Orphan Black: Variation Under Nature, Review

Three episodes in and we are still finding ourselves impressed.

It is not often a viewer gets to experience an ensemble cast played by one actor. This is the drawing point of Orphan Black. Tatania Maslany continues to impress with her ability to play a series of clones that are only distinctive through their clothes and through Maslany’s nuanced acting. This episode she, of course, plays Sarah, bitchy soccer mom Alison, dreadlocked science nerd Cosima, and Sarah pretending to be Beth, the cop who committed suicide in the first episode.  Maslany’s portrayal of Alison is straight backed and snotty, her Cosima is perky and sincere, and her Sarah is tortured and cheeky.  Maslany must play another clone by episode’s end, and this time she must stretch her acting muscles in order to portray a psychotic Russian clone who is revealed to be the clone hunting assassin.Maslany’s Sarah is a gripping to the audience because, as she is drawn deeper into the clone conspiracy, her urgent need to run away is palpable. All her life, Sarah has shunned responsibility, and now she is not only responsible for herself, but for unraveling the truth about and protecting her clones.  All Sarah wants is to clear out Beth’s ample bank account and go on the run with her delightfully queer brother Felix and her estranged daughter. To do so, Sarah must learn how to be a cop. From investigation, to shooting, to dealing with precinct politics, Sarah must walk that thin blue line in order to get her money back from Beth’s partner, the perpetually scowling Art. Despite herself, Sarah’s well honed street smarts might make her a better cop than Beth ever was, if she can figure out the proper way to wear a holster. In this episode, Art learns to respect Beth/Sarah, as Sarah saves his life from the Russian clone. Sarah’s potential seems to be only limited by her doubts and self imposed limitations. Sarah seems like a selfish character, but when soccer mom clone Alison points a gun at Felix, we get to see Sarah’s inner tigress emerge.Speaking of Alison, watching Felix babysit Alison’s kids is sheer comedic gold.”Mommy, we’re cross dressers” may be the TV line of the year.  Felix is more than just comic relief though, his reactions to Sarah’s plight humanizes the narrative. He is a relatable and daring character. He is not the stereotypical gay BFF that permeates today’s pop culture; he is an immoral vamp whose only redeeming quality is the loyalty to his foster sister.This show never sits still. Sometimes, it is a deeply modern sci-fi drama, sometimes, it is a pure cop show, sometimes, it is a look into British counter culture, but somehow the creative folk behind this show manage to dovetail the differentiated paths into a compelling whole. The idea of adding a villainous clone adds another layer to the proceedings. Maslany’s portrayal of this nutcase is disturbing. As Sarah, Maslany heats up the screen, as Alison, she has a certain MILF charm, as Cosima, she has a geek chic hotness, but the killer clone is stripped of all sensuality. Maslany emphasis a slopped brow and quivering lips as well as jerky and seemingly dangerous snake like movements. There is very little humanity in this clone, and Maslany’s blank expressions exude pain and hate.The show is beginning to flesh out the motivations of each clone. Alison’s purpose is to protect her kids. Sarah seems to deeply dislike Alison, yet Sarah could learn a thing or two about parenting before she tries to find a life with her own daughter. Cosima seems to be consumed with solving the clone’s biological origins, while Sarah wants to separate herself from all responsibility and run.This episode reveals that Alison and Cosima recruited Beth because they needed a detective to help them find out the truth behind their creation. Cosima hints that Beth became overwhelmed by the situation which led to her suicide. This is an ominous not for Sarah, who was overwhelmed with problems before she found out she was a clone. Beth WAS a cop. She was trained to deal with high stress situations, yet she was overwhelmed to the point of self destruction. It is a testament to Sarah that the deeper she gets, the more she instinctively wants to run, yet she still is able to survive and thrive where the highly trained Beth could not.This show could go in any direction. It could be a cop show where Sarah must become a better cop than Beth ever was while solving crimes with Art. It was really cool to watch Sarah, who is clueless in all matters cop, bumble her way through a case, while ultimately winning Art’s respect through her engrained toughness and survival instincts. By episode’s end, Sarah gets the money back from Art, but instead of abducting her daughter and running, Sarah follows the more difficult, but righteous path in staying within the system in order to reunited with her daughter.It seems, above all else, that Orphan Black is the story of a broken girl who learns to be a hero. She is incapable of saving herself, so she’ll just have to save people exactly like her.
The good:
Cosima is just so freakin’ cute.Felix’s babysitting service.Art finally coughed up the dough.Alison being taken down a peg. 
The bad:
Beth’s plank like ex who seems to show up just as an excuse to have Maslany sex up the screen. 
The ugly:
Crazy Russian assassin’s chick’s back.The dead mushroom people on Hannibal, I know, I know, what the heck does that have to do with this review? I watched it after Orphan Black on DVR and I’m still so skeeved I just had to mention it.