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Can "Orphan Black's" Second Season Clone the First's Success?

Photo of Sam Adams By Sam Adams | Criticwire April 18, 2014 at 2:52PM

Can the clone-crazy series sustain its momentum now that it's no longer a surprise?
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Tatiana Maslany in "Orphan Black"
Tatiana Maslany in "Orphan Black"

In the gap between its first season and its second, which starts Saturday on BBC America, "Orphan Black" became something of a cause for TV critics, their ardor for the show intensified by lead Tatiana Maslany's failure to secure an Emmy nomination. It's certainly one of the most challenging roles on television, or rather they are, since Maslany plays several genetically identical but otherwise widely distinct clones who are only beginning to understand first why they exist, and second, why someone is trying to kill them off. I'm still slogging through the early episodes -- I've been assured Season 1 picks up in the back half, if you're mired in similar straits -- but pretty much every critic who's weighed in so far gives "Orphan Black's" Season 2 a high recommend. (Incidentally, the entirety of Season 1 is free to stream for Amazon Prime members, and it's also running on BBC America several times through tomorrow morning.)

Tim Goodman, Hollywood Reporter

Comes out of the gates as strong as ever, picking right up where season one left off and allowing Maslany to thrill anew with her impressive acting chops. The series proved early on that it had more heft and substance than you might expect and managed to be entertaining and smart week to week.

Andy Greenwald, Grantland

Emboldened by their crazy luck in getting "Orphan Black" off the ground in the first place, Manson and Fawcett know better than to jinx themselves by slowing down now. The first season blew through more plot than most shows attempt in a lifetime; the second feels even more ambitious.

Maureen Ryan, Huffington Post

If you're attracted to the simmering, semi-grimy atmosphere and the tick-tock storytelling, Season 2 of "Orphan Black" may well be everything you dreamed of. If you are greatly attracted to those hangout moments, though, the first few episodes of the new season may require an adjustment or two.

Todd VanDerWerff, the A.V. Club

"Orphan Black's" greatest flaw has always been its elaborate mythology and backstory, which the program is generally good at parceling out in bits and pieces, but which occasionally threatens to take over the show wholesale. Still, it's better than almost any show on TV at feeling like it’s constantly building toward something, no matter how perilous and rickety its structure becomes. 

Jeff Jensen, Entertainment Weekly

Now in its second season, "Orphan Black" remains high-order lo-fi sci-fi, brilliantly engineered for dynamic multiplicity -- feminist allegory, conspiracy thriller, cheeky satire -- electrified by Tatiana Maslany's all-star performance(s). 

Margaret Lyons, Vulture

The show is terrific. It's original and confident, beautifully acted and perfectly paced. There's the sinister international-conspiracy stuff, decent action sequences, and the fun kind of violence, but maybe more important, the show also has a sense of humor. It's not all sad ladies and anonymous, cloudy Canadian backdrops! The show contains multitudes.

Willa Paskin, Slate

"Orphan Black" is a showcase for a staggeringly great performance from Tatiana Maslany, who plays every one of the show's clones with such precision and specificity it can be hard to remember she is just one person. Maslany’s performance is, however, a bit like truffle fries arriving in a Happy Meal: It is much more sophisticated than everything else around it. "Orphan Black" has a decidedly B-TV vibe.

Phelim O'Neill, the Guardian

Orphan Black is an amazing showcase for Maslany's talents: skills that few could match even if given the opportunity. It's the sort of performance that will never become commonplace, extraordinary and remarkable enough to warrant a few hours of your time.

Geoff Berkshire, Variety

The creatives may consider the clone-on-clone action a neat trick, but it would be wise to script the encounters sparingly or risk blunting their impact altogether.

Alan Sepinwall, HitFix

"Orphan Black" didn't need lowered expectations to impress me yet again. I've seen four episodes of season 2 and they're a lot of fun. And though the quality of the show's no longer a surprise, the creative team still manages to take us into unlikely new places.


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