I have a complaint to make about BBC America’s innovative science fiction- feminist-clone-conspiracy-mystery-thriller-comedy Orphan Black, Season Four. This is a big complaint, people! So listen up: not enough chocolate mousse in the dish, you guys!
Seriously, Season Four has only ten episodes and next Thursday is the finale. I am devastated.
If you like science fiction, thrillers, dark comedies, excellent writing, quirky characters and characters whose boundaries of acceptable behavior are far beyond yours (or, at least, I hope they are), fine acting and a degree of acting that exceeds any superlative and moves into the category of “stunt,” meant with complete admiration, then you must watch Orphan Black. If you haven’t seen it, find a way to watch all the way through from Season One. Really. This is not a show where you can come in from the middle and pick things up.
Every time I watch the credits for Orphan Black I have a moment when I fume silently that there aren’t enough women in the credits. How can that be? And then I remember and laugh. Most of the characters are women. They’re played by one actor, and she is certainly in the credits. Tatiana Maslany deserves an Emmy or a Golden Globe or something, but, really, those awards don’t deserve her. There should be a new award designed for the degree of acting Maslany demonstrates on this show, playing six more or less “regular” characters and up to five or six others who appear now and then. Maslany’s characters are clones, part of secret project called Project Leda. In Season Four they tell us that as far as the “sisters” know, there are twenty-two of them in existence.
Maslany, however, is surrounded by actors like Kevin Hanchard, who plays police detective Art Bell, Jordan Geravis as Felix, the brother of the first clone we met, Sarah (they grew up in foster care together); Kristian Bruun as the husband of uptight-surburbanite clone Alison; Maria Doyle Kennedy as Siobhan, known usually as Mrs S or S, a quiet, protective and deeply scary person. Remember in an earlier paragraph I talked about characters whose boundaries of acceptable behavior go way beyond yours? S sprang to mind. Maslany is some kind of brilliant, but without these gifted actors grounding her the show would be more of a mere stunt.
After wandering pretty far afield in Season Three, Orphan Black came back to its roots in Season Four; thematically and literally, returning to ask and answer (and refuse to answer) key questions about the origins of the Leda Project, and the motives of the project’s creators. Whether it’s the grim comedy of the twisted surburban life of Alison and Donnie, parents, community leaders (Alison is on the school board), murderers (or as Alison puts it, “We’re manslaughters,”) and former drug dealers — because one has to fund one’s school-board campaign somehow–; the scene of Felix and Donnie playing a couple as they go undercover at a sinister fertility clinic; any moment where the new clone Crystal is onscreen, Orphan Black gives us over-the-top drama, laugh-out-loud comedy, science that is frighteningly plausible even as it’s totally science-fictional, and characters, as bizarre as they are, that we care about.
Next week this season finishes up and I’ll have to wait until 2017 to find out what happens. Not fair! More chocolate mousse please. Now.