I was so excited about Doctor Who today and the upcoming episodes of Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead that I almost didn’t notice an interesting new mystery show get launched by BBC America. Thankfully I have a weakness for pilot episodes and when I saw it I decided, eh, why not? And then I dived into it sight unseen. I’m glad I did, because that was definitely worth my time.
In the first few minutes of Orphan Black we are introduced to the protagonist, Sarah, as she arrives in New York and desperately tries to get in touch with some local acquaintances. Things clearly aren’t going as planned, though, and she ends up pacing around the train station aimlessly. After a few moments she runs across a clearly distraught woman who removes her shoes and carefully places all of her belongings in a neat little pile on the train platform. Suspicious behavior, the say the least. When the woman turns around Sarah is shocked to see that the woman looks exactly like her. Before Sarah has a moment to register this, however, her double jumps in front of a moving train.
Now that is a damn good opening. I was hooked immediately.
Sarah, a deadbeat mom/drug dealer, takes it upon herself to steal the woman’s purse and investigate. Her double, Beth, is loaded and Sarah and her foster brother, Felix, are in a jam and need cash. She promptly assumes her doubles identity in an attempt to make off with as much cash as she can. Now this in and of itself is an interesting premise, but things just get progressively crazier from here. Beth has a ton of mysterious birth certificates in her safe deposit box, which Sarah quickly takes. Oh, and Beth is a cop in the middle of a scandal about a shooting of an unarmed civilian. Beth was the one who pulled the trigger, of course. Because things are just going from bad to worse, so why not? Yeah, not a situation that a criminal in the middle of a con job wants to find herself in. Worst possible situation, actually.
Despite being introduced as a common criminal, Sarah actually proves to be quite clever. She manages to think herself out of one tight spot after another. Her plan to steal Beth’s money and run grows increasingly more complicated, but Sarah perseveres, determined to get herself out of the mess with the cash. And she almost gets away with it, but before she has a chance to make off with the goods, another double shows up (a triple?). And then there’s gunfire, blood, and a very very panicked Sarah speeding away in Beth’s very very fancy car. Wow.
I think my favorite part of this is that it’s incredibly well paced. I started to care about the characters before the plot actually started. So many shows nowadays jump right into the action (Zero Hour, for example) and don’t let us get attached enough to the key players for us to give a damn what’s going on. I care about Sarah. And Felix. And, hell, I even care about Sarah’s crappy boyfriend, Vic. And now that I care about these people, I’m thrown into an unbelievable situation with them and the insane plot is even more intense than it would be if they were complete strangers.
It’s very rare that I enjoy a show so much right off the bat. With new shows I usually give myself three or four episodes before I make a decision on it. With older shows I give myself an entire season. But I can definitely say I’m on board with this show right out of the gate. It has me hooked and I’m going to stick around for a while. I hope the great pacing keeps up, though, because that can be difficult to maintain with ongoing mysteries. Writers tend to either push out their entire plot too soon, or drag it out and lose their audience. So far this is well done and I have very high hopes for it.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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