Orphan Black: Pilot

The story revolves around Sarah, a former foster child who is opportunistic, manipulative, and deceitful. In other words, she's not a very nice person. So why did I care about her at all?

Well, for the most part, I didn't. At least not at first.

When Sarah witnesses a suicide at a train station, she exploits the situation and inserts herself into the victim's life, because the victim looks exactly like her. The train pancake was named Elizabeth (Beth) Childs, a cop that accidentally took an innocent woman's life in a shooting, probably because she was over medicated. She has a boyfriend named Paul who couldn't even tell that Sarah wasn't Beth. (Guess they weren't that close.) Beth also had a secret bank account with $75,000 in it, which immediately becomes Sarah's priority.


Sarah's best friend (whom she hasn't seen in ten months) is Felix, a former foster sibling. Felix spends most of the episode doing Sarah's bidding and avoiding Victor, Sarah's drug dealer boyfriend from whom she stole a kilo of cocaine. Of course Sarah decided to fake her death because she has a cover identity now, and Felix eventually convinces Victor that Sarah is dead, using Beth's body as proof. Then Felix organizes a mock funeral that goes bad when Sarah's daughter Kira shows up.

Still, I did like Sarah for some reason, although I can't say exactly why. By the end of the episode I was sort of rooting for her. It could be the actress (Tatiana Maslany), who is really very good; she was likable playing a pretty unlikable character. Also I think I liked how unabashed and resourceful Sarah was. She used probing questions to gain information, she drank soap to throw up to avoid a competency hearing for Beth, and she avoided talking with Paul by having sex with him. All in all, she's a decent lead, just not very sympathetic.

The overlying mystery of identical women showing up all over the place is intriguing, and Maslany sold the second performance well enough. I just wish I hadn't been spoiled for what's going on by practically every advertisement and interview about the show. If you haven't heard, I won't say what that detail is.

Bits:

-- This series is apparently set in New York, but it doesn't really look like New York. Plus the colloquialisms are all wrong for it to be a totally convincing America. They had some token people with American accents too, but the majority of the leads had British accents.

-- Lots of swearing and sex, so this is definitely not an American network drama.

-- Felix's apartment was a chaotic mess. It looked cool, but it was very clearly done by a set designer.

Overall I liked it, and there was enough going on to hold my interest. Plus the season is short, like most British shows are nowadays (only five episodes). So I'll definitely give it another shot to pull me in, because it hasn't quite yet. I'm not sure if I'm gonna stay for the rest of the series.

3 out of 4 Clash Tee-shirts.

5 comments:

The Fearless Freak said...

I haven't seen this show (I hadn't even heard of it until I read this review) but from your review it sounds almost exactly like Ringer, except British. I might give it a shot, because, at least at the beginning, I enjoyed Ringer, but I'm hoping they can do something with the story line this time.

Billie Doux said...

I thought the pilot was better than Ringer, but that's damning with faint praise, isn't it? :) I'm interested enough to try the next episode, at least, so that's good.

Alan Slipp said...

Long time reader here, first time commenting!

I enjoyed the pilot for sure, and I'm interested to see where the show will go from here. I'm fairly sure it's shot (and set) in Toronto, given the Ontario plates on the cars. Also, if you're a Being Erica fan, you may recognize Tatiana Maslany from it. The character she plays on that show is also named Sarah, interestingly enough.

ChrisB said...

Good review, J.D. I was not impressed at all by the pilot and struggled to follow some of it. Too many things seemed to just happen without some explanation behind it all.

I smiled at your comment about where the show is set as that was one of the things that kept pulling me out of the episode. At the beginning, I assumed it was London because of the accents. But then the cars were driven on the right and the subway looked like Manhattan. I ended the pilot still unsure.

I'll be interested in hearing from those of you who stick with it how it develops. If it improves, perhaps I will add it to my summer watch list. For now, however, I am out.

jencat said...

Wonder if anyone else stuck with this, because I literally just found it yesterday, and watched all five episodes by this morning so I must have been in the mood for this particular brand of trashy ridiculousness... I didn't even see the similarity to Ringer, funnily enough, because I'd just watched the (really quite boring) pilot for Banshee before this, which has an oddly very similar same set-up with a male lead (minus Orphan's SF element). Orphan was a hell of a lot more fun, I will say, and it gets more outrageous with every new ep (it certainly makes me cackle...)

It's worth watching for Tatiana Maslany's dizzying range of characters if nothing else, and almost all her accents are impressive - except, oddly, she sounds Aussie to me rather than British most of the time she's being Sarah, to the point where I assumed the actress was Australian (she's Canadian), because the character never once sounds British to me (Felix definitely does, obviously, and Maria Doyle Kennedy goes for Irish). And they wind up sticking with Canada (possibly Toronto) for the setting, even if they do make it a bit ambiguous using NY & Toronto place names to begin with (there's a line later about how they moved over from London).

It does feel pretty Canadian to me (the locations look similar to Lost Girl etc) And not really a British production as such though - not like Being Human is, as we certainly havent heard a peep about Orphan in the UK so far, and the short season order is more a North American cable thing with this (and it's ten eps rather than five I think)?

Nationality issues aside, this and Hannibal are two of the best new shows I've seen this TV season - most everything else has grown on me slowly, but I loved those two right out of the box.