front of a train, and a rashly desperate Sarah decides to take on the dead woman’s life. Her initial intent is to simply clean out the woman’s bank account, but she is quickly and unwillingly drawn into Beth’s life, discovering that Beth, a detective, was dealing with her own demons. While Sarah’s old life (and old problems) continue to play out in the background, Sarah becomes embroiled in a complex and deadly conspiracy where she discovers that everything she ever knew about herself and her origins is a lie.

The lead role is a star-making one, and Maslany is a revelation. Her ability to step into multiple characters and give each of them a unique flair is as startling as it is mesmerizing–she so thoroughly embodies each woman, it’s easy to forget that the same actress plays every part. For her efforts, Maslany was recently (and deservedly) awarded the prize for Best Actress in a Drama by the Critics’ Choice Awards, and her name is being tossed around for Emmy consideration this fall. (She has also been nominated for a Television Critics’ Association award for the role.) And while it’s worth mentioning that Maslany is aided by an able supporting cast–especially Jordan Gavaris as Sarah’s dramatic foster brother Felix and Kevin Hanchard as Beth’s suspicious partner Art–in the end, our ability to believe in this show’s outlandish central conceit lies entirely in Maslany’s capable, talented hands, and she brilliantly exceeds expectation.

Orphan Black is being released on DVD and Blu-ray today. The DVD is comprised of three discs including all ten episodes plus a host of interview-based bonus features including behind-the-scenes looks at the making of the show and an interesting interview with Maslany about the process of bringing the clones to life.

It’s a dark, gritty series with an unbelievable concept, snatches of black humor, and fascinating characters, and it’s hands down one of the best things on television right now. I cannot recommend Orphan Black highly enough.

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