‘Orphan Black’ Season 4 Review: Smart, Strong, Satisfying

     April 14, 2016


Orphan Black rarely disappoints yet every season I find myself asking, how are they going to keep this up? When will the details of the experiment become too complicated and/or preposterous? But creators Graeme Manson and John Fawcett consistently delivered smart, fascinating twists and turns all throughout the first three seasons, and it looks as though the trend will continue in Season 4: the first three episodes are wildly entertaining and enrich the scenario and characters tenfold.

At the end of Season 3, most of the CASTOR clones were dead, Rachel (Tatiana Maslany) reunited with Susan Duncan (Rosemary Dunsmore), and Sarah (Maslany) and Kira (Skyler Wexler) decided to lay low in Iceland. When we reunite with Clone Club in “The Collapse of Nature,” their cozy hideaway is compromised and they’re forced to hit the road again. When they make it back home, Sarah starts investigating an especially mortifying piece of implanting technology that could have come straight out of a horror movie. As a diehard fan of the genre, I got a kick out of the biotech’s capabilities and the resulting creepy imagery, but the implants are also key to bringing all of the characters together while adding a significant amount of depth to the series.


Image via Ken Woroner © BBC AMERICA

We’ve got to tread lightly with the subject as it’d be a shame to spoil the big surprises in Episode 1, but the writers of Orphan Black opt to do something that many shows try, but rarely nail. This show, however, incorporates the technique perfectly. It doesn’t feel like a heavy-handed stunt, but rather a very necessary plot device that seamlessly weaves into the more familiar material and pulls everything together brilliantly.

While Sarah is focused on this little implant monster, Alison and Donnie (Kristian Bruun) have their hands full with Helena who’s very pregnant right now. If you’re a fan of Helena humor, the first episodes of the new season won’t disappoint, especially during moments when Helena and Donnie are together. Cosima is the Debbie Downer of the group at the moment, but for good reason. She’s got no clue what happened to Delphine and is still struggling with health issues.

Meanwhile, Rachel’s got problems of her own. She’s trying to get back on her feet, but the fact that she’s being kept in isolation is both frightening and frustrating for her. Her transformation over the course of the series is proving to be one of the most intriguing. When we first met Rachel, she was a manipulative head honcho with limitless power, but now she has absolutely no control, and the opportunity to see her operate in such vastly different conditions should serve the character well.

And of course we’ve also got our new clone M.K., yet another character that highlights Maslany’s nuance and range. She’s in hiding in an effort to keep clear of Neolution and often dons a sheep mask to conceal her identity, so she’s certainly got some eccentricities, but she isn’t an extreme like Alison or Helena. M.K.’s definition comes more from how she operates and how she internalizes her encounters with other people.


Image via Ken Woroner © BBC AMERICA

In the non-clone department, Felix (Jordan Gavaris) finds himself in an especially unusual situation. There’s been friction between Felix and Sarah before, but nothing like what we see at the start of Season 4, which addresses how extreme and dangerous the situation is while also incorporating some very relatable, grounded sibling rivalry. He’s feeling left out, which is very understandable now that we know that Sarah and Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy) are related, but at the same time, Sarah is fighting for her life and needs her brother, so is he being selfish? Yet another subplot that has loads of potential this season.

It’s probably no surprise that Orphan Black continues to impress on the technical front. The visuals are stunning and moody, with an abundance of unique lighting schemes that help create pretty pictures while also easing the transitions from character to character. The camerawork comes in handy in that respect, too. You’re always looking at what you want and need to see, but there’s no shortage of dynamic camera moves that enhance specific story beats and brilliantly put multiple Maslanys in a single frame. As always,the score is big, bold and packed with well-timed music cues, especially Helena’s theme.

I’m absolutely bursting at the seams right now. I wish this review were a recap so I could gush about all the new twists, plot details and character development that’s starting to carve such a promising path for the story this season. Just wait until you see how the writers kick things off. The first three episodes of Season 4 are all great, but “The Collapse of Nature” might be one of the strongest and most satisfying season premieres I’ve ever seen.

Rating: ★★★★ Very Good – Damn Fine Television

Orphan Black Season 4 premieres Thursday, April 14th on BBC America.


Image via Ken Woroner © BBC AMERICA


Image via Ken Woroner © BBC AMERICA