For two seasons, it has been simultaneously frustrating and fascinating watching BBC America’s “Orphan Black”. While the incredible work of Tatiana Maslany as several genetic clones of the same person has been nothing short of a master class of acting, the series around her filled with scientific organizations, cults that have spread up around them, and trying to figure out just who is on whose side has been incredibly confusing. I defy even the most rabid followers of the series to try and explain in a simple paragraph what the hell was going in the last season. (Indeed, one wonders if the fact that certain characters in the series – Sara’s foster brother, Felix, the most obvious – are acting fed up with being dragged back into the madness, may be a nod to the fans who are beginning to feel similarly frustrated.)
Which is why the opening of Season 4 may be just the shot in the arm that the series has been looking for. We find ourselves examining the life of Beth, the police officer’s whose suicide set into motion the events that started the series. The episode basically examined the last couple of weeks of Beth’s life, and it was clear that she was heading for a fall before everything got started, drinking too much, snorting prescription drugging, and wiring her apartment to spy on her boyfriend. She was still trying to help her fellow sisters, most notably Cosima and Allison, but it’s now clear that she’s been following the advice of an informant, a woman who wore a sheep’s mask, and went by the initials “M.K.” The last case she investigated may have had something to do with Dyad, the evil corporation that has been manipulating them since the beginning, and while we’re still not clear on the details, the last thing she found out may have been too much for her already shaky mindset to bear.
Meanwhile, Sara returns from hiding in Iceland with her foster mother and her biological mother after being alerted by M.K. Determined to finally find out whatever it was Beth knew, she begins backtracing the last days of her ‘sister’. This has already led her into a confrontation with M.K. and the almost certain possibility that she has been ‘tagged’ by Dyad.
Things are not going much better for her ‘sisters’ either. Cosima has been undergoing gene therapy for the disease she has been suffering from for nearly two seasons, a difficult task considering she and her colleagues have been locked out, and that her handler/lover Delphine was executed in the third season finale. Helena is still dealing with her pregnancy in season 2, and it has just been revealed that she
is carrying twins, and that this pregnancy could be more difficult than people have imagined.
Admittedly, one is always watching this series for Maslany more than anything else, and her work as Beth this season makes it very clear how right the Emmy judges were in finally nominating her last season. But for the first time in nearly two years, the show surrounding her has been a lot more comprehensible. Stripping away all of the cults that bothered the series so much the last year and sticking with Sara’s determination “to get to the end of this “sh–” seems like the show is getting back to basics. For a series that has been bordering on the worst aspects of Canadian sci-fi with few of the benefits, this is the best sign we’ve had in awhile.
Orphan Black: 3.5 stars.
Maslany (as always): 5 stars.
Average; 4.25 stars.