by Matthew Thompson
Orphan Black was such a pleasant surprise back in 2013. In a television landscape lacking in quality sci-fi shows, it delivered something fresh and new giving fans of the genre another series to obsess over. Seeing new clones pop up was always a treat and the show maintained a fast pace which added an exciting thriller aspect to the whole affair. Yet it always felt like it was living on the edge and as the second season rolled on it seemed to teeter off, making a once promising mythology a bit too messy. Of course, through the ups and downs of all of that, the best part of the show has always been Tatiana Maslany’s magnificent performance and she is as brilliant as ever as we kick off the series’ third season.
In “The Weight of This Combination,” Tatiana spends time as Sarah, Alison, Cosima, Helena and Rachel giving each such a unique performance that you’d be forgiven for forgetting that the same actress plays them all. Even more impressive are moments that see one clone pretending to be another. When Sarah has to impersonate Rachel, it could easily just come off as Maslany’s typical Rachel performance, but it doesn’t. There are subtle differences here as we see Sarah’s anger seep through. The same goes for Alison whose fidgety nervousness bubbles up as she does her best Sarah Manning impression. None of this is new to the show by any means, but its impressiveness hasn’t dulled over the years either and I remain as captivated as I’ve always been by Tatiana’s performance in this latest episode.
As for that aforementioned mythology, it still feels a bit overcomplicated, but that wasn’t going to change in an episode. The new male clones play a significant role in the premiere. While I was intrigued by their introduction last year, I wasn’t exactly taken with them here. I think the fact that they don’t differ as much as the girls hurts their appeal and the chances of Ari Millen turning this into something as jaw dropping as what the leading lady does each week. Still this storyline has potential and I look forward to seeing more of it as the season continues.
On the plus side of the plotting in the premiere is Helena being taken captive. Not that I like her being locked away in a box at all, but it brought out some of my favorite parts of this episode. The opening scene that let us peer into her mind was superb. All the “sestras,” all the sweets, it really felt like something she’d dream up and the slightly exaggerated characters just gave Tatiana another chance to show off her limitless acting skills. I also love that it and Sarah’s search for Helena emphasize their now stronger bond. The friendships between all the clones is something special, but seeing Sarah and Helena’s once adversarial relationship turn into a caring one has been particularly rewarding.
And Alison has always been my favorite clone. She is so entertaining that she can just be off on her own doing soccer mom stuff and it ends up being just as fun as anything else on Orphan Black. Donny helping her take down Marci Coates in the upcoming School Trustee election just sounds fantastic.
A few more things:
- So many good moments and details in that opening daydream. All the cupcakes and cookies. “Monkey number two.” And Cosima’s line: “Oh yeah I’m like way better thanks to science.”
- Felix is still as good as ever. I loved this quip: “Don’t these people know you never even finished high school.”
- On top of everything else there was a new clone appearance. Didn’t exactly have Maslany stretching her wings as just a small bit in a video, but it was there.
- Charlotte, the newer younger clone introduced in last year’s finale, didn’t factor in here. I wonder if she will appear again.
While I’d still like to see Orphan Black weave a slighter cleaner overall mythology going forward, the third season premiere proves the show is still a whole lot of fun to watch regardless of how many conspiracies they pile on top of one another. It remains foremost a fantastic showcase for Tatiana Maslany, but the bonds between Sarah and her clone sisters (and Felix of course) make for compelling character relationships while the show’s pacing still runs fast throwing clones into thrilling scenarios like Sarah’s tense meetings as Rachel this week. It’s good to have this show back and I look forward to seeing where they take things as the season progresses. What did you think of the premiere? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!