Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Orphan Black, Season 2 (2014)

One of the challenges facing any show driven by a core mystery / conspiracy is that it has to find a way to provide some sort of forward progress and answers, without blowing its big question.  It's a difficult line to walk.  For my money most often shows fail this task by devolving into a series of largely meaningless plot twists, losing momentum and my interest along with it.  Yes Lost, I am talking about you.

Season two of Orphan Black doesn't do a perfect job of walking the tightrope, I think.  There's a bit too much wheel-spinning activity where lots of stuff happens, but the end result of all that kerfuffle is that things are pretty much exactly where they were before it all happened; a few too many "dun dun dun!" moments that are resolved less than half an episode later.  I'm reminded in some ways of the old serials that used to play before the main feature at the cinema back in the 1930s and 1940s.  These would often consist of 10-12 twenty minute episodes, but the end of the second episode and the beginning of the second last would have the characters in exactly the same places.  This meant that you could drop all the stuff in the middle and make a movie out of the first two and last two episodes, and the story would still make sense.  So from episode 3 to episode N-2 was just filler.

Now this show doesn't quite go that far, as there is stuff that happens in each episode that advances the story in various ways, but when a character gets kidnapped by group X, then escapes, then voluntarily returns to them, then changes her mind and escapes again ... well, it does feel like at least a bit of padding is going on.

Fortunately Orphan Black has some sharp writing and a fine cast.  On the latter front, Tatiana Maslany has rightly been acclaimed for her performance as multiple characters, but I would be remiss not to also mention Jordan Javaris and Skyler Wexler, who are excellent in their supporting roles.  On the former, pretty much everything this season that involves uptight soccer-mom Alison is pure gold.

There's definitely a wobble or two here as Orphan Black walks the mystery high wire, but it hasn't fallen off it.  I'll be coming along for next season to see if they can keep the balancing act going.

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