THIS ORGANISM IS RESTRICTED INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
August 11, 2017 7:48 AM   Subscribe

There are very few good roles for women on television. Tatiana Maslany played nine of them on Orphan Black, which will end its final season tomorrow with its 50th episode. The show never had huge ratings, but it did have #CloneClub and sophisticated portrayals of feminism and femininity. Here is An Oral History of Orphan Black from the Women Who Brought It to Life

Vanity Fair: "What We’re Really Losing When We Lose Orphan Black. It’s the smartest TV show you should have kept watching." ("...a show that’s always required its viewers to have both a deep sense of intellectual curiosity and a willingness to be mind-fucked on a weekly basis") Previously on Mefi: "What does it mean to be a modern woman" from Eyebrows McGee.

The New York Times link listed above was previously highlighted on Mefi in "This is about volition and autonomy" by Fizz.
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Ms. Maslany finally won an Emmy last year, for her work in Season 4.

YouTube
* BBC: Three Clones, One Frame.
* Interview by Kevin Smith at San Diego Comic-Con 2016: Tatiana Maslany Shows Off a Variety of Impressive Accents.

* Also from SDCC:
- Clone Improv. (Here's the full video from Orphan Black panel.)
- Entertainment Weekly's Women Who Kick Ass Panel, featuring Tatiana along with Morena Baccarin (Gotham), Melissa Benoist (Supergirl), Nathalie Emmanuel (Game of Thrones), Lucy Lawless (Ash vs Evil Dead), Connie Nielsen (Wonder Woman) and Ming-Na (Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
posted by zarq (56 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
 
I would have continued to watch it if

1. BBC America let you access things on its web site, and
2. BBC America were part of the basic cable package which had every other channel I wanted EXCEPT BBC America, instead of being part of the "boffo-deluxe add-on package" that had BBC America and umpty-squillion other extras I didn't want.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:11 AM on August 11 [4 favorites]


I got around that problem by buying all five seasons on Google Play. No regrets.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:14 AM on August 11 [7 favorites]


Team Helena!

OMG, live live live, go for the wild and crazy spinnoff.

My only regret that a Scottish or Welsh clone never showed up, would have loved Ms Maslany's accent.

Unfortunately the more it veered into wacko international corporate/medical/military/rich-evil-genius/ conspiracy the weaker the the story line -- the best parts were siblings connecting, bickering, accepting. Also, was I not watching close enough, the initiating death of Beth seems unresolved, perhaps the very last scene for summitry.
posted by sammyo at 8:15 AM on August 11 [10 favorites]


I got around that problem by buying all five seasons on Google Play.

.....I did not know that was a thing. Good to know!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:16 AM on August 11


Whatever reservations I've had about the show's occasionally-convuluted mid-level tv sci-fi plot, my amazement at Maslany's performance(s) has never wavered. Even now, where I honestly couldn't tell you what the fuck is going on, I still watch every week to see what brittle new depths she will find for Allison and what brokenhearted madness she will pull from Helena. It's amazing and I'll be sad to see it go.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:17 AM on August 11 [7 favorites]


My insane wish for the finale is that an entire army of clones is uncovered and they overwhelm Neolution, hundreds of Maslany creations en masse, with different gaits, facial expressions, bearings, etc. all just swooping in to save the day.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:19 AM on August 11 [5 favorites]


As a big fan of actors playing characters pretending to be other people, this show has kept me very happy, even as I sometimes find myself feeling like no one, including the writers, has any idea what's going on. The skill at conveying "this is Sarah pretending to be Allison," etc. was really fantastic.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:22 AM on August 11 [12 favorites]




I'm going to stay out of this thread because somehow I'm now almost 2 full seasons behind in what is one of my favorite shows of the 21st Century. (Why I sometimes wait to watch something because I like it TOO MUCH is an exercise for me and a therapist probably.) But because of my life, I can't not comment, and while I'll be sad that it's gone, I look forward to watching Tatiana Maslany in basically whatever she does for the rest of my life.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:27 AM on August 11 [6 favorites]


My insane wish for the finale is that an entire army of clones is uncovered and they overwhelm Neolution, hundreds of Maslany creations en masse, with different gaits, facial expressions, bearings, etc. all just swooping in to save the day.

