Random Musings: Orphan Black is an engaging mystery

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If you haven’t been watching Orphan Black (Saturdays at 9 p.m. on BBC America), you’re missing out. This is an excellent show and its star, Tatiana Maslany, brilliantly carries off playing multiple characters (each with a different look, attitude, body language and accent).

Now in its second season (the season finale airs tonight), Orphan Black concerns a group of women who, until very recently, had never known of each other’s existence: Sarah Manning, a young British woman with a criminal past who was trying to start a new life; uptight “soccer mom” Alison Hendrix; PhD candidate Cosima Niehaus; religious fanatic Helena (no last name given); and corporate powerhouse Rachel Duncan.

These very different women— all played by Maslany— are shocked to discover that they’re clones and caught up in the machinations of corporate, medical and religious groups.

Well, most of them are shocked. Rachel always knew the truth and Helena, believing herself the original and that the others are abominations, killed a number of clones before the events of the series began.

Fortunately, Sarah, who has learned that Helena is her biological twin, has managed to curb Helena’s murderous impulses. They’ve even been on a road trip together.

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    (Helena and Sarah bond on a road trip. Photo courtesy BBC America).

    The first season opened with Sarah watching a woman who looks just like her step in front of a subway train. Grabbing the purse the woman— Beth Childs— left on the platform, Sarah decided to step into Beth’s life as a way of “disappearing.”

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    (Beth Childs about to commit suicide. Photo courtesy BBC America)

    Too bad for her Beth turned out to be a cop facing a disciplinary board for the shooting of an unarmed civilian.

    That was just the start of her troubles. Sarah’s scheme to impersonate Beth— reinforced by the realization that Beth had $75,000 in the bank— led her to become embroiled in the “Clone Club.”

And not just her. The revelation that Sarah is a clone has affected her daughter, Kira (Skyler Wexler); her foster brother, Felix Dawkins (Jordan Gavaris); and her foster mother, Mrs. S., AKA Siobhan Sadler (Maria Doyle Kennedy), who clearly knows more about what’s going on than she’s telling.

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(Sarah, Felix, Alison (on monitor) and Cosima discuss their mutual concerns. Photo courtesy BBC America).

    And, of course, the other clones’ lives have been turned upside down as well. Alison, believing her friend Aynsley Norris (Natalie Lisinska) was aware of her status as a clone and monitoring her, stood by and allowed Aynsley to die when her scarf got caught in a garbage disposal.

    She later learned that her own husband, Donnie (Kristian Bruun), was her monitor. A fact that has put a considerable strain on their marriage. One made worse by the fact that Donnie was in the dark about the true nature of the “sociological experiment” he believed was taking place.

Beth’s partner, Art Bell (Kevin Hanchard), now knows about the clones and has become an ally. As you might imagine, he was less-than-pleased when he learned that Beth was dead and that Sarah had stepped into her life.

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(Sarah-as-Beth talks with Art. Photo courtesy BBC America)

Unfortunately, Art’s current partner, Detective Angela DeAngelis (Inga Cadranel) is proving herself anything but an ally. She has taken it upon herself to investigate Alison, who, aside from resembling Sarah and Beth, has done nothing illegal so far as the police are concerned. DeAngelis has even recruited Sarah’s abusive ex-boyfriend, Vic, (Michael Mando), currently in rehab with Alison, to dig up dirt on her, with the promise that his own criminal charges would go away. Donnie Hendrix recently confronted the two, warning DeAngelis— who is clearly acting outside her authority— to stay away from his family.

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(Donnie Hendrix photographing Vic with Detective DeAngelis. Photo courtesy BBC America).

    Frankly, DeAngelis deserves whatever happens to her.

    Even as all this is taking place, the clones struggle to understand the nature of an illness that threatens to kill Cosima and which has already killed a clone named Jennifer Fitzsimmons. And would have killed a clone named Katya Obinger if Helena’s bullet hadn’t gotten to her first. Unfortunately for Cosima, Rachel is more than willing to withhold treatment in order to get what she wants from Sarah. In last week’s episode, Rachel even went so far as to impersonate Sarah to kidnap Kira.

Several mysteries abound in Orphan Black. We still don’t know why Beth committed suicide or how many clones there are. Or whether anyone will learn that Donnie Hendrix accidentally killed Dyad Institute Director Dr. Aldous Leakie (Matt Frewer). Or even whose side Paul Dierden (Dylan Bruce), Beth’s boyfriend and monitor, is really on.

Even if some of these questions are answered in tonight’s season finale, I’ve no doubt even more will be raised.

    If you like mystery stories, Orphan Black is a hell of a good one.

Copyright 2014 Patrick Keating

 

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