Send in the clones

Dave Bartlett
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Add ‘Orphan Black’ to your must-see TV lineup

I know I ended last week’s column by saying I was trying to find a show that was a little more uplifting, or at least not so dark. Well that went out the window when I saw the first ad for the second season of a show that is so fast paced, it doesn’t let you think about the past for very long, except the important bits.

Tatiana Maslany of Regina, Sask., is back as Sarah Manning — and a number of other characters — in the Space network show “Orphan Black.” The second season began Saturday. — Submitted image

I’m constantly checking out new TV shows and rewatching old one’s, in an attempt to keep this column fresh, so when I tell you this is the third time I’ve written about “Orphan Black” in less than 12 months, it should impress upon you how great I think this show is.

The Canadian-American co-production that had critics raving last spring returned to the Space network on Saturday at 10:30 p.m. Newfoundland Time for a second season, and it hasn’t lost a beat, picking up right where it left off.

In one broad stroke, it’s a show about a conspiracy to grow clones, and observe them over time. But now the clones — who don’t know they are clones, at least at first — are in their 20s and are being tracked and killed. To say anymore would give away too much for new viewers.

If you haven’t heard of this show, here are four reasons you should track down the first season and then catch up as soon as possible:

1) Saskatchewan’s Tatiana Maslany: The actress plays something like eight distinct characters, including the protagonist Sarah Manning and the antagonist, a religious zealot known only as Helena. They are all clones, who are now aware of their origin and hunted by both an antibiotech sect and their scientist creators.

Maslany was nominated for a Golden Globe for her work in the show, and both she and it garnered a number of other nominations and won a number of those accolades last year.

The show is worth watching just to see one actress pull off such an array of characters in an intense drama. This isn’t Eddie Murphy’s “The Klumps” or even “Dr. Strangelove,” where Peter Sellers masters three goofball characters in what is the best satire of all time. This is amazing to watch.

2) Pacing: I’m sure I’ve said this before, but this show doesn’t let up for long. There’s a lot of running, and the chase and fight scenes are scored with a really cool electro beat, which keeps your heart in your throat. The action only slows down long enough to gulp down a few deep breaths, or for a brief moment of comic relief before it’s off again.

Pacing is one of those things that is hard to tinker with and get right, outside of a tried and true TV serial formula. “The Wire” did it by slowing down the action so we understood the characters caught up in it. “Orphan Black” doesn’t let you dwell on the little stuff because something bigger and badder is lurking around the corner. But you never feel overwhelmed.

3) Speaking of comic relief: Sarah’s foster brother Felix (Jordan Gavaris) gets top marks in the Season 2 premiere for bringing the laughs. He’s a gay artist and small-time con man who is best when acting against Maslany’s soccer mom/gun nut persona Alison Hendricks. He’s a lovable rogue, always trying to get Sarah to back away from the dangerous path and play it safe. His loft has also become the clone’s unofficial hideout.

4) Matt Frewer: Yes, “Max Headroom” himself is back, after entering the show late last season as geneticist Aldous Leekie. He’s tall, and gaunt and reeks of hubris. And, as the story picks up, he’s telling a crowded ballroom that biotechnology will heal, feed and fuel the future of humanity — while Sarah lurks in the shadow with an automatic pistol.

He hasn’t been in the show a whole lot, and you’re starting to think he may be the lesser of two evils, but brrrrrr — every time he displays that rictus grin I get the willies.

5) The cop and the boyfriend: The show opened last year with Sarah witnessing another clone jumping in front of a train. She’s on the run, and the woman looks just like her, so she steals her identity.

The woman, Beth, is a cop who’s former partner Art (Kevin Hanchard) is an ally who has finally being brought into the clonespiracy. Beth’s former boyfriend, Paul (Dylan Bruce), is an agent for Leekie, but is being kept on a short leash after trying to play double agent. His loyalties still aren’t 100 per cent clear.

With these two interesting characters waiting in the wings, the show has lots of potential to develop. And what about Sarah’s daughter and foster mom?

So catch up, science-fiction fans, and set your PVR for Space on Saturday nights for the next 10 or 12 weeks.

Correspondence goes to Dave Bartlett


Geographic location: Saskatchewan

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