Like Resident Evil: Extinction but good?

Also, because Tatiana Maslany would want it this way, an extra shout out to her double, Kathryn Alexandre.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:28 AM on August 11 [9 favorites]


I would have continued to watch it if
1. BBC America let you access things on its web site...


I do have BBC-A on my cable tier and I still cannot log-in to their site to stream episodes. It's absolutely the worst designed site on the web. It says "Log in to view latest episodes" but provides no possible way to log in.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:28 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


I liked the first few seasons but we got rid of cable last year and frankly the half of season 4 that we saw was so dumb that I didn't have much interested in finding a way to continue.
posted by octothorpe at 8:45 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


This is one of a handful of shows that have been around for a while that I've meant to check out, but so far have not found the time. I know that it was very well-received by TV critics early on, particularly with regard to the lead performance(s), but then seemed to lose a lot of its buzz.

Is there a precipitous drop-off in quality at some point, and if so, what happened?
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 8:55 AM on August 11


I've just bought the seasons on Amazon as they go up. $18 for 10 episodes is well worth it. The plot is nonsense, yes, but Maslany is a wonder to watch and the rest of the cast ain't bad either.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:56 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Is there a precipitous drop-off in quality at some point, and if so, what happened?

Kinda on the wavelength of what I said above... the plot gets fuzzy in that distinctive mid-level cable scifi way. It never gets less fun, but it gets murky and hard to follow at times.

The quality of the acting (primarily from Maslany, but with a few terrific supporting actors) never wavers and it never gets less enjoyable. The budget stays the same, the quality of the direction is a good or better as it goes on, and big, interesting ideas are in play throughout.

However, there are so many big ideas in play, that after a while, the overall plot can blur into a mass of WTF.

I am a reasonably bright adult human being who has seen every episode and I do not think I could successfully explain what the hell the story even is at this point.

TL;DR: it stays fun throughout, but the central mystery, which seemed tantalizing when it was largely unknown to viewers, has turned out to be a clumsy, convoluted wreck.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:02 AM on August 11 [14 favorites]


I thought once they revealed the big wth at the end of Season 1 (or maybe it was the beginning of Season 2) that it became suddenly much less interesting. (Which doesn't take away from the super performances of Maslany, however).
posted by bitterkitten at 9:06 AM on August 11


I would never have guessed, with Cosima and Helena in the mix, that Alison would end up as my favorite clone, but here we are, purple hair and all.
posted by rewil at 9:27 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


I have a lot of good will towards this show even when the show goes off the rails at times with the plot. Maslany and the rest of the cast are always consistently great and it is particularly nice to see older women get decent roles with agency as well (something we don't see a lot of in regular TV). The other thing I like is that they don't hide that it is Toronto or Ontario. Mind you they don't always say that it is Toronto or Ontario but there is no mistaking the quality of light and streets and they don't pretend its New York or Chicago or somewhere. Another thing too that I like is to see all the working Toronto character actors pop up (if you watch any genre TV produced in Toronto you'll know what I mean). I had a funny encounter with that... There was a British born but Canadian character actor (he's in loads of stuff and very recognisable) who appeared in one episode where he gets his throat slit (it happens in the same episode so not much of a spoiler). The next day I encountered him at a play in Stratford in the foyer... "Hey didn't I see you get killed yesterday?"
posted by Ashwagandha at 9:31 AM on August 11 [5 favorites]


I have only watched the first season and a half or so, but I have thoroughly enjoyed Maslany's performance as ALL THE CLONES. It's tough to believably play that many characters at once. Plus, I just want to give a shout out to this show for setting one of the characters in a lab at the University of Minnesota (b/c of the show's science advisor, apparently), and then actually doing a good job of making it look plausible. The establishing shots followed the University design guides for signage! The lab actually looked like a real teaching lab, instead of an all-glass futuristic thing no real university would ever greenlight! They had UMN signs in the lab! They even had cars with Minnesota plates in the outdoors scenes! Heck, the only screw-up in the university lab scenes was use of an obviously ANCIENT high school student-quality monocular microscope in a "modern genetics lab" because of course you can totally see DNA structure at 20x magnification (seriously why hire a science advisor unless you're going to listen to her?)

