The first two seasons of Orphan Black (BBC America, Saturdays, 9/8C) have followed the four members of what has come to be known as the Clone Club as they sought to find out a) who was trying to kill them off and why, and b) how did they come to exist in the first place.
Along the way the series explored concepts like identity, sibling rivalry, nature vs. nurture and more. Series co-creators Graeme Manson and John Fawcett have expected their audience to pay attention and think. Millions of them have. Then, at the end of season two, they dropped an even bigger bombshell – there’s another series of clones; male ones!
Season three opens with The Weight of This Combination, written by Manson and directed by David Frazee. It is not a great jumping on point for new viewers, but will definitely hold the attention of fans (if you haven’t watched Orphan Black, most the following won’t make a lot of sense to you – go watch the first two seasons online then, after congratulating yourselves on how smart you are to have done so, carry on with season three).
So, after one moment of perfect joy in season two (the dance sequence, of course), things went to Hecate in handbag: Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany) put in pencil through Rachel’s (also Maslany) eye; and Mrs. S (Maria Kennedy Doyle) gave Project Castor (the very military home of the male clones) Helena (Maslany? Yup!). Cosima (again, Maslany) collapsed and Alison (Maslany, too) and Donny (Kristian Bruun) had problems of their own to face down. (Why make a big deal of Maslany’s multiple roles? Because I can – she’s amazing and should have a batch of Emmys on her mantel and yet… no!)
As The Weight of This Combination opens, things seem all warm and fuzzy – the four clones and Sarah’s daughter Kira (Skylar Wexler) are having a backyard picnic. While the others frolic, heavily pregnant Helena sits on a patio chair and smiles…
Then the real comes into focus and we find, among other things, Helena in a box with a talking scorpion; Delphine (Evelyne Brochu) in charge at the Dyad Institute and awaiting the arrival of Ferdinand (James Frain), who is to assess the situation for Topside – forcing Sarah to impersonate Rachel. Meanwhile, Alison and Donny are having some big-time financial issues and, thankfully, Cosima seems to be improving.
In a case of bad judgement over worse judgement, Mrs. S tells Sarah what happened to Helena – earning a hearty ‘GET OUT!’ from Sarah. Think what might have happened if Sarah had found out from another source.
Then – and this isn’t even half way through the ep – Sarah has a brief sit down with Rudy (Ari Millen) aka Scarface. Which goes as well as you would expect.
Here’s the bad news: Orphan Black just achieved a whole ‘nother level of complexity. Here’s the good news: the addition of however many Castor Clones has not caused the show to lose either steam or quality.
The Weight of This combination is a taut thriller from the word go. Manson’s writing is as focused as ever – the new crew don’t dilute the drama in any way – and both Maslany and Millen are outstanding.
Director Frazee keeps things moving at ferocious (but not too ferocious) pace and finds new ways to look at the characters – intriguing angles, fresh lighting. I missed the editing credit when I watched the pilot and will have to look them up – there are some brilliantly edited sequences that allow action and expression to work simultaneously, while not sacrificing plot in any way.
As an unabashed fan of the show, I have to say that the Orphan Black team continually find ways to entirely fail to disappoint me – and the third season premiere is a prime example. Taking the risks that this show takes could easily backfire and yet, it never does.
As a bonus, this season will give the idiots at the Emmys Ari Millen to ignore in their awards process. What more could we ask for?
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Photos by Steve Wilkie/Courtesy of BBC America