Orphan Black Season Two Review

Caution: This review is chock full of spoilers and I’m not sure why you would read this if you haven’t seen or are at least familiar with the series. If that is the case please put your entire life on hold and go watch all 20 episodes.  You will be a better, more fulfilled person for it.

In case you are, in fact, new,  Orphan Black revolves around the fate of lab-created genetic clones in the form of identical 29-year-old women spread out over many countries and continents, but mostly conveniently located in the surrounding Generic Canadian City (that is definitely Not Toronto) area. Season two follows last season’s Core Four clones as they try to discover their true origins and battle against the powers who try to stop them – the brilliant, sick, Science!Clone (Cosima Niehaus),  neurotic, occasionally-accidentally-on-purpose-neighbor-murdering housewife Stepford!Clone (Allison Hendrix), stubborn, street-wise Angsty!Clone (Sarah Manning), everyone’s favorite unbalanced, serial killing Ukrainian Crazy!Clone (Helena) – as well as one of the newest clones, the cold, calculating Corporate!Clone (Rachel Duncan). There are some other clones introduced this season worth noting – including transgender Tony Sawicki who makes a one-episode appearance (if for seemingly no other reason than as a plot filler for the episode and to prove Tatiana Masalany can play whatever gender she damn well pleases), and the heartbreaking Jennifer Fitzsimmons, who we see at the beginning of the season via web diary flashbacks succumb to the unspecified autoimmune Clone Disease that also inflicts Cosima.

Orphan Black Season 2 Review (5) - Cosima

We see the Core Four pitted against the evil corporation (because you can’t have sinister genetic cloning without corporate sponsorship) DYAD, its head show runner and amoral scientist Dr. Leekie, and his de facto daughter and resident HBIC Rachel Duncan. Cosima and her hot, French lesbian partner in science / questionable loyalties Delphine consent to work for DYAD in the hopes of uncovering more of the clones’ genetic mysteries, as well as getting to the bottom of the autoimmune disease that seems to be taking out the clones one by one. Each of the clones seem to have a problem with having someone close to them they aren’t sure they can trust, and Delphine seems to be Cosima’s (although I’m still slightly suspicious of helpful, eternally friendzoned DYAD lab partner Scott, how fun would it be if he turned out to be a Baddie?) .  Over the course of the season we learn that yes, Delphine does in fact love Cosima, as she goes to any length she can to help Cosima, including obtaining sketchy genetic material from Sarah’s daughter Kira in the hopes of curing her, which in the end  costs Delphine a swanky promotion at DYAD and possibly her relationship with Cosima. I’ve always been neutral about Delphine, but you have to feel for my girl Cosima, who at the end of the season is barely hanging on as she battles Clone Disease. I just want all the good things for her! In this show where almost all the characters have questionable-at-best moral standards, Cosima continues to be one of the few who shows a core ethical integrity and unselfish decency and kindness to those around her no matter what her own personal situation might be, making her endearing and a fan-favorite.

Orphan Black Season 2 Review (7) - HelenaWhile Cosima is fighting illness and her attraction to someone who may or may not be working for the corporation using her as a guinea pig, we see Crazy!Clone Helena wrestling with her own inner demons (and occasionally hot dudes in bars). Helena, forever longing for a family to belong to, wants desperately to bond with her sestra-clone Sarah and have her own babies someday, but Sarah has all she can handle with her own drama. This eventually leads Helena seeking comfort at the Creepy Religious Compound, where Prolethean Leader and Head Creepy Dude Henrik impregnates her with clone embryos fertilized with his own icky DNA. Because that will definitely turn out well. Helena eventually escapes and burns down Creepy Religious Compound with the help of her new non-clone sestra Gracie (who is also creepily impregnated with her father Henrik’s DNA and clone embryos. Ew ew ew. Ew) and is united with the rest of the Core Four in a truly adorable scene where the editors show off their cgi-clone-splicing abilities by having all four in same room, dancing in Felix’s apartment. The end of the season sees Helena leave a nitrogen tank full of embryo clones (popular internet theory says to provide genetic stem cell type material to help Cosima) at Felix’s apartment, right before she is turned over to the military by Sarah’s foster mom, the morally unfathomable Mrs. S.  Poor Helena can never catch a break. It is also a tribute to Tatiana Masalany’s ability that Helena, who in a lesser actor’s hands would be campy, over-the-top and unrealistic (or relegated to comic relief status), continues to someone you’re invested in and are actively rooting for. Which is something for a character who, you know, occasionally kills people.

Another sestra that can seemingly never catch a break is no one’s favorite clone, Angsty!Clone Sarah Manning. This season found Sarah faced with a number of challenges, including (but not limited to) DYAD, Rachel Duncan’s nefarious plotting, investigating “Project Leda” and Ethan Duncan’s involvement, the reappearance of Mysterious Baby Daddy / Bee Farmer Cal (now available with RV handy for hiding on the run and hacker skills for convenient plot exposition) and also her foster-mother Siobhan’s irritating habit of not giving up more information than is absolutely necessary (which got old and contrived feeling about halfway through season one, Orphan Black writers) to further the plot and manufacture drama. Not mention her daughter Kira getting kidnapped. Again. Seriously, someone please get that child into witness protection and back into school. Some therapy probably couldn’t hurt at this point either.

Even Kira knows she's already screwed up for life. Thanks, mom!Putting aside her questionable parenting skills, I’m partial to Sarah and really enjoy having a very flawed, 3-dimensional female lead who isn’t some boring, virtuous angel. While I’d like for her and Kira and bee farmer Cal (sorry Paul, none for your vanilla ass, find another clone to care too much about) to settle down and, you know, farm the bees and live the simple life, it doesn’t seem like that is in the cards for her anytime soon. A lot of shows have problem over using the Strong Stubborn Woman trope, that is having a female character who does nothing but what she’s told not to do, even though it makes no rational sense, only to further the plot (or put herself in a situation that needs a male to rescue) – but thankfully Orphan Black isn’t one of them. While Sarah’s stubbornness does helpfully lead to some plot exposition, it’s (almost) never done in a contrived feeling way – Masalany bringing depth to Sarah that still makes her grifter, stubborn ways seem true to the character and resonates with the viewer.

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