At this point in the summer, I’m caught up on my DVR’s Fall overload but I’m not quite ready to tackle the Spring backlog. After all, why watch today what I can marathon the weekend before the Fall season begins? Problem is, I’m left with a giant gaping hole in the middle of my TV-watching heart that only a fabulous show can fill. You ask, “Gee, Greg, what show could be that full of fabulousness?”
Well, here it is, folks. Step right up and behold a little thing the BBC of America likes to call Orphan Black. It will not give your hair a lustrous shine, it will not julienne your fries, it will not improve your dog’s breath but it will fill that hole in your TV heart. It will stuff that hole full of the sort of happiness and joy that can only come from watching a speculative fiction show filled with mystery, intrigue, no pirates, action, familial love, and the best gay-artist-foster-sestra-brother on TV today.
But isn’t speculative fiction just a fancy name for science fiction, Greg? Now before those of you who aren’t fans of science fiction dismiss Orphan Black, let me explain: speculative fiction is the family name while the genres are the various family members. Science fiction is one aspect of it, just like horror, fantasy, and supernatural. You may actually like it and just never realized it because there is more to science fiction than just lasers and aliens. Orphan Black is at its heart a mystery-drama with one vital story element that nudges it over the line into science fiction: clones. I’m not talking Multiplicity clones or Imperial Trooper clones (and if you’re of the sort to proudly proclaim, “I’ve never seen any of the Star Wars films!” you can just show yourself to the door. I said good day!), these are the types of clones you would expect to encounter when it becomes a reality. They are normal humans, relatively speaking. No superpowers, no splicing of human/animal/Cheeto DNA, no hive mind all saying the same thing at the same time. Normal women who just want to live their lives without being the subject of experiments. Normal women who are willing to go to any means to achieve that goal. Normal women that look like replicas of one another but who are all completely unique. Nurture beats nature, hands down.
So here are the reasons you should watch it, all in a handy dandy list. No, don’t thank me: I’m a helper, it’s what I do.
- Season Two just came out on blu-ray and DVD. That means you can sit down and watch both seasons, all 20 episodes, uninterrupted, save for food and bathroom breaks. But I have kids you say! Hey, kids are resourceful; they should be okay for one day.
- It was recently picked up for a third season; this means unlike some deceitful shows that earn your loyalty and then betray you with a cliffhanger that will never be resolved, this show will respect your anxiety and anticipation with a resolution. It loves you and wants you to be happy.
- Tatiana Maslany is the best actress on television right now. Hands down. Watching her play the different clones is wonderful. At one point I realized that I’d become unaware of how one incredible actress has been seamlessly inhabiting multiple roles. Bonus: when Tatiana is portraying one clone who is pretending to be another and you see the mannerisms of the first coming through in the second.
- Five-Minute Ahead Plausibility. What is that? It’s what I call the things you see or read that may not be possible at this exact moment, but I would not be surprised if I heard it was fact in five minutes. Faster-than-light travel? I’d be smacked in my gob if I heard that was achievable, but manipulation of human DNA in a regressive manner that is slightly uncomfortable (those of you that have watched it already know what I’m talking about) wouldn’t phase me much. It would creep me right the honkytonk out, but I could see it happening. I’ll put human cloning in the FMAP category with nary a pause.
- Helena. Once you’ve watched the show you’ll understand why all I need to say is her name.
- This series continuously throws curves in the road ahead but never seems like it’s spinning out of control like some speculative fiction shows have done. I loved Lost from the first to the last (and yes, I was one of those people that was perfectly content with the ending), but there were plenty of times where it felt like the writers had derailed. Up to this point, Orphan Black has not had any polar bears or had anyone get some Arzt on them.
- Seriously, Helena. You can’t get enough Helena.
- This is one of the best shows to portray female characters that are competent, well rounded individuals instead of being there to fill a very specific role. They are not the token screamer, the token damsel in distress for the male protagonist, or the token housewife that takes care of the token children while the man is out being actiony. They are the heroes, and sometimes villains, of this story. That’s a pretty rare thing to find on television in any genre.