This is in direct contrast to Weeds, for example, where we see a guy driving to the Detroit Metro Airport but there are rolling sere hills in the background, wtf, did you even try googling "what does downstate Michigan look like"? and in other settings every single bar that everyone ever went to - even a honky tonk redneck bar in rural Montana - served Stone IPAs? Because that kind of shit is so jarring that it pulls me right out of the flow of an otherwise enjoyable show. Do your homework, directors. Because we'll call you on it if you don't.

/still annoyed at Rankin-Bass 'cause female reindeer have antlers too
posted by caution live frogs at 9:34 AM on August 11 [7 favorites]


Oh, yeah, Alison is amazing.

If Tatiana Maslany were to pop up on the second season of GLOW to play Ruth's discarded "homewrecker" character as a slight variation on Alison, that would be some damned fine television.

I have a lot of good will towards this show even when the show goes off the rails at times with the plot.

Yeah, as crazy as the plot is, it's almost always in service of creating some interesting dramatic situations.

It's not like Helix where the show is all about the plot but they just don't know where they want to take it beyond just being a half-rate Resident Evil knock-off. And it's not even like Lost where they promised a payoff that everyone kind of knew they wouldn't be able to deliver but the show was well-crafted enough to be kind of enjoyable anyway.

It's just... kind of accept that understanding the full intricacies of the plot is secondary to the real story, which is about these characters and how they relate and interact with one another and all these crazy transhumanist scenarios.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:36 AM on August 11 [3 favorites]


Just jumping in to say I totally agree that I have no idea what's going on plot-wise but I just want to watch the clones be clones all day long.

Also, there are episode-by-episode discussions over in FanFare
posted by LizBoBiz at 9:50 AM on August 11


Also, because they have not gotten any love so far, lemme just say:

FELIX AND DONNIE. Felix and Donny, you guys.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:59 AM on August 11 [22 favorites]


The show is also about the experience of being adopted, and about the experience of entering reunion, and about the experience of thinking about those experiences. The various clones are all adoptees - they can be read as representing an adoptee's childhood thought experiment, "what if I had been placed with someone else."

The show is better and more thoughtful with regard to the theme of adoptee identity than "This is Us," which I grew totally bored with about halfway through the first season.
posted by mwhybark at 10:21 AM on August 11 [5 favorites]


Just jumping in to say I totally agree that I have no idea what's going on plot-wise but I just want to watch the clones be clones all day long.

Same here. You simply forget it's the same actress playing the parts, even in multi-clone scenes. She's so good, and it's all done so well.

I, too, have no clue what's going on now, though, other than putting Neolution out of business. The revenge of the Intellectual Property, so to speak.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:21 AM on August 11 [3 favorites]


Things I love:

Donnie's love/abject terror of Allison. Particularly since she came back from her spa trip with the new hair and she's trying to be hands off and Donnie has no idea how to interact with her now.

That Allison and Donnie easily have the highest body count on the show.
posted by leotrotsky at 10:31 AM on August 11 [10 favorites]


Highly subjective clone ranking:

Allison
Helena
KRYSTAL!!!💖💖
(gaping chasm)
Cosima
Rachel Duncan
(gaping chasm)
all the dead clones
Sarah
posted by leotrotsky at 10:35 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Krystal Goderitch: Okay, are you, like, blind?
[referring to Sarah]
Krystal Goderitch: 'Cause this girl looks nothing like me. Like first of all, my tits are way bigger. And secondly, even if you could drag a comb through that hair she's like a seven on a good day, and I've been told I'm a ten.
Sarah Manning: [to Felix] Seven?
Felix Dawkins: She has a point about your hair.
posted by leotrotsky at 10:37 AM on August 11 [12 favorites]


Same here. You simply forget it's the same actress playing the parts, even in multi-clone scenes. She's so good, and it's all done so well.

49 episodes in, sometimes while watching I still think "wait, Helena and Allison are the same actress" and it blows my mind all over again.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:37 AM on August 11 [4 favorites]


The past few seasons seem to be half really complicated sets (the army base, the island) in a convoluted plot and then things settle down in the last few episodes and it's just Sarah running around in a more straightforward narrative.

With a whole bunch of body horror thrown in to FREAK ME OUT (stop putting pointy things near the bebbies!!!). I'm terrified for what I will need to hide my eyes from in the finale.

