Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Orphan Black Season 1 Notes: My Introduction to Clone Club

Credit: BBC America

I recently started watching Orphan Black and have been racing against time to watch the series in the present by the Season finale. In less than three weeks, I have seen three entire seasons of the show and have taken some notes as I've progressed. I took the liberty here in these notes of annotating based on what I know at the end of the third season. 

-Similar to “Terminator” or one of those fish-out-of-water Hitchcock films (“North by Northwest” and “39 Steps” are the most famous examples), the pilot cleverly layers itself with other genres over the hard science-fiction. There’s a stolen identity charade, a underground crime angle, and a buddy cop dynamic.
-The pilot doesn’t have a lot of up-front exposition either but that’s because it has a lot of action. The show gets a lot of mileage out of one hour. Sarah’s status as an orphan, ward of Mrs. S and mother to a little girl named Kira are not things that we know automatically and a lot of things are pieced out as we go along. True, there are some sloppy exposition bombs being dropped, but it’s preferable to slowing down the pace.
-As for the exposition on Paul and Art’s storylines, there’s even less time to establish anything but it’s mostly from the POV of Sarah. Virtually the only character trait we really know about Sarah is that she’s far less disoriented than she should be under this situation
-When watching this on Amazon Prime, you can use the x-ray feature to see when Tatiana Maslany is playing Beth or Sarah and that’s helpful. It’s almost a cheat sheet

Second Episode:
-I’m kind of tired of artistic people like Felix living in swanky lofts that are clearly designated as storage space and not living space (see “New Girl” or “Friends”)

-If Sarah was this intelligent, studious, and amazing at improvising social interaction, you think she would have been employed somewhere with a high paying job already? I have yet to see a TV character that fits in the overlapping space in the venn diagram of drifter and stoner

-Allison is kind of a jerk, yes, but she also sticks out because she doesn’t want to volunteer exposition to Sarah like everyone else.

-The actor who plays Art is emoting so much, it borders on parody. The science-fiction here is layered over other genres but very little effort is expended to make Art’s dialogue not sound like the standardest of standard cop speak.

-I’m also not particularly cool with Art’s confiscation of Beth’s money. Sure, it moves the plot along (or rather, keeps it in an amenable holding point) but it’s wrong on so many levels. If Art is trying to make sure his partner is getting her life back together, how is s—t not going to hit the fan when Paul finds out that $70,000 has been stolen from her account.

-It’s taking a while to get into my head that this show is supposed to be Canadian (the Ontario license plate is tipping me off). Because of Felix and Sarah’s heavy accents and the British punk aesthetic, I was confused for a while as to where this was set. This still leaves questions of how two young adults have not sufficiently been acculturated enough to the Ontario landscape to adopt the accent.

Third Episode:
-Sweet catharsis: Things are finally explained! Here’s what I’m most wondering. I’m more or less watching this in a vacuum, for others guys how much of the clone plot did you know in advance of this reveal?
-Finally, things get a little easier for Sarah! This is a show like “Americans” “Prison Break” or “Breaking Bad” were all kinds of disparate people and organizations are conspiring against one person in entirely different directions to make their life near impossible. It’s in Episode three, that the impossible starts to feel possible. (Ed. Note: Apparently, there’s A LOT more to learn, I was so young and foolish back then to think I was close to learning the truth here)
-Where did Allison come from? She moved her family to Toronto or she was already there?

-I wonder if it alludes to Sarah’s past life that she is adept at flirting to get what she wants with men

-With all her secrets and her mission, why did Beth acquire a live-in boyfriend like Paul?

-Allison strikes me as one of those annoying uber-moms. “I have kids, I’m important!” is her mantra (Ed. Note: This later gets majorly dropped. Allison also clearly has the ability to enjoy and do things for herself. I dub her in later seasons)
Fourth Episode:
-Sarah: Paul is dead weight. Dump him ASAP. I would even recommend killing him and disposing his body for all that is at stake

-Why doesn’t Sarah just get “Beth” relegated to the desk as fast as possible? Thee less “work” she has to do the better.

-Helena reminds me of Paul Bettany in the Da Vinci code (Ed. Note: apparently, with her religious upbringing there’s a reason for this)

-As someone who did a semester at the University of Minnesota, the campus does not look like that, but it’s kind of nice to see my sort-of alma mater referenced in television. Much of the show’s hard-core science comes through Cosima and there’s something to be appreciated about the prevalence of a TV character whose dialogue could legitimately be believed as real science as opposed to technobabble

The Rest of Season 1:
On the whole, I think this show and is up there with the best dramas on TV. It's a situation where the protagonist is dealing with pressures from 8 or 9 disparate parties that are trying to kill, extort, expose or use them in some other bad way and they have to keep them all at bay with different sets of lies. “Prison Break”, “The Americans”, some of the serialized storylines in “Burn Notice”, and “Breaking Bad” are examples of this, but there’s a lot to be said of how the protagonists are flexible enough to alter their game plan rather than stick to a mantra of “no, we're never telling anyone anything" and a lot of the show's turns are about revealing truths to different parties as they go on and playing some of these parties who are now in-the-know off each other in strategic ways
In short, it’s a show that differs in that it’s not about characters trying to define themselves through deception of society. Rather, the show builds positively among its characters through openness (sharing of “the big secret”) as time moves on. C

Other Notes: 
-I still think Art isn't played by the best actor, and I’m glad he’s a bit more out of the picture. At least Angie is more outwardly a jerk to others (and Sarah's line "bite me" was one of the best moments of the season)
-I like the budding Allison/Felix relationship. Allison is an adequate character, so far, but not great. I didn't really buy her fall from grace and while she talks about her family a lot in the beginning, bucan't even remember offhand the names of her adopted children.
-Aynsley's death was horrible to witness and hard to excuse. It's really just not human natural instinct if you're not a murderer to let someone die like that. Aynsley never got dealt a good hand in the events of this show. She kind of reminds me of those shallow nosy rich suburban housewife archetypes TV generally likes to diminish to some form of evil but I'd like to think shows like “Desperate Housewives” tried to play with those misconceptions. In any case, it’s interesting to note that unlike shows that feel the need to kill off characters just to keep the suspense going, there’s no such pressure with “Orphan Black”
-My crush on Delphine knows no bounds
-Badly needed: Cosima's origin story. Who are her parents? At what point did she find out she was a clone?

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