Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

Emmy Hopeful Tatiana Maslany Returns in 'Orphan Black' Season Two (TRAILER)

Television
by David Chute
April 22, 2014 3:11 PM
14 Comments
  • |
Tatiana Maslany as Sarah Manning
BBC America Tatiana Maslany as Sarah Manning

Last year, an awards-season backlash seemed to be developing against the underdog BBC America clone conspiracy drama "Orphan Black," even though the frontlash for this absorbing Canadian production, which kicked off its second season over the weekend, continues to gather steam. Could chameleon Tatiana Maslany pull off an Emmy nod this year when nominees are announced on July 10? (Reviews for the new season thus far are quite strong.)

Naysayers have suggested that the elaborately plotted show is too coyly fond of its own contrivances; that it races ahead and leaves its audience in the dust. To one commenter on Deadline, this post-meta playfulness typed the show as “hipsterish” and thus problematic for Emmy voters.

Initially, and rightly, a lot of the praise for the show settled on its Critics' Choice and Golden Globe-nominated star, the amazingly versatile Tatiana Maslany, who is instantly engaging as Sarah Manning, a kohl-eyed, British-accented punk. Witnessing the suicide in a Toronto subway station of a well-dressed career type who, apart from her neatly tailored suit looks exactly like her, Sarah impulsively decided to combat her own financial and child custody woes by stealing first the dead woman's purse and then her identity when the series began.

Making more out of a juicy multiple role that any actress since Sally Field, who scored a career breakthrough in 1976 in the mini-series "Sybil," Maslany's emotional transparency carries us smoothly into the lives of the five additional "genetic identicals," who burst into this narrative juggling act one after another, threatening disaster. Chief among them is the aforementioned Beth, who, inconveniently, turns out to be a Toronto cop, a tough lifestyle to fake. Corn-rowed Cosima is a brainy Minnesota graduate student; Alison a high-strung suburban soccer mom.

BBC America’s website also lists several instances in which clones impersonate one another:  "Sarah as Beth, Alison as Sarah, Sarah as Katja, Hanna as Sarah as Beth."

"Orphan Black" X 6
BBC America "Orphan Black" X 6

There are additional layers: Each of the clones has been assigned a "minder" whose identity is initially concealed, both from the clones and from the audience. And there are at least two sinister organizations at work behind the scenes, one pro- and one anti-clone. The presentation of Matt Frewer (“Max Headroom"), as the media-star pop scientist Dr. Aldous Leekie of The Dyad Institute, guru of the body-modifying “Neolution” movement, suggests that the creators of "Orphan Black" have studied the work of their clinical genius countryman, David Cronenberg.

Last season's "Variations Under Domestication" was pivotal. (The episode titles are quotations from Charles Darwin.) Alison’s house in suburban Scarborough, during a chirpy weekend potluck, fills up like Groucho’s stateroom in "A Night at the Opera" as clones, monitors, foster brothers, boyfriends, ex-boyfriends and nosy neighbors squeeze in, running up and down the stairs and in and out o bedrooms, snooping on CATV feeds. The culmination has housewife Alison passing out drunk so that cockney Sarah has to pull her hair back and play the role. This is storytelling as choreography.

"Orphan Black" is not the kind of smarty-pants show that flaunts its cleverness, that wants its audience to feel slow. Creators John Fawcett and Graeme Manson have front-loaded the set-up because they want to never be at a loss for something cool or startling to spring on us. They are sci-fi horror showmen relishing every ta-da. Every time a door opens on this show, practically, the storytelling takes off in a new direction.

“Orphan Black” plays its narrative games to the hilt, but purely to keep us amused, without a smirk -- and it's Maslany, fully committed to whichever role she's playing at any given moment, who keeps us engaged, who gives us something to hold onto. Name one other Actress in a Drama Series this or any season who has carried a show more definitively than she does. This is not the kind of work that really needs to be validated by an Emmy. More like the other way around.

14 Comments

  • littlebig | June 27, 2013 3:00 PMReply

    haven't had a chance to see this - sounds intriguing ... however, I think they're borrowing from The X-Files a bit (episode called "Eve 6" I think it was), where there were several clones of a woman called "Eve" - some of the clones were more normal than others and at least a couple of them were totally sociopathic. This show can be seen as a more detailed look at the subject of cloning humans I guess.

  • Linda Alesia | June 27, 2013 1:50 PMReply

    "Hanna as Sarah as Beth" Who's Hanna? Or did you mean Helena?

  • Cryst | June 27, 2013 12:36 AMReply

    What backlash? All I have read are a few people who are pushing someone else hard complaining mildly that she is getting so much attention. A commentor on Deadline does not equate much with a backlash. Just saying.

  • Phatandy | June 26, 2013 6:02 PMReply

    Orphan Black rock's. Tatiana is awesome. I love this "weird little show." Tatiana deserves all the praise she receives. I think some fans and critics who are fans of the other contenders are beginning to show their jealousy because nobody is talking about their favorites. Sometimes there are reason's for this. I haven't watched every show that the other actresses are in so I really can't compare. I don't have HBO, I don't watch soaps (Scandal), I love the Good Wife, started to watch the Americans and grew disinterested, Mad Men E Ross isn't really a lead. So for me it's Claire Danes vs Tatiana with Ms Danes the probable winner. But I really hope that Tatiana can score an upset because in my opinion her performance was unequaled this year.

  • Carla | June 26, 2013 6:00 PMReply

    Each clone is assigned a "monitor", not a "minder".

  • Alesia | June 27, 2013 1:51 PM

    They know not what they write!

  • Pam | June 26, 2013 6:34 PM

    Carla, it's the same thing. But it bugs me when the wrong word is used, too. :) Don't you just love Tatiana? She's just so amazaing!

  • Eoin Daly | June 26, 2013 5:57 PMReply

    Maslany's performance is so great you could fill up the lead actress in a drama series with ever character that she plays but since they are all played by her she gets one slot. Rachel is the newsest character introudced at the end and will probably play a bigger part in season 2. My favourite clone is Alison because she grew on me and her scenes opposite Felix are so great and what she did in the finale was shocking and just added another dimension to her. Of course I love the others and hope Helena is not dead.

  • DW Scott | June 26, 2013 5:00 PMReply

    I agree. Maslany is terrific, and I don't find the show to smug or coy or hipsterish at all. To the contrary, it's got a lot of heart. (Good piece--but can you please get your "it's" and "its" correct?)

  • shelly | June 26, 2013 4:40 PMReply

    "Name one other Actress in a Drama Series this or any season who has carried a show more definitively than she does." - Kerry Washington.

  • Tom Haverford | June 27, 2013 4:25 PM

    I get the feeling not even Kerry Washington would agree with this.

  • Whoo | June 26, 2013 8:58 PM

    Wow this made me laugh.

  • 324b21 | June 26, 2013 6:27 PM

    Yeah, no.

  • TK | June 26, 2013 5:53 PM

    This makes me doubt you've even seen Orphan Black.

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

Email Updates

Most "Liked"

  • Oscar Predicts Chart 2014Oscar Predictions 2015 UPDATE
  • First Gurus 'O Gold Pre-Festival Top ...
  • The Radical World of Avant-Garde Master ...
  • Participant Joins DreamWorks' Spielberg ...
  • Ben Kingsley's Tightrope with Mythology, ...
  • 'Birdman' Debuts at Venice to Rave Reviews: ...
  • Jake Gyllenhaal's 'Nightcrawler' Will ...
  • Sophia Loren to Receive Career-Honoring ...
  • Drafthouse and Participant Media Pick ...
  • Lake Bell Directs Again