I would be happy with a Buffy-like calling of tons of clones.
posted by armacy at 10:38 AM on August 11


With a whole bunch of body horror thrown in to FREAK ME OUT

Don't forget the exploding cheek worms.
posted by leotrotsky at 10:40 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Same here. You simply forget it's the same actress playing the parts, even in multi-clone scenes. She's so good, and it's all done so well.

The scene early in the first season where Allison tried to impersonate Sarah in order to fool Kira blew me away. Allison does Sarah's accent and mannerisms believably badly in the scene, getting some of it right and some of it wrong, exaggerated and understated, as anyone would who's trying to impersonate someone else. But in this case, both someones are normally played by the same person.

How do you maintain one character's mannerisms when they are trying to pretend to be another character you play, without actually slipping into the second character? You could see Allison trying to be Sarah, but doing it imperfectly. I was deeply impressed.

And then she did it again. And again. Cosima as Allison. Helena as Sarah. Sarah as Katja. And every single time you could see the first clone acting but not becoming the second.

The level of skill that requires is incredible.
posted by zarq at 10:46 AM on August 11 [27 favorites]


On the one hand, I'm really going to miss this show. It was one of my favorites. On the other hand, I'm glad they're ending it now. It came this close: [] to getting boring. And a show that out there and so full of fun performances should never be allowed to get boring.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:49 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


I'd love to see Sex and the City with Tatiana playing all the roles.
posted by armacy at 10:53 AM on August 11 [6 favorites]


I'm glad they're ending it now too. I just hope Tatiana gets to go on to have the full wonderful career she deserves with legit roles and doesn't get typecast as like a vaudeville-style stunt acting wiz. Let's get her in a wig! Now another wig! More wigs! Like no there's more to her than lots of wigs, executive producers.
posted by bleep at 11:00 AM on August 11 [3 favorites]


And then she did it again. And again. Cosima as Allison. Helena as Sarah. Sarah as Katja. And every single time you could see the first clone acting but not becoming the second.

Apropos of this, I think my favorite running gag in the show is that Sarah has zero trouble impersonating Krystal.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:01 AM on August 11 [6 favorites]


Following up on mwhybark's point about adoption, Orphan Black also explores every possible kind of mother: biological, gestational, foster, adoptive and more I can't come up with right now.

Altho the plot has often wandered away for a cigarette, the world and the characters provide a squirming armful of archetypes to discuss, pick apart, consider.
posted by Jesse the K at 11:19 AM on August 11 [4 favorites]


Sarah running around

I'm having a hard time finishing the show -- bogged down halfway in the current season -- because for a while now that's pretty much all that seems to happen. Sarah has to rush off somewhere because something bad is about to happen. It's been hard for me to stay invested, because it just feels like a relay race for no good reason.

I still love watching Maslany, though. I can't think of any other actor who could carry an increasingly convoluted, increasingly dull (to me) plot while playing 6 or 7 different characters who are so distinct from one another. The dude who plays Ira and his clones certainly couldn't pull it off.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:44 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Orphan Black: Like Resident Evil: Extinction but good
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:04 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


I'm also in the "astounding character work but the story kinda disappeared up its own ass some seasons ago" camp. It's worth it just for Maslany's tour de force performances and the general underlying humor, but two episodes ago I couldn't have told you what the desired endgame condition was for 90% of the cast.

But yes, there needs to be a sitcom spinoff with clone antics. Or give Helena a talk show.
posted by delfin at 12:20 PM on August 11 [3 favorites]


Or a show involving many different incarnations of one base archetype, all with different personalities and lots of peril and running and sci-fi tech? BBC, your female Doctor Who #13 was right there all along, as were #14 through #22.
posted by delfin at 12:24 PM on August 11 [3 favorites]


[MASLANY exits the TARDIS. She is covered in blood and holding a bloody butcher knife.]

MASLANY: "Hello. I'm The Doctor."

[DALEKS flee in terror]

-----

This needs to happen.
posted by zarq at 12:29 PM on August 11 [13 favorites]


For me, there was a very hard stop when the male clones were introduced. It became exponentially harder to follow from there on out.

