Orphan Black: “Nature Under Constraint and Vexed” Season 2 Episode 1 Review

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BBC America’s hit clone series returns with an explosive premiere and some interesting surprises.

When we last left our beloved Clone Club, things weren’t looking so bright. Sarah had lost her birth mother, shot her clone sister Helena, and come home to find her daughter Kira and Mrs. S missing. Allison confronted her neighbor Aysnley about being her monitor–which turned out to be a false accusation–and then watched her choke to death. Meanwhile, Cosima returned home only to discover she was suffering from the same blood disease as The German.

With the stakes set this high, season 2 has a lot to live up to. Luckily, the premiere episode takes the series’ ambitious demeanor and turns it up a notch. We’re dropped right back into the action as we see Sarah desperately trying to find her family.  As she sits down at a diner and attempts to contact her fellow clones, we can already feel the tension mounting. Two strange men walk in. They appear to be Dyad henchmen, but aren’t really dressed in the same sleek outfits as the rest of their would-be counterparts. Almost in a flash, one of them shoots the diner cook, causing his shotgun to go off and shoot one of them. Sarah, always pushing herself out of tight corners, literally pushes herself out of the restaurant by banging down the bathroom wall with a fire extinguisher. It’s quite a sequence to take in, and this is just the cold open.

Over the course of the hour, we get to catch up with each of the clones. Cosima is back in the fold now, which should make for more compelling subplots from her character. It’s not that she wasn’t compelling last season, but her location change made her feel a bit disconnected from the central action at hand. Now she’s back, trying to figure out whether or not she can really trust the Dyad Institute with her research. Of course, the person she should really be worried about is Delphine. The two seem closer than ever, but Delphine remains in constant contact Dr. Leekie, even handing over one of Cosima’s blood samples to him, which smells like a whole lot of trouble.

There’s a reason Allison is my favorite of the clones, and this episode continued to prove why. Out of all of them, she’s the most multifaceted. I love the fact that a suburban soccer mom who’s excited about getting the lead in the community musical–aka the most bizarre musical I’ve ever seen…it ain’t Cats!–is the same person who’s friends with a guy named Ramone who sells guns and drugs out of the trunk of his car. Allison’s subplots have often blended family drama with a welcome dose of humor, and I can’t wait to see more.

Of course, despite the ensemble cast, this is really Sarah’s show. Her plot takes over most of the episode, and delves deeper into the origin story of how these clones came to be. Throughout everything, we see just how resourceful her character his, and how she’s unwilling to take things lying down.

She has a few other allies, besides her clone sisters, in her fight against Dyad. Felix continues to help out any way he can, while adding in his signature touch of humor. The fact that Sarah found him high in a gay club, wearing assless chaps because he “didn’t know there was gonna be a huge emergency” was pretty priceless. Paul also tries to aid her, but he’s often blocked by his obligations to Dyad. Still, there’s a lot of chemistry between him and Sarah, and I’m hoping their relationship gets revisited this season.

Sarah’s story also introduces us to the newest clone Rachel, who we briefly met at the end of last season. I have a feeling we’re going to be learning a lot more about her now, but the glimpses we get in this episode are very interesting. Unlike the other clones, she’s very invested in the Dyad, and infuses chilling professionalism into everything she does. Her fight with Sarah towards the end of the episode is exciting, and also very telling. As Rachel is pushed to the ground, she says, “Nobody lays hands on me.” Clearly, she feels she’s above the others.

Sarah’s plot also lends itself to a few shocking surprises. Orphan Black is no stranger to twisty narratives, and continues to show excellence in their big reveals. As it turns out, the Dyad Institute didn’t kidnap Kira and Mrs. S. A group of religious extremists called Prolethians were behind the attack, and they were also the ones who confronted Sarah in the diner. These are Helena’s people. Oh, by the way, Helena is very much alive. Well, very much might be an overstatement considering she bloodily stumbled into a hospital, but she’s not down for the count. At first I was a little perturbed by this development because I thought her shooting in the finale was an incredibly bold move. I’m willing to let it slide, though, only because Orphan Black is such a smart show, and I have faith they’ll use her character wisely.

If I were to describe the premiere in a word, it would be “impressive.” It’s very impressive how the writers are able to effortlessly handle such layered storytelling without everything collapsing in on itself. The thrilling nature of the plot and the complexity of the characters have shown no signs of strain.

Equally as impressive is Tatiana Maslany, who deserves every bit of praise she receives. Once again, she flawlessly slips into each of her clone roles, even briefly playing a clone impersonating another clone. My favorite scene from the episode is when Cosima and Sarah are together, talking to Allison on video chat. Her command over the each of the characters is so strong, that I often forget it’s really one person playing off herself. This kind of acrobatic acting is rarely seen on television, which makes me so glad to settle in for another season of this show. I know it’s going to be a wild ride. Grade: A

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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