Orphan Black S1 Ep1 – Natural Selection

I refer to myself as having “everyman face.” It’s where I have such common features that I get told I look like “so and so this person” and “so and so that person.” Mostly actors or other guys that have dark hair and eyes and pale skin. I guess, like a Rorschach test, my face just looks like whomever you think it looks closest to. And oddly enough, I’ve never ran into anyone that I’ve been compared to.

Within the first five minutes of Orphan Black, Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) bumps into someone who not only looks exactly like her, but also watches her kill herself by leaping in front of a train. Yeah, that’s how we start. So the next logical thing to do is steal the purse of your spitting image as everyone gathers around the spectacle of a suicide.

Orphan Black is an American-Canadian sci-fi thriller created by Graeme Manson (Cube, Flashpoint, Endgame) and John Fawcett (Ginger Snaps, The Dark, Lost Girl). It centers around street-wise small-time crook Sarah as she tries to assume the life of the deceased lookalike for monetary gain, and instead inherits more trouble than she’s prepared for.

Orphan Black S1Ep1

When taking notes on your doppelgänger don’t forget to check their Facebook.

The show feels like some strange combination of The Ringer and Dollhouse, and yet wholly has its own voice. The script is a little light, relying mostly on “How is she going to pull this off?” tension and Sarah working on her best Beth impression, but it does a good job introducing the main players and the deepening conspiracy without hitting you over the head with the details. Watching Maslany transform from Sarah to Beth isn’t unlike watching a newborn foal walking for the first time. That is a good thing, because it makes this impossible situation that much more believable. It would be less convincing if she pulled off the new identity with ease. Not only does she have to play Sarah and Beth, but as we get to the end of the episode Sarah is confronted by another lookalike, German-accented Katja. Yeah, the plot just thickened.

The characters who steal the episode are Sarah’s foster brother Felix (Jordan Gavaris) and abusive dealer boyfriend Vic (Michael Mando) as the black comedy odd couple thrust into the fallout of Sarah’s choice to assume Beth’s identity. Felix is privy to Sarah’s actions as he acts as her voice of reason, though he goes unheard, while Vic is under the impression that Sarah is dead and has no knowledge of who Beth is or the conspiracy.

I feel like I should warn you about butts and everything-but-the-nipple-boob making their gratuitous appearance, because the show airs right after Doctor Who as part of BBC America’s Supernatural Saturday line up. So you might want to put the kiddos to bed before starting the show. Sidebar: The cinematography is actually very good and makes use of color and lighting well.

The show premiered this last Saturday and it’s not too late to get caught up. Check out their website and visit Amazon to download last week’s episode or get the season pass. I’m very interested to see where this show goes and ready to plumb the depths of the conspiracy, because I need to know what to do and not do when I bump into one of my look-alikes.