But Tatiana may be the most gifted actress I've ever seen.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 12:58 PM on August 11


I hear she's being drafted into the Star Wars universe. They're going to do a live series of The Clone Wars. She's playing every role.

#fakenews
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:01 PM on August 11 [4 favorites]


I usually am not a fan of the "behind the scenes" shorts, but I watched a few this season because nostalgia in advance and there was one that really stuck with me. (it was itunes episode 8, after "regular" episode 4, "Let the children and the childbearers toil").

Maslany was talking about her relationship with her acting double, who has been her acting partner in every scene where multiple clones are conversing for the whole run of the show. She just gets edited out to be replaced by versions of Maslany in subsequent takes.

This woman (Kathryn Alexandre) ALSO acts the part of every clone from time to time, Maslany was effusive about how the double's readings and characterizations had affected her own performances... and she has never, not once, NEVER been on screen and never will. She simply doesn't exist as far as the on-screen show is concerned

I know there are many many other people who are never on screen on a TV production, crew and production people and even non-acting standins for setting the lighting and whatever but it seems somehow cruel for someone to be doing what is reported to be great acting work that is making an impact on a great show, but never to be visible. It wouldn't seem to me that she would get the kind of career advancement you might hope for a 6-year run doing a good job in your chosen trade.
posted by bgribble at 1:11 PM on August 11 [9 favorites]


I wouldn't say she is never on screen. She is never visibly on screen as one of the clones. There has been at least one episode, however, where she played a different character. Sorry, I don't have the details about which episode and character, but they're out there if you care to look them up.
posted by sardonyx at 1:24 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


Yeah, she does show up in a couple of episodes as a Prolethean.
posted by tobascodagama at 1:26 PM on August 11


Or give Helena a talk show.

the new Space Ghost, interview evil corporate overlords, then eviscerate

Helena Coast to Coast
posted by sammyo at 2:30 PM on August 11 [3 favorites]


I have insufficient LIKE buttons to express my joy at Maslany becoming all future Doctors Who
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 2:41 PM on August 11 [4 favorites]


Here's a piece noting an aspect of the way that the show began to foreground adoption in S04, with Felix telling Sarah that he intended to open a search for his bfam. I was somewhat disappointed to not find more critical attention to the plot element and subtext out in the wider web.
posted by mwhybark at 3:00 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


You simply forget it's the same actress playing the parts, even in multi-clone scenes. She's so good, and it's all done so well.

The first time that Rachel showed up the music cues and the way the camera lingered gave me the distinct impression that this was supposed to be some sort of big reveal. The scene didn't work for me because I didn't realize that she was played by Maslany.
posted by dances with hamsters at 4:50 PM on August 11 [7 favorites]


Watching the opening credits for a season 4 episode, I thought it was very strange that most of the actors listed in the sequence were male... when there are so many female characters?!?..... Oh, right...

I'm on team love the actors, love the characters, love the relationships, but have Lost the Plot.
posted by jaruwaan at 5:55 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


The other day I saw a mom with her little girl who was maybe four years old, and the little girl was wearing a "The Future Is Female" T-shirt.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:00 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


The first time that Rachel showed up the music cues and the way the camera lingered gave me the distinct impression that this was supposed to be some sort of big reveal. The scene didn't work for me because I didn't realize that she was played by Maslany.

What I always wonder about is what do they do with Maslany's hair? Did she shave her head during production in order to play so many different characters? I mean, there's no way in hell you can hide Sarah's head of hair (which is closer to Maslany's actual real hair) under Rachel's thin, severe bob, which is, assumedly, a wig. I've never seen or heard that aspect addressed.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:39 AM on August 12


You can indeed hide hair that long under a wig cap.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:58 AM on August 12 [3 favorites]


It's mostly selective choice of camera angles when filming Rachel. They rarely show her full head in profile. When they do you can see that Maslany is either wearing a wig or has a terribly misshapen head.
posted by plastic_animals at 5:08 AM on August 12 [3 favorites]


And, for whatever reason, I'm kind of pissed-off at BBC-A hyping the finale with the line "Who will make it to the end?" It makes it sound like the finale is going to be nothing short of a bloodbath with a high body count, which would really frakking disappoint the hell out of me. Honestly, I will be disappointed if any of the clones die now.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:16 AM on August 12 [1 favorite]


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