Orphan Black S1 Ep1: Natural Selection

Send in the clones

Orphan Black is a superior clone of Ringer, with a side helping of Alias and a hint of The Boys From Brazil.

This opening episode starts – literally – with a wallop and accelerates smoothly through the gears with multiple twists and turns.

The twin dilemma

Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany) sees Beth Childs, a woman who looks exactly like her, commit suicide by jumping in front of an oncoming train. Sarah is a former foster child with a gay foster-brother, Felix, and an abusive, coke-dealing ex, ‘Vic the Dick’. She absconded ten months previously – we’re left to wonder why – leaving her daughter Kira behind with her foster-mother.

After opportunistically swiping Beth’s bag and assuming she must have been her twin sister, Sarah discovers she has $75,000 in a recently opened bank account. She adopts Beth’s identity to get her hands on the cash, hoping to set up a new life with Felix and Kira. So far, so Ringer (the frankly awful vehicle in which Sarah Michelle Gellar played twin sisters).

The revelations pile on thick and fast as Sarah discovers more about Beth’s life.

She’s called repeatedly by ‘Art’, who turns out to be Detective Arthur Bell. She’s a detective herself (and Art’s partner), suspended pending an in-the-line-of-duty shooting in which she killed a civilian. Her safety deposit box contains the birth certificates of two other women, Katja and Alison. She’s been on meds for something.

It’s quickly apparent that Beth’s background is just as shady as Sarah’s.

Send in the clones?

And then the story takes a sudden veer when Sarah meets the red-headed Katja, who also looks identical to her – and then gets a bullet in the head.

Which leaves us with more questions than answers. Not twins, not triplets, but clones? (The DNA double helix in the series’ title certainly suggests so.) Is Alison another one? Why did Sarah suddenly run away for ten months? Where did Beth’s $75,000 come from? Who killed Katja, and why?

This opening episode sets up the ongoing story with some style, with multiple mysteries running and a machine-gun sequence of reveals that constantly alter the viewer’s expectations.

Okay, Sarah and Felix’s English accents are from the Dick van Dyke school of dodgy – but the success of this show lies more with the mysteries staying one step ahead of the viewers and Maslany’s ability to sell her multiple characters as distinctly different. We only see Beth and Katya fleetingly here, but so far so good.

Clone count

Sarah Manning: Currently posing as Beth.

Elizabeth Childs: Police detective, deceased.

Katja Obinger: German, deceased.

Alison Hendrix: Possible clone, unknown.

This could get confusing. Hang on to your hats, wigs and other character-defining accoutrements …

This review was originally posted on Metro.co.uk.

4 Comments on Orphan Black S1 Ep1: Natural Selection

  1. Fantastic! Have you had reviews up on Metro before? I’ve missed those if you have. Do they not let you have a link back to your blog from there?

    • Nope, this was my first review (and they don’t link back, sadly – but, hey, they pay). I’ve been signed up by them to contribute to their TV blogs, so there will hopefully be a regular stream of content from me on their website for the foreseeable future. It takes my writing skills in a slightly new direction, so I’m looking forward to the challenge!

  2. Well done.

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