TV: Orphan Black season 4 (2016)

orphanblack4[spoiler alert]
Creators: Graeme Manson & John Fawcett
Language: English
Length: 10 episodes, about 44 minutes each
Finished watching on: 17 June 2016
Previous seasons: 1 | 2 | 3

I was a bit nervous about this show because season 3 had been a bit of a let down, but my fears were very quickly allayed when I watched the first episode – the writing, at the very least, is back on form, and the atmosphere of the show is darker than ever – in fact, compared to the previous seasons, I was surprised at how much dread I felt in each episode.

Fortunately, Allison doesn’t have a ridiculous, irrelevant side plot in this season, and the writers manage to find other ways to make comedy out of the situations – and Donny, since mid-season 3 a member of clone club, plays a much bigger part in the story this time.

The other character Krystal now plays a bigger part too, and I was glad to hear that her character is directly based on the comedy characters in ”PubLIZity”, which has some kind of meme status on the internet and is very funny.

The show also manages to partly redeem itself (and this is a massive spoiler) for making us think that Delphine had died a horrible death – presumably having seen the backlash against the constant murder of lesbian and other LGBT characters, they somehow brought her back to life at the end of the season.

As before, the season leaves off on a massive cliffhanger, as Sarah is I think left for dead having been attacked by Rachel, and as I mentioned, the atmosphere is very dark. But it was miles better than the previous season, and I definitely welcome this return to form. Tatiana Maslany is at the top of her game. Still wondering where they will go from here, though – it has still been getting weirder every single episode!


TV: Orphan Black season 3 (2015)

orphan-black-season-3-premiereCreators: Graeme Manson & John Fawcett
Language: English
Length: 10 episodes of about 44 minutes
Finished watching on: 21 June 2015

It’s the third season of this show now. I feel like it’s losing the plot a little – that’s not to say that I wasn’t avidly viewing it week-by-week, though. I feel like every season Sarah and her clone buddies defeat the big baddie – in the first season, it was the weird cultists, and in the second, it was the pseudo-Amish – and at the beginning of the next season, there’s a few episodes’ lag while the new season finds its feet and we work out what the protagonists are supposed to be doing.

And this season took a little while longer to get going than its predecessors had. Helena is banished to the Mexican desert under the supervision of creepy “boy clones” (notwithstanding the one transgender male clone that we’ve already met in the previous season, making this moniker factually inaccurate), part of some army experiment. But it’s unclear who they’re working for, at this point. A large portion of the season concerns Sarah trying to work out how to bust her sister out of the prison.

Meanwhile, Alison’s antics – running for local school board elections and starting a drug racketeering business – feel even further removed from reality than they had in previous seasons, and I was getting whiplash whenever the story cut from a more relevant and poignant scene to Alison’s.

Most distressingly, the series has become more openly willing to shake things up from the status quo established in the previous season, and the most notable of those situations was the decimation of Cosima’s relationship with Delphine. Perhaps this is necessary to demonstrate character development of some kind, but it rings hollow in a world where lesbian relationships are regularly not allowed to survive on TV or in movies.

That said, I understand that TV can’t stay in a status quo, or it would stagnate. It’s also good that the season starts to pick up again towards the end, and the climax is satisfactory, if a little strange. Tension still ran high right at the end, even if the ending itself came out of left-field.

There are a few directions in which the show could go from here, next year, and I hope they choose the right one. I’d hate to end up with a show that I couldn’t suspend disbelief for anymore, which (let’s just say) is a distinct possibility. I hope they sort out the relationships of the characters and start answering more of the unanswered questions. I hope that they don’t send Alison careering away from the main arc just for comic relief, as that felt like lazy writing. I hope that there’s more focus on Tatiana Maslany’s clone characters, rather than the new “male clones”. But most of all I just hope to watch it soon! I hate having to wait almost a whole year between doses of shows!

If you got to the end of this review and are looking for a recommendation, you’re looking in the wrong place. It’s the third season, and this review already gave away loads of spoilers for the previous seasons. You’d better go back to those reviews, or just go find it online to watch it from the beginning. Mind you, that sounds like a good idea, to be honest. I don’t want it to sound like I’m completely trashing this season, but the first one was written much more tightly than this one, so rewatching it from the beginning sounds like a nice plan.

TV: Orphan Black season 2 (2014)

orphanblack2creators: Graeme Manson & John Fawcett
language: English with a bit of German and Korean in the first episode
length: 10 episodes of 44 minutes
finished watching on: 22 June 2014

This is the TV series I’d been waiting for all year, after it being by far my favourite of 2013, and it didn’t disappoint. It starts off strong, and keeps going in every episode, constantly feeling under pressure and with many dramatic turns happening constantly.

I can’t remember if I mentioned that last year, but it’s even more prominent this year that this is a direct result of the more “British-style” production of making a smaller number of episodes with a dedicated team of two, who can give the episodes a consistent level of writing throughout and manage to completely avoid useless filler, except for an indulgent scene in the final episode. The balance between comedy and drama is also maintained to some degree, although increasingly it seems that some episodes are deemed mostly comedic or vice-versa, instead of having a mixture of scenes within each episode.

Tatiana Maslany’s acting has also come on by leaps and bounds this time. I still look at all the different performances and can’t believe they’re the same person: even though her appearance changing between the clones is mostly superficial, the performance really influences my mind to believe that they genuinely are different people. That and the visual effects team, presumably – I’ve seen some very fascinating on-set pictures of Maslany interacting with her double. It’s much more naturalistic than predecessors such as The Parent Trap or Austin Powers, where the characters almost didn’t interact at all, and when they did, it was visibly with a double hiding their face from the camera. Here they brazenly put both faces on the screen together and have one messing around with the others’ hair, or as in the picture above, lying right on top of each other with a gun in hand.

Storywise, the plot is getting ever more complicated as the series goes on – for instance, by the end of this season, there are many new characters and (spoiler alert) a whole new set of clones introduced. The new Amishesque religious characters introduced here are probably even creepier than the ones from the first season in the darkened rooms. The full role of some of the characters has yet to be realized even now – for instance, we still don’t really know where Mrs S comes from or who she supports in the whole debacle.

A lot of the first half of the season takes place out in the countryside, away from the city, which makes a nice change of pace from the first season, totally set in a claustrophobic metropolis. The characters feel more vulnerable out there, perhaps unable to find help so easily. I quite liked this change of pace, and it helped to mentally distinguish the new storylines from the old.

The background theme and discussion of personal identity and female empowerment is much stronger in this season, too: there is the newest clone, Tony, who is transgender, as the most notable of all the additions, cementing the creators’ quest to include LGBT characters more and explore those kinds of identities, but there’s also Cosima, vehemently defending her right to make her own decisions about what happens to her body, or Rachel, getting violently upset when she discovers that the clones were deliberately made infertile.

The ending was much more low-key this year than last. Last year there was a huge cliffhanger, but this time, although we don’t know what will happen next, I don’t feel such a sense of urgency to find out. Nevertheless, I’m going to have to wait until next April to find out what happens next, and I can only hope that the creators manage to add in some more episodes next time; even just a couple will make it less difficult to wait for the next time.