Season finale review: ‘Orphan Black’ – ‘By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried’

Senior Television Writer
06.21.14 69 Comments

BBC America

Some thoughts on the “Orphan Black” season finale – but really on season 2 as a whole – coming up just as soon as I get this pencil through that piece of paper…

“Orphan” season 1 was carried by Tatiana Maslany's genius at playing all the clones, whether apart, together or impersonating one another. At the same time, the show also had incredible forward momentum, as the creative team kept the story going and going and going, revealing new pieces of the mythology and never letting any one element (say, Sarah impersonating Beth and struggling to do policework) grow stale.

Season 2 had more of Maslany's brilliance, but there was perhaps too much of it at times, while the story kept looping back in on itself until it was utter gibberish. I lost all track of who was on which side, the exact agenda of any faction within or without the Dyad Institute, and the show turned into a collection of trap doors for the clones and/or the audience to fall through as every non-clone character (save Felix and Art) kept switching allegiances. Alison was already probably my favorite clone, and the fact that she was so tangential to the Dyad stuff for most of this year only made me appreciate those scenes more. I don't know if the show can function without the conspiracy element – here with the added revelation that Mark from the Proletheans is actually one of a series of male clones – but I'd almost rather see the creators try than taking us deeper down this particular rabbit hole. I'm not saying the series should just be clone dance parties and wacky community theater hijinks going forward, but it definitely felt like there was no actual idea behind season 2 beyond maintaining the franchise, generating suspense, and trying to help Maslany win awards. (Though the introduction of other clones would also suggest that Graeme Manson, John Fawcett and company realize they've pushed Maslany to her limits in terms of wardrobe, makeup and affect.)

And Maslany is still great, whether interacting with herself or other co-stars. The scene in episode four where a bloody Helena hugs a terrified Sarah was among the most unsettling, memorable things I've seen on TV all year, and the work that she and the writers did in humanizing Helena was remarkable. But other ideas, like transman clone Tony, seemed to be thrown in solely to let Maslany show off. (And, in that case, it didn't work because they couldn't hide her mass of hair under a short male wig, making Tony look like Sarah with some facial scruff, even if I think Maslany otherwise did a good job of playing male.) Even stabbing Rachel through the eye using the improvised pencil launcher mainly made me think about Maslany getting to wear an eyepatch next season, or maybe wear a creepy contact lens simulating a glass eye. I'm hoping that the various male clones aren't designed solely to show off the versatility of actor Ari Millen.

This is still a fun show, but it needs some more focused storytelling, even as the clones are scattered all over the wilds of Toronto.

What did everybody else think?

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