Orphan Black debuted last year on BBC America to little recognition or fanfare, but picked up a cult following during its run that led to near-riots (in certain, mostly critical circles) that its star, Tatiana Maslany, wasn’t nominated for all of the acting awards available. This year, the audience should be bigger, and so is the pressure for the show to keep up its energy and intrigue.
The series is in some ways a drama disguised as sci-fi, although what makes it great is that it’s also wholly both. And in the upcoming season, Maslany’s portrayal of her many on-screen versions continues to be diverse, distinctive, and divine. Hit the jump for more on where things kick off in Season Two, and a video recap of Season One (and if you aren’t caught up, get so tout de suite!)
Before diving in, you might want to check out BBC America’s very helpful (and very short) Season One recap video.
One of the things that makes Orphan Black so excellent is that each clone is distinct, not just in mannerism and actions (a nod to Maslany’s great abilities), but also regarding their backstories. Street punk and grifter Sarah (who grew up a lot in the first season) is the antithesis of uptight housewife Alison (who always has many — occasionally murderous — surprises of her own). Scientist and PhD student Cosima’s rational thought is the opposite of the emotional and brainwashed Helena (who Sarah seemed to kill at the end of the first season, after Helena killed their birth mother). Yet they have their DNA in common, which creates a bond between most of them that, by the end of the first season, allowed them to work together to start to solve the mystery of their creation, and what it means.
The last known clone (who remains alive) is Rachel, who works for the Neolutionists and Dr. Leekie (Matt Frewer) and the Dyad Institute, and refers to herself as a “proclone.” Others (Katja, Danielle, Aryanna, Janika and Jennifer) are all dead — or presumed dead — from a respiratory illness that Cosima now also faces. Finally, Beth (whose death kickstarted the first season) leaves her legacy in the form of police detectives Art (Kevin Hanchard) and Angela (Inga Cadranel), who are very close to unraveling the truth. Like the clones themselves, everything is separate, yet also connects.
Those are just a few of the many threads that made up Orphan Black‘s first season, all of which are carried over into the second. We know the clones well enough now to not need much introduction, but the season premiere (the only episode released early by BBC America) does touch on some of these characters’ most familiar traits, in order to re-orient viewers. The same is true for those associated with the clones, including Sarah’s fantastic foster brother Felix (Jordan Gavaris), and the clone monitors, revealed last season to be Beth’s ex, Paul (Dylan Bruce), Alison’s husband Donnie (Kristian Bruun) and Cosima’s girlfriend Delphine (Evelyne Brochu).
Each of them get their moment in the premiere, setting up even more twists to come, but also further developing their depth, particularly regarding the exploration of emotions each of the clones has with them, with each other, and who they are (and their patented, synthetic DNA).
The villains from the first season also return, most notably the Prolethians, a religious extremist group who are zealously opposed to the work of the Neolutionists like Dr. Leekie and Dyad (and actively attempt to eradicate the clones). Dr. Leekie is no hero, though, and either of those two groups, or an unknown third, could be responsible for kidnapping Sarah’s daughter Kira, the event which ended the first season’s finale. “There are several forces vying for our fate,” Rachel tells Sarah.
Amid this is more action, drama, and unexpected humor from all of the stories, tied together by Maslany’s excellent performance of so many versions of herself. Orphan Black has a lot to live up to in the second season, but its introduction of new scenarios and twists with the old foes is a promising way to start. Issues of identity, loyalty, and nothing short of the very meaning of life are all deftly explored. Clone Club is back, and it couldn’t come soon enough.
Orphan Black‘s second season premieres Saturday, April 19th at 9 p.m. ET on BBC America.