This Orphan Black review contains spoilers.
Orphan Black season 4 Episode 1
Clone Clubbers, Orphan Black is back and with it comes the absolute brilliance of Tatiana Maslany. This week, we get to see Maslany step into the shoes of two clones she hasn’t really explored before. Now, we’ve seen Maslany as Beth Childs, the clone whose suicide led to the involvement of protagonist clone Sara, but we really haven’t experienced Maslany delving deep into Beth as a character. This week, we get that treat as well as the clone debut of the sheep mask wearing, conspiracy obsessed clone Mika.
Now, starting out the long-awaited season four with Beth’s flashback story is a ballsy move by the creative minds behind Orphan Black. For a year now, Clone Clubbers have been dying to know who shot Delphine at the end of last season. Plus, you know fans have been waiting a long time for more Cosima, Alison, and Helena. Well, we get a bit of a few of the sestras this week, but this is really Beth’s story, a story that has gone untold for three seasons now. Clone Club may not know it wanted to see this gritty tale of death, betrayal, and murder, but once they dip its collective toes into Beth’s sordid waters, no card carrying member of Clone Club will be able to look away.
Beth Childs is a broken women, a women driven to solve a murder involving a neolutionist who had his cheek removed (not to mention a bifurcated dick – oh Orphan Black, you never fail to make your fan base wince, and we love you for it). Beth sets out to solve the murder and in doing so, begins the path to her demise.
But Beth’s life isn’t a happy one even before she tries to solve the case that eventually leads to her season one episode one suicide. Beth is a drug addict forced to use a child’s urine to keep from failing a drug test, she is a woman whose guilt ridden boyfriend Paul (oh yeah, he’s here this week) can barely look at her, and she is a woman who can barely go a few minutes without popping a pill or sniffing a line.
Popular wisdom had it that Beth kills herself when she finds out that Paul is her watcher. Not so. Her relationship with beef stick Paul is not a happy one, but it did not drive her to kill herself on that fateful train platform. No, Beth is driven to suicide by her own actions. It is revealed this week that while investigating the neolutionst’s murder, she accidently shot a woman. We knew about her murder of this woman, a reporter investigating Doctor Leakee, but we did not know that it is a complete accident. Maybe if Beth wasn’t hocked up on pills, she wouldn’t have been so quick on the draw, but whatever the case, we finally saw what led to Beth’s killing of that reporter and her suicide.
And man, is the whole thing well told. The episode felt like the continuation of a long running and quality cop drama. All the players arrive on screen fully realized, from the always loyal Art, to the manipulative Paul, to some of the bit players in Beth’s precinct, everyone feels like they belong. Many of these characters are brand new to the series, but they feel familiar somehow and chalk that up to the competence of the writing.
Some familiar characters are featured. We get to see cameos by Felix and Cosima and we get a more substantial moment with Alison. You know those pills that Beth is constantly popping? Yeah, she gets them from our dear Alison (and the drug free pee for that matter), so Alison’s season three drug lord phase wasn’t exactly a new role for everyone’s favorite soccer mom. But these inclusions were simply to connect the episode with the present narrative as this episode is all Beth -and Maslany kills it. Maslany’s Beth is world weary, broken, brave, dedicated, tough and completely different than anything Maslany has played before. Mika (complete in her Wyatt Family sheep mask) is also new ground for Maslany, who plays the twitchy Mika with a paranoid edge that separates this newly introduced clone from Maslany’s previous characters.
Mika seems like she will be joining the sestras soon as she features into the episode’s stinger. Mika calls a modern day Sara to warn her that she has been found. Now, Sara and her daughter are in danger again, and the newly introduced Mika knows why.
So there is barely any Felix, Cosima, or Alison this week. There is no Helena, Mrs. S, Donnie, or Rachel. There is only a few seconds of Sara, but somehow, this episode is the most gripping and intense installment of Orphan Black that I’ve watched in years. You may think you’ll be disappointed that your favorites are nowhere to be seen, but relax, five minutes of watching Maslany playing Beth in the cop’s final days, you will be riveted.
Beth’s story is a tragic one, and thanks to some truly innovative and daring storytelling, now, we get to experience it.