‘Orphan Black’ throws a switch and makes it work

orphan black cast

If you’re not watching “Orphan Black” … why not?

The BBC America show, in the middle of its second season, is consistently satisfying and, in most episodes, surprising.

Really surprising.

The premise: A tough young woman on the wrong of the law, Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) is shocked to see a woman step in front of a train and kill herself. Sarah is even more shocked that the woman, who she later learns is Beth, a cop, looked exactly like her.

Sarah, aided by her foster brother, Felix (Jordan Gavaris), discovers that she and Beth were clones, part of a decades-long experiment to create human life. They quickly meet other members of the Clone Club, including Alison, a high-strung soccer mom, Helena, a Russian assassin, and Cosima, a geek-girl scientist.

And all the clones – are we up to a dozen by now, several episodes into the second season? – are played by Maslany.

The show could be seen as a stunt, and does have great special effects that finds Maslany playing against herself as another clone in almost every episode.

But the stunt falls away quickly as you discover that Maslany is an amazing actress, capably of bringing each of these characters to life, and not just through accents and wigs. She inhabits these diverse personas.

In last night’s episode, the show introduced another close: Tony, a transgender, testosterone-injecting tough guy, and yes, Maslany played him with scraggly beard and mullet.

Maslany is wonderful but there’s not a false note in the cast. Gavaris is amazing as Felix and the producers have long since discovered that Felix plus any other character is magic. His scenes with Beth’s partner on the force, Art (Kevin Hanchard), or Alison are some of the best on TV right now.

There’s a sense of urgency and dread in current episodes, as Cosima works to discover a cure for the genetic defect that’s killing her and the other clones. There’s intrigue at the corporation that created the clones and don’t forget the horrible religious cult that covets the clones.

It might seem like a lot to catch up on, but it’s still possible. And “Orphan Black” is more than worth the effort.


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