Because I am a good friend, I have encouraged a dear pal of mine to start watching Orphan Black. Because I am a selfish friend, I’ve demanded to be there for every moment of it. I do understand, however, that most of you will not experience me showing up at your house (with snacks- I take TV night seriously) to hold your remote hostage until we’ve gone through this entire roller-coastery adventure together, so I’ll use my time here to attempt to convince you that if you’re not watching Orphan Black, you’re making a huge mistake. If you’ve already seen Orphan Black (the first season ended in June but it's out on DVD), watch it again. You know you want to and it’s actually better the second time around. Let’s face it, you’re all bummed you finished binge watching Orange is the New Black. There is hope, and her name is Tatiana Maslany.
1. Tatiana Maslany
It would be easy to make a joke here about how all five reasons I’m about to offer up here are Tatiana Maslany. I’m sure some other list has already done that. To be honest, it would be perfectly valid and insanely easy to write a thesis on Tatiana’s performance --why it’s the best on television in years (if not ever), and why the Emmys are rendered useless this year for not nominating her. If you’re completely unfamiliar with Orphan Black, it’s about a young woman, Sarah Manning, who discovers she’s one of many clones. Tatiana plays all of the clones with near flawless differentiation that’s so engrossing you’ll often forget she’s acting in a scene with herself about 50% of the time. When you do remember she’s acting in a scene with herself about 50% of the time, you’ll have to pause for a second and sit on your couch while you contemplate how one person can be so mind-blowingly talented. Get used to it, you’ll be doing this a lot.
2. The Clones
This may seem obvious in a show about clones, but it would be rude of me not to give some praise here. Let’s just talk about accents for a second. In real life, Tatiana is Canadian. Sarah, the main character, is British. Katja, one of the other clones, is German. Clone Helena (spoilers, she doesn’t come in till episode 3) is Ukrainian, Alison is Canadian, and Cosima is American.
Not only does Tatiana nail each unique voice in a way that forced me to YouTube an interview with her again just to make sure she isn’t actually British, but the clones often have to pretend to be one another. This means one clone may struggle with another’s dialect or physicality. You’ll definitely know when Helena is trying to act like Beth, or Sarah’s pretending to be Katja. Alison’s just a little harder to tell, but that’s because she draws from previous stage-acting experience, and even then you’re just watching Alison “theater act” like Sarah. The scene where British Sarah decides to assume the identity of Canadian Beth, a clone she saw commit suicide (this isn’t a spoiler, it’s the show’s premise), is basically an acting lesson in itself. It feels wrong to say this is impressive because it’s one Tatiana becoming another Tatiana. This is Sarah becoming Beth, and that’s why it’s brilliant.
It’s not only in speech where the clones are differentiated. Each has her own personalized physicality, ranging from the uptight rigidity of soccer mom Alison to the loose-cannon craziness that is Helena. Still, I was never more impressed in my re-watch then when I could tell which clone Sarah was talking to by voice over the phone. How could I have thought that was Alison the first time around? It was definitely Cosima. And then I remember, it’s the same actress. If this all sounds complicated, I promise it’s not. It’s just something you’ll have to see/hear to believe. Damn it, Emmys, you really dropped a ball here. I am never getting over this.
3. Jordan Garvis’ character Felix.
See? I’m not just going to rant about Tatiana Maslany. There are other actors on the show (albeit few), and Jordan plays up to the very high bar beautifully as Sarah’s doting foster brother, without whom she’d probably be dead. Felix is an openly gay and shamelessly flamboyant artist who lives in a loft, and while on paper his character may seem like an offensive stereotype, Jordan manages to give Felix a unique heart and passionate personality that proves you don’t need to sell out to a stereotype or run away from it as fast as you can to have an openly gay character on TV. His dedication to family and love for his sister provide most of the Orphan Black’s soul, not to mention he’s responsible for what might be the best scene in the entire show. All I’m saying is Felix is welcome to babysit my children any day.
You thought you were rooting for Piper and Alex to get together, just wait till you meet Cosima and Delphine. I don’t want to go too deeply into this as it will spoil many a plot point, but there are many chemistry puns to be explored when these sexy scientists finally heat things up. I’m not exactly sure what’s considered a normal level of getting invested in a fictional couple, but I’m still on edge about how things left off in the season finale, and that happened a month ago. Cosima, the dreadlocked, pot-smoking science student clone, also wins the award for character I most want to be friends with, and by ‘be friends with’ I mean get married to in a scenic mountain lodge. Cosima and Delphine are also responsible for my not knowing who basically anyone I follow on Tumblr is anymore as nearly all my friends have matching Cosima/Delphine-related icons and URLs. I must admit, I’m a victim of this trend as well. They’re just too cute. Don’t trust me? Google Evelyne Brochu. And if you haven’t googled Tatiana Maslany yet I’ve done something very wrong in this article.
5. Damn good TV
And do you really need another reason? Orphan Black is a sci-fi show that somehow manages to exist entirely in our reality and it has killer cliffhangers that will leave you not wanting, but needing more. It’s complicated, but not beyond the intellect of the scientifically uninformed. The protagonists are sympathetic, heart-wrenching, passionately driven people who have so many flaws you’ll try to yell at them to make better life choices while also wanting to hug them and tell them all the mistakes they’ve made are going to turn out okay. Even the side characters with barely fifteen minutes of screen time are memorable (do not even get me started on Aynsley). Orphan Black is not just a TV show, it’s an experience that’s rare and awesome. Lucky for you, season one just got released on DVD, and season 2 is on track for 2014. You deserve good TV. You deserve Orphan Black. As for the Emmys, they clearly don’t deserve Tatiana, but next year they better step up their game. Now what are you doing still reading this article? There’s binge watching to be done!