In the past month, I have, to my own detriment, binge watched two shows: True Detective and Orphan Black. The two were surprisingly similar; they hop between plot-driven drama and character-driven dramas at the blink of an eye, feature unlikely duos working together to solve the mysteries surrounding a curious death, and save themselves from the many genre tropes that they draw upon through smart writing, strong direction, and, most importantly, staggering lead performances. But while True Detective plods along with deeply meditative scenes that make its thrills all the more jarring (see the drug raid scene at the end of episode four), Orphan Black scoffs at the idea of buildup, throwing shock after shock to keep the watcher always at the edge of his seat, and is way more fun to watch as a result.
For the uninitiated, Orphan Black is a sci-fi thriller that follows the story of Sarah Manning, a British con-artist who discovers that she is one of at least ten and probably more clones, each fleshed out as distinct characters through the incredible performance of Tatiana Maslany. Caught between two forces who treat her and her “sisters” as objects rather than people, Sarah struggles to find a way to ensure safety for herself, her foster brother Felix, her clones, and most importantly, her daughter Kira. The second season premiere shows no signs of letting up with the pace established in the first: the first scenes involve a tense shootout at a diner and an ingenious escape, followed by Sarah’s visit to Felix at a gay club, pulling him, reluctant and high, from the “five-some” he is about to partake in to get his help in finding her missing daughter. This is the sort of tonal shift that one learns to expect from Orphan Black, and one that it handles expertly. It is a promising start to an even more promising episode, the sort of episode that makes Orphan Black the one running show that I can recommend without reservation.