Single mom Sarah Manning and her “sister clones” continue their desperate search for answers as the critically acclaimed thriller Orphan Black returns for its second season, tonight on BBC America.
Produced in Canada, the series moves at a breathless pace as it chronicles Sarah’s (Tatiana Maslany) dangerous adventures, which began the night she watched in horror on a nearly deserted subway platform as Beth Childs, a woman who looked just like Sarah, calmly threw herself in front of a speeding train.
Destitute, Sarah decided to steal the dead woman’s identity, not knowing that Beth was a local police detective. Worse, and far more puzzling, Sarah eventually discovered that there were many more women out there with her face, laboratory-engineered clones produced for an unknown purpose by unknown persons.
By the end of Season 1, Sarah had befriended two of these clones: Cosima Niehaus, a graduate student doing medical research in a bid to identify and cure the mystery malady that has hit her and many other clones, and Alison Hendrix, a very uptight suburban soccer mom. Their joint investigations eventually led Sarah to the Dyad Institute, the company that created them, which is partly run by icy “pro-clone” Rachel Duncan, the only one of their number who was raised self-aware of her genetic identity as a clone.
Tonight’s season premiere picks up where last season’s finale ended, with Sarah’s terrifying discovery that her young daughter, Kira (Skyler Wexler), and Sarah’s foster mother, Mrs. S. (Maria Doyle Kennedy), are missing from the home they were sharing. Sarah jumps to the conclusion that they’ve been kidnapped by the ruthless Rachel as part of her strategy to force Sarah to cooperate with the ongoing research at her institute.
Cosima, meanwhile, experiences failing health as she studies more and more medical data concerning the condition that killed the other clones. Elsewhere, Alison is struggling to keep her fragile emotions in check since realizing that she let a close friend die last season, thinking that the woman had some sinister connection to the Dyad Institute.
As if all this didn’t provide enough jeopardy for these primary female characters, Season 2 also introduces a bizarre group of religious extremists under the leadership of a charismatic rancher (Peter Outerbridge), who is utilizing yet another clone in some bizarre ritual. Other newcomers this season include Michelle Forbes as a formidable new power player at the Dyad Institute, Dutch actor Michiel Huisman (Nashville, Game of Thrones) as a man from Sarah’s past and Patrick J. Adams (Suits) as a gutsy, good-natured guy.
But can Sarah, Alison and Cosima trust any of these people? That’s one of the most pressing questions that keeps popping up in every episode. Certainly Sarah had grown to trust Paul Dierden (Dylan Bruce, Arrow), her confidant and sometime lover last season, only to discover that he works for her Dyad nemesis Rachel. Cosima badly wants to trust Dr. Delphine Cormier (Evelyne Brochu), who has taken a very personal interest in Cosima’s case. While Delphine is looking fairly trustworthy at the moment, her boss, Dr. Aldous Leekie (Matt Frewer) definitely seems to be working his own secret agenda, which may or may not be helpful to the clone trio.
Clearly, Orphan Black doesn’t skimp on story, but for fans, the real kick of the show is watching the stunning Maslany so convincingly embody all the very disparate clone characters. It’s a true tour-de-force, since the actress has come up with distinctive looks, accents, physical tics and personal styles for each of these characters. Orphan Black also utilizes state-of-the-art computer techniques allowing Maslany to occupy the screen as several different characters simultaneously, even appearing to physically touch and otherwise interact with one another. Even as part of your brain is nudging you, demanding to know how Maslany is pulling it off, another part is fully accepting the fact that you are seeing multiple females instead of just a single incredibly gifted actress.
If you missed Season 1, it’s probably not a good idea to try to jump into this new season of Orphan Black cold, but Season 1 currently is available via a number of On Demand services, as well as free streaming to Amazon Prime members. But I do wholeheartedly recommend this audaciously original series. It’s like nothing else on television right now.