A TV Show I Would Love to Love — Orphan Black

Category: Dramatic Presentation / Short Form
Slates: None

It’s hard to make up my mind about Orphan Black. I think there are two very good reasons for loving the show and — sadly — one that reduces my enthusiasm quite a bit. Here they are:

Why it’s good #1: Technically, it’s a work of art. The concept is great and having the same actor play so many different characters (who are clones) makes terribly clever use of the possibilities of the medium. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Tatiana Maslany is tremendously good with all the roles.

Why it’s good #2: Space is given for different levels of moral ambiguity — especially with female characters. Some people central to the story played by Maslany include, for example, a substance abusing and murderous housewife, a brainwashed lunatic assassin and a lowlife hustler teen mother, who are all presented more or less positively. Something like that is so rare in TV entertainment (even though it shouldn’t be) that it’s almost enough to make any series great.

Why it’s not so good: While watching Orphan Black, I’m annoyed by the same thing that made it hard to really like Heroes. Each episode is meant to reveal something new and complicate things further, but after a certain point it all just becomes a complicated mess. Fanatic murderers turn sympathetic characters in the next episode, and sympathetic characters are revealed to be sinister some way or the other, the monitors of the clones seem to be swithing allegiance every week, and so on. Tables keep on turning (and reversing the last turn) and that gets tiring after some time. Orphan Black lacks some consistency and I’m not sure if the scriptwriters (different in every episode) are really taking the show in the same direction.

Furthermore, when you begin to think about certain plot twists, they start to make less and less sense. For example, in this Hugo-nominated episode (“By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried”) there’s an elaborate plot to get the captured Sarah Manning a gun (with which she then kills Rachel Duncan) and a drawing by her kid (that explains how she is supposed to use the DIY device). However, all that seems completely unnecessary, because the protagonists had already struck a deal with the female Dyad executive a ladder up who seems to have access to everywhere and who probably would have been able to save them in the first place. Or at the very least that is how I interpreted what was going on. Rather than revealing what different characters have the power to do in the world of the show and sticking to that, the people putting Orphan Black together rely on keeping the audience somewhat in the dark, so it’s hard to say for certain how things really are.

So, making sure the story logic holds water would improve this TV series that is, in my opinion, already very good.

Score: 8/10


5 thoughts on “A TV Show I Would Love to Love — Orphan Black

  1. gregm91436

    Minor correction: I may have misread your question about OB having different screenwriters, but, if it’s anything like an American TV show, Orphan Black’s seasonlong overall thrust would have been worked out by creators (and, I assume, showrunners) Graeme Mason and John Fawcett; after everyone on the writing staff group-outlined episodes in the room, various writers would’ve been sent off to turn an outline into an individual script. After turning in the script, it would have then been revised by Mason before filming, so it’s not like there’s a tug of war going on–the writers are all on the same page. Whether or not that page is *clear* to audiences of course is another question entirely…


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