Monday, August 12, 2013

Orphan Black

For many viewers the initial reaction we have to science fiction thriller Orphan Black's first episode, is confusion.  Where the eff are we?  Sarah Manning, who we will learn, quickly, is the central, organizing clone of many, is on a train platform that looks quite like England, but we hear out of the station speakers, something about the next train to New York. This is confusion is most affecting in the early episodes, as we constantly ask ourselves: "Are we in England, Canada or the U.S.?"  While searching for geographic clues, we get over the confusion, or get beyond it, deciding this must be Canada.So it is, Canada. As this is a BBC America series, Orphan Black appropriately enough is shot and located in Toronto, though the show runners are on record that they didn't want to broadcast any specific locale, rather be so non-anywhere to be anywhere.  I, personally, like watching series set in Canadian cities rather than the default U.S. cities (not that I won't watch a show because it is in the U.S. -- or supposed to be). But two other Canadian shows, Continuum and Lost Girl, are favorites, and now Orphan Black has joined them on the Favorites List. So this is the first thing about this series that reels me in.The second element that captures me for the entire series is Tatiana Maslany, who plays Sarah Manning:Sarah Manning, Punk & GrifterThe third:Alison Hendrix, Soccer MomThe fourth:Cosima Niehaus, Ph.d. Candidate in Experimental Evolutionary Developmental BiologyAnd there are more: more clones -- all played by Tatiana Maslany, and more characters, such as Sarah's foster brother, artist and hustler, Felix 'Fe' Dawkins:Even more -- the brilliant actress, Maria Doyle Kennedy -- as Mrs. S., foster mother to Sarah and Fe, caretaker of Sarah's daughter:Then there are the writers. It's jaw dropping to watch the Alison-centered episodes, in which there is very much at stake, yet the eps are actually played as traditional comedy, dating back at least to Roman theater -- characters moving through one door after another, all just missing each other by a moment, mistaken identities, deliberate impersonation, while we in the midst of life-and-death-and-perpetual corporate ownership of one's body, the search for self and autonomy and a life of one's own.  All the time we're on the edge of our seats.The opening credit sequences are creatively evocative of what Orphan Black is, but some of us at least (me!) need to have watched some episodes in to realize how very well they emerge out of the show itself.  The kaleidoscope design is clean, sophisticated, yet lush and gorgeous as are the molecular divisions that are the foundation of life and creation.There are the issues of nurture vs. nature, as Sarah herself keeps bringing up in connection with assassin Helena, her twin.  Alison too, contrasting her mother with Sarah's foster mother.Where the series tends to fall down to a degree, is with the obligatory sex-romance relationships, especially Sarah's -- as if the writers and even Sarah herself, aren't really interested -- as Sarah uses sex to distract one lover - minder from getting too close. The clones, like the writers, seem vastly interested in the young women's other kinds of relationships, including discovery of their own identities, and what it means to be part of a clone cluster.  Of which, then, I approve because I, as a viewer, agree.  It's as if they are on a trajectory to not make the errors of two other recent identity series which failed miserably: Dollhouse and Ringer.Some of us may be a bit disappointed that the central fact of identity here, in this women centered series, is motherhood -- where do I come from?  I'm not among them, because there are still so many people who identify women, and value them only with their reproduction capacity. As in the days of slavery, for instance, no matter how skilled a woman was, her real value was how many children she could produce, i.e how fast and how much she could increase by her 'natural increase' her owner's wealth.  Here we are confronting the potential, maybe probability of a new neo-slavery for women and their natural or unnatural increase, their genetic material, owned in perpetuity by the corporation that manufactured their existence for its own purposes, financial and beyond.  These are basic issues of contemporary bio-ethics.Alas we're in culture that laughs at the very idea of ethics. This bodes very badly for women, children, animals, plants and the planet.

Orphan Black Images

Orphan Black - Orphan Black Wallpaper
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Orphan Black - Orphan Black Wallpaper
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ORPHAN BLACK Character Posters: 'When Did I Become Us?' - Seriable
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Orphan Black // New Show Review | Becoming the Führer
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