Orphan Black: Season One
Four Stars (out of five)
2013. Full screen. Not Rated. Contains TV violence. Running time: Ten episodes of the first season. This was reviewed on Amazon Prime on May 10 to May 20, 2014.

On the advice of friends, I decided to see what Orphan Black was all about, and I’m glad I did. Making its premiere on the BBC/America channel, the series starts off with a street hustler named Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany) who meets a woman named Beth (Tatiana Maslany) who looks just like her on a train platform--just before Beth, who had removed her shoes, coat and pocketbook, steps out in front of a moving train, instantly killing herself. While she’s in shock at having met a woman who was her double in every way who just committed suicide, Sarah still has the presence of mind to take Beth’s pocketbook. Finding out where the dead Beth lives, Sarah assumes her identity in the hopes of getting some cash. But there’s a hitch.

What starts out as a gritty crime drama soon morphs into a grand science fiction thriller when Sarah discovers that Beth was not the only woman who looked like her. There are many others, and they, along with Beth, are clones who were created some thirty years ago for some unknown purpose. All of the clones, including the seemingly straight-laced scientist Cosima and the wonderfully neurotic Alison, are played by Tatiana Maslany in a marvelous acting job. Using split screen in some scenes, she’s often acting against herself, displaying two completely separate personalities that are so realistic that you easily forget you’re watching the same actress.

The fact that Maslany never even received an Emmy nomination for best actress in a series just shows what a crock the whole entertainment awards process really is, because she’s simply amazing here. She’s supported by a capable cast that includes Matt Fewer (Maxx Headroom), Maria Doyle Kennedy (The Commitments) as her foster mother, and Jordan Gavaris, who shines here as Sarah’s flamboyantly fun foster brother, Felix. The writing is sharp and suspenseful, with a few nice twists here and there, and the series never gets too dark; there’s plenty of funny moments mixed in with the intrigue. Maslany’s performance alone has made me glad I joined the clone club. --SF

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