Last week, BBC America’s dramatic thriller Orphan Black premiered in full, throwing everything at viewers, from suicide by train to mysterious clones of differing nationalities to mourning drug dealers, and had it all draped beneath a mysterious veil of sex and black comedy. Looking back, the intrigue and excitement rallied high throughout, but there wasn’t necessarily loads of substance behind the flash and the flashed derrieres. A troubled woman, Sarah (Tatiana Maslany), unwittingly assumes the life of a police officer that looks just like her, an American named Beth, so that she can assume parental duties for a daughter she’d previously abandoned. It’s a plot with a lot of places to go, and it seems as if it’ll get to all of them in the next nine episodes. The premiere ended on a high note, with Katja, a German version of Sarah, popping up in the backseat of her car, only to immediately get shot. Through the head! And then Sarah’s phone rings! Mystery!
Luckily, “Instinct” picks up immediately where the first episode left off, and Sarah’s mysterious phone caller, who thinks she’s talking with Beth (the woman who jumped in front of the train), reveals that someone is killing the clones – when they aren’t killing themselves, apparently. Since there’s no reason for us to dance circles around the plot like the show does to reveal things to Sarah and the audience, let’s just lay it all out there.
Katja the German has a very important briefcase, a briefcase so important that the bad guys do $6,500 worth of damage to her hotel room looking for it. They leave a headless doll full of cigarette burns sitting on an open Bible with a passage circled. In other words, these must be some badass motherfuckers. After begrudgingly disposing of the real Katja, Sarah humorlessly poses as her at the hotel in order to get the briefcase from the hotel’s security. The briefcase holds a ton of information about the contacted clones, including X-rays, passports, and blood samples. There’s a French clone named Danielle, another Brit named Allison, as well as an Austrian and an Italian. For her next mysterious phone call, Sarah drops the Beth accent and scares the person off.
And so she follows the nearby Allison woman, who turns out to be a real bitch of a soccer mom who isn’t at all pleased that Sarah is involved. She keeps saying it isn’t her responsibility to tell Sarah what’s going on, and threatens her multiple times against showing her face around others, like her kids. They plan to meet at Allison’s that night, and for Sarah to bring the briefcase. Once Sarah gets there, Allison introduces her to Cosima, another clone! She was apparently the mystery caller as well. So maybe she’s Greek? Her only character trait is “the one with glasses” at this point. This is where the episode ends, and covers the clone side of things.
Meanwhile, Sarah’s flamboyant best friend Felix (Jordan Gavaris) has to deal with Sarah’s obnoxious bully of an ex-boyfriend, Vic (Michael Mando), after a faux wake for Sarah. Sarah screwed Vic out of a bunch of coke, so everyone thinks that Sarah jumped in front of the train. This all sounds convoluted enough, but when Sarah’s daughter Kira showed up at the wake during last week’s episode, it complicated things. But Felix visits Kira and her caretaker later on and tells them the truth of the matter.
The depressed and drunken Vic really wants to become a part of Kira’s life, against everyone’s wishes, and it seems like he’ll just be written into the show to give Sarah yet another complication to withstand. And though he’s a dumb character, Mando plays him as an apologetic bully, and that makes him more interesting than annoying, for the most part.
The third hindrance in Sarah’s life stems from Beth’s life. Beth shot a civilian, and is in the middle of her suspension as she awaits a hearing – one that she botched last week by drinking a bunch of hand soap and vomiting during the proceedings. Her partner Art (Kevin Hanchard) is worried about her, as well as anyone finding out about his possible involvement in the civilian’s death. He is holding onto the $75,000 that Sarah withdrew from Beth’s bank, at least until she’s reinstated. So Sarah bones up on all the facts of the case and pulls off a convincing hearing. Except her psychiatrist declares her unfit for duty, after she terribly faked her way through last week’s. Some clever thinking gets her out of it, and she accuses her psych for prescribing too many pills that may have confused her. Art reveals that Beth was also a tweaker, which puts her closer to Sarah’s life than we’d previously thought.
Beth also has a boyfriend named Paul who she’s had problems with recently, after the shooting. He’s a douche and he’s moving out, so let’s hope we don’t have to talk about him anymore.
All in all, “Instinct” was another interesting hour of thrilling drama, albeit with less obvious humor involved. Felix and Vic are the obvious sources of humor, and while it is amusing to see the overly cool Felix’s anguish over suburbia-induced acne, the plot-heavy aspects didn’t leave much room for random comedy. Maslany, a Canadian actress, is killing it in these multiple roles, which luckily aren’t hitting The Nutty Professor levels of annoyance.
Though Orphan Black is itself a cloned mash-up of a bunch of different shows, it’s got the writing and characters that have already separated it from the flock, and hopefully that will continue next week.
I hope the last episode reveals that they’re all just an experiment from Calvin and his cardboard duplicator. I’ll be looking for stuffed tigers.