Archive | June, 2014

End of Season Report: Orphan Black – Season 2

30 Jun

Several of the Orphans Black

Orphan Black may never be a canonically great show, whatever that means, but it’s a very good show an perhaps more importantly, a very enjoyable show. Orphan Black succeeds so well at this because it smartly decides consciously or not, to be a five tool player, being pretty good at a number of different aspects, rather than throwing all of its proverbial TV eggs in one basket and trying to be great at just one thing. Let me explain.

Orphan Black is serious, but it’s also funny. There’s plenty of action, and there’s also science fiction. The plot is important, but so is the characterization and the relationships. Now, partly this may sound somewhat prosaic – any very good show should be pretty solid at several of these characteristics. First, that’s not really case, and second, Orphan Black spreads the wealth better than most.

Just the sense of humor alone is incredibly important. Orphan Black is funny, and more than funny it’s silly, which helps deflate what could be a sense of self-importance from the clone plot which doesn’t always make the most amount of sense. Many solid but not transcendent shows have no sense of humor whatsoever – Homeland, Boardwalk Empire, and The Walking Dead among them. While it’s not impossible to pull off, it’s difficult to be great with that level of drudgery. In fact, the very best shows, which probably could have skated by without any humor, like Mad Men, The Wire, The Sopranos, and Breaking Bad, instead, can be very funny at times.

A show like House of Cards has no sense of humor and rests on its plot, which doesn’t make any sense, hurting the show’s value. Orphan Black’s plot, like House of Cards’ connects the show episode to episode and drives it forward. Yet, because the show is funny, because it seems to buy in on its own sense of camp, the shows replay value is much higher.

The most responsibility for humor in Orphan Black sits on Alison’s shoulders. He plots are hilarious, from her play, to her rehab, to her relationship with poor Donnie, who goes from sinister schmuck to merely pathetic schmuck to empowered schmuck in a heartbeat.

Ophan Black does has a somewhat stupid plot that doesn’t necessarily and can’t really make sense if one thinks too much about it. It also has the very dangerous season to season expanding the scope problem that sci fi and supernatural shows tend to face. Basically, if Dyad is responsible for the clones, now there has to be someone above Dyad, or what else is the show going to be about for the next season. There need to keep being new, bigger, reveals, or it’ll feel like the show has already peaked. Scenes like those involving Krya’s dad typing into the darknet, whatever that is, well, I have no idea what he’s talking about, but luckily I really don’t care. None of this matters so much because the show is enjoyable on its face, regardless of actually untangling the details behind the creation of the clones.

This isn’t just due to humor. The relationships are powerful, between the clones, particularly. Like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Orphan Black uses sci-fi/fantasy as ways to get at powerful human bonds.

Some of the side characters are stupid, and most of them are bland. It’s pretty much Tatiana Maslany’s show, with a nod to the consistently excellent Jordan Gavaris as Felix, by far the best and most important supporting player.

I don’t have much more to say about Maslany other than the consistent heaping of praise I try to hand out on any occasion I can, and she takes on even more characters this year. She’s wonderful and one of the main engines that makes the show go – if the opening credit sequence was honest, her name would appear five times. If the show does have have an X factor, it’s her, and that would be enough to make the show worth watching even if it were less enjoyable overall.

Orphan Black has it all; it’s got action, it’s got laughs, it’s got strong characters (albeit most of those characters are played by the same actress, but still). It will never be the best at any one of these; it will never have the taut plotting of Breaking Bad or the first season of Homeland, the character bonds of Six Feet Under, the action of 24. But by smartly throwing it all together, with more than a touch of Maslany’s magic, it gets the benefit of having a little bit of everything, and that makes it, while never the best show on TV, a consistently compelling view; you may not get it all in any given episode, but you’re bound to get something good.