Orphan Black – S1x01 & S1x02 “Natural Selection” & Instinct”

I review Natural Selection and Instinct, the first two episodes in BBC America series Orphan Black, which aired for the first time in the UK on BBC 3 last night. Some spoilers to follow.

Orphan Black

So, if you’re in the UK and weren’t watching TV last night, then you missed something incredible. The first two episodes of Orphan Black finally got around to airing on BBC 3 last night at 9pm, kicking off with a double bill that really got this show off to a flying start, and after watching both Natural Selection and Instinct I am hooked, and can’t wait for Episode 3 which will air next Friday after the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D pilot on Channel 4.

After playing out a full ten-episode running time of the thirst series on BBC America in the States and having been commissioned a second series, it’s about time that everyone in the UK got to see what all the hype was about, as I’ve been hearing nothing but praise for this series ever since it popped up in my twitter feed with positive feedback/anticipation from those whose opinions I trust. A further quick search brought me to a positive IGN review, and I couldn’t wait for the show to air. I got to the point where I was worried that it might not meet my high expectations, but it’s a point in favour to the creators of Orphan Black that they not only reached them, but beat them – creating an unpredictable and enthralling show that is well worth catching up on if you haven’t watched the first two episodes last night and you live in the UK already, or if you’ve just missed its original screening in the USA.

The concept of the show is fairly straightforward. Sarah Manning, a streetwise hustler, witnesses a suicide of a woman in the Underground who looks exactly like her.  Sarah then takes the bag that the woman left behind, and starts digging deeper, learning that Elizabeth Childs, the woman who just committed suicide, has a “pretty nice life”. This show is about the consequences of the decision to pick up that handbag and with a fantastic main actress in the form of Tatiana Maslany, who easily steals the show, Orphan Black has a very good reason to become the next big thing after being a sleeper hit in America that’s now starting to attract a wider audience with a recent re-run.

The show is actually quite slow – far from being an edge-of-your-seats thriller, but whilst it lacks speed in pace it makes up for with great characterisation, incredibly strong acting from people who are virtually unknowns (I’ve never heard of any of the cast in Orphan Black before) and the plot is fairly solid as well. It’s a winning combination to make me looking forward to Episode 3 with great anticipation, and out of the two sci-fi shows that are debuting this month that I’m watching, Orphan Black could very well end up beating Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, but that will all depend on how well its premier episode goes down next week (as usual, expect reviews).

Whilst the secondary cast are fairly strong in the form of Sarah’s foster brother Felix and a few other notable elements, this really is Tatiana Maslany’s show. She’s an incredible actress and in these two episodes alone,  has left a lasting impression, with her ability to handle various roles – be it Sarah Manning, Elizabeth Childs or the women that look just like her with ease, adapting accents and personalities that really help put the emphasis on just how talented she is.

Despite the show’s mostly serious tone, the somewhat stereotypical portrayal of Felix as Sarah’s gay foster brother, as well as her thuggish ex-boyfriend prevent it from being completely dark all the way through. The reaction when Sarah learned that one of her clones is a ‘soccer mom’ was well handled, but don’t go in expecting this to be a warm and uplifting show.

With the subject of cloning, it becomes apparent that the most interesting questions here will be why, and how. Whilst Natural Selection and Instinct give us no answers, you have to remember that these episodes are only the first two of ten, and I can’t wait to watch the next eight. Of course, it’s enough episodes left to allow the show to swing in a completely different direction – (and all of you who have already seen the entire show will probably be snickering at this point as you know what’s to come yet I don’t) – but one thing’s for sure, I’ll certainly be on board. Orphan Black is another brilliant addition to the list of new shows that I’ve discovered this year, and could well end up being another contender for at the end of the year when I look back and start to dish out awards.

The next show that I’ll be reviewing if I get the chance to watch it should be BBC One’s new crime drama By Any Means, which airs at 9pm tomorrow.

VERDICT: 4.5/5

ORPHAN BLACK SEASON 1 – EPISODE GUIDE: S1x01: Natural Selection, S1x02: Instinct,  COMING SOON TO THE UK: S1x03: Variation Under Nature, S1x04: Effects of External Conditions, S1x05: Conditions of Existence, S1x06: Variations Under Domestication, S1x07: Parts Developed in an Unusual Manner, S1x08: Entangled Bank, S1x09: Unconscious Selection, S1x10: Endless Forms Most Beautiful 


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