Not only is it one heck of a challenge playing multiple characters on the same show, but poor Ari Millen has the added pressure of keeping up with clone queen Tatiana Maslany. Maslany still hasn’t won the Emmy she deserves, but she did score a nomination and two Critics Choice wins for her performance as Sarah, Alison, Cosima, Helena and more on BBC America’s Orphan Black. Now the question is, can the show do it again?
At the end of the second season, Orphan Black raised the stakes big time by introducing a second set of clones – Project Castor. Now, not only is Millen portraying Mark, the former Prolethean who runs off with Gracie, but he’s also playing Rudy, Seth and Miller as well. Did Graeme Manson and John Fawcett actually manage to track down another outstanding talent capable of creating a multitude of convincing clones? We’re only three episodes into the new season, but at this point, I think they really might have done it.
Millen did a solid job throughout season 2 and immediately made me curious about Rudy when he was first revealed, but the moment that got me thinking that Millen could really bring his clones to Maslany’s level was the threesome in “Transitory Sacrifices of Crisis.” The scene was an impressive technical achievement that rocked spot-on camera movements to give the moment an especially eerie quality, but what made it more than a neat visual trick was Millen’s performance. Not only did he manage to solidify Rudy and Seth as two different people, but he also started to build their devout yet complicated relationship.
After proving he could handle a particularly powerful single episode arc that involved two of his clones, he went on to achieve something that Maslany does particularly well, something that helps keep Orphan Black firmly afloat. Yes, it’s vital for the show to sell material featuring two or more clones in the same room, but Orphan Black also has a habit of splitting the clones up and jumping from one location to another. Admittedly I did complain a good deal that season 2 needed to bring the Leda clones together, but even then, Orphan Black’s entertainment value never waned because of Maslany’s performances. No matter what Sarah, Alison, Cosima, Helena and Rachel were up to, Maslany ensured you were aways fully engaged and cared, and after “Formalized, Complex, and Costly,” I suspect Millen will be able to do the same.
There is talk of his brothers in the third episode of the new season, but for the most part, Mark is off doing his own thing and even though we haven’t spent any quality time with the character for nearly a year now, Millen has absolutely no trouble pulling you right back into his world. The moment we’re reacquainted with Mark in the motel room, it’s as though we never left him, but then Millen takes the character a step further by adding new layers to his relationship with Gracie, challenging you to dig deeper to figure out where his loyalties lie.
On top of that, Millen also successfully establishes the relationship between Rudy and Virginia in one of the most powerful scenes of the entire episode. In just a minute and a half, the moment teases a 20+ year relationship. Rudy respects his mother, but when the room empties out and he says, “I thought you were really mad at me,” right then and there it’s clear that the two of them have an especially close connection, one that makes Rudy feel comfortable enough to turn into a child, clutch his mother and practically suck his thumb at the thought of his long lost brother. It’s a moment that unveils a vulnerable side but without ever letting you forget that Rudy is a particularly unhinged and dangerous Castor clone.
If “Formalized, Complex, and Costly” didn’t quite convince you that Millen is the real deal, just wait until you see his work in episode 4, “Newer Elements of Our Defense.” If Millen can keep this up, there’s no doubt that Orphan Black will be able to successfully introduce a number of Castor clones and keep you invested in all of them throughout the season, and perhaps beyond. It was just announced that the show got the go-ahead for season 4 with Fawcett and Manson stating, “We’re extremely excited about where our story lines are going.” As am I, guys. As am I.
TV Performer of the Week runs on Fridays; you can read past picks here.