Rethinking Season 2 of Orphan Black

Copyright 2014 by BBC America
Copyright © 2014 by BBC America

When I first started watching Orphan Black, I was fascinated not only with the premise, but with the wonderful acting of Tatiana Maslany, who has had to portray at least six different characters, each with her own accent and definite personality. But as the show’s gone on, I’ve come to question whether or not I’m still a big fan. I was left breathless at the end of Season 1, but as Season 2 began, I felt less sure.

Drama isn’t an easy thing to get right sometimes. I love shows like Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad, but for me, the dramatic element isn’t always present like it is in Orphan Black. So I have to wonder, why do I still watch this show?

Here’s a list of my reactions to the ongoing series. I suppose, as a courtesy to some readers, I should mention that there are some spoilers for Season 2 below.

The Good:

  • Tatiana Maslany continues to pull off an impressive range of characters, including the new “pro-clone” Rachel Duncan
  • New conspirators bring some depth to the overall plan involving the clones, specifically tied to the issue of health and fertility
  • Art is in on the secret and turned into a legitimate ally for once
  • Mrs. S continues to be a warm yet fearsome ally for Sarah and Kira

The Bad:

  • Almost every scene brings a dramatic twist or sudden dilemma as the preferred method of character development
  • No one seems ready or smart enough to call out the B.S. on the Dyad Institute’s supposed genetic patent
  • Allison’s whole subplot continues to be about her slow emotional breakdown in suburbia, unconnected to the larger plot
  • Paul doesn’t seem to offer much to the plot at all anymore
  • The two conspiracies don’t seem to offer much except to find new ways to ruin the clones’ lives and freak out the audience

In short, I came for the science fiction and the character interactions, but I’m wavering because of the reliance on odd contrivances and questionable subplots. While the dueling Neolutionist and Prolethean conspiracies are always a treat, the weight of those plots can sometimes bear down a little too much on the show itself.

When it comes to a dramatic series like Game of Thrones, the war for the Iron Throne between rival houses is contrasted with the war in the north between the Night’s Watch and the White Walkers. But even then, the conflicts allow for quieter moments between different characters. We can watch Tyrion and Bronn have a chat without having to stage another big fight in King’s Landing, or see Daenerys Targaryen make a decision without immediately sacking another city in the east. The show is smart enough to keep its really big fights and dramatic twists closer to the end of each episode, instead of trying to jump-start action like Orphan Black does.

I think what also gets me is how the mayhem in Game of Thrones makes sense because the whole status quo is upset across two different continents. In the world of Orphan Black, a pair of extreme groups are failing to stay out of the limelight with all their murders and abductions, which makes me wonder why any police or federal authority hasn’t started a more serious investigation yet.

I’ll continue to follow on the progress made during this season, but for the time being, I’m taking a break with the show itself. It’s not because I don’t like its brand of drama, but that the dramatic turns and twists don’t really help me connect with anyone, neither clones nor conspirators. If anyone else wants to keep watching and enjoys Season 2 so far, then more power to you. I’ll stick with the snow and fires of Westeros, thank you very much.

New episodes of Orphan Black air every Saturday on BBC America.

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