In the penultimate episode of Orphan Black’s first season, tonight (BBC America, 9/8C), Unconscious Selection, revelation piles on revelation – culminating in a staggering realization for Sarah.
Orphan Black is one of the most intricately plotted, beautifully executed shows of the year. The ongoing tale of Sarah Manning and her fellow clones – soccer mom Allison Hendrix, university student Cosima Niehaus and the murderous Helena (all portrayed by Tatiana Maslany) – has been a rush from the first moment of its brilliant premiere when Sarah stepped into the life of police detective Beth Childs after she committed suicide.
Over the course of the first season we’ve seen Sarah, Allison and Cosima deal with the knowledge that someone has been killing their fellow clones – and that the killer was Helena. They’ve learned that they were being monitored – Beth by handsome ex-special forces guy Paul Dierden (Dylan Bruce); Cosima by a scientist named Delphine (Evelyne Brochu).
We’ve learned that Sarah is the only one who has had a child in the usual manner (both of Allison’s kids were adopted) and that Beth had shot and killed a civilian; that a scientist and founder of a revolutionary movement called Neolution, Dr. Aldous Leekie (Matt Frewer) was the next level up from the clones’ monitors. We’ve learned about Sarah’s foster brother, Felix Dawkins (Jordan Garvaris) – the only person she’s ever really trusted – and the woman who fostered them both, Mrs. S. (Maria Doyle Kennedy).
In short, we’ve learned an awful lot of information without it ever feeling like we were being hit with info dumps. And, along the way, we’ve watched as the lives of all involved have twisted in on and around themselves, fraught with dangers of both the physical and knowledge varieties. The (for all intents and purposes) sisters have found their way through all kinds of crises, but more have become apparent as Beth’s former partner Art Bell (Kevin Hanchard) and his new partner, Angela Deangelis (Inga Cadranel) have put together a lot of disparate pieces of the puzzle.
And, finally, the cliffhangers that been building all season reached a pinnacle with Sarah’s daughter, Kira (Skylar Wexler) being hit by a car after sneaking out of the house to go with Helena.
Unconscious Selection begins with Sarah riding in the ambulance with Kira and gets even more intense from there. Even the intervention by Allison’s friends and husbands, comic relief that it is, does nothing so much as raise that intensity. Major, major revelations ensue – some more hilarious than some; others incredibly serious.
Writer Alex Levine ramps up everything in this ep, from the teaser to the final moments and director T.J. Scott matches the script’s intensity perfectly. It helps that they have Maslany to play the clones – she has played at least half-a-dozen different roles (so far), each with different hair, makeup, mannerisms, styles of dress, and done so flawlessly.
Tonight’s ep concludes with an emotional cliffhanger that provides two important pieces of the carefully constructed puzzle that is Orphan Black. I’ve been on board this show from the premiere’s teaser and it’s one of the few shows that have lived up to the promise of its premiere in every way. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Final Grade: A+
Photos by Steve Wilkie/Courtesy of BBC America