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Photograph: Steve WilkieTatiana Maslany as Sarah in Orphan Black
The cast of Orphan Black
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Photograph: Steve WilkieKristian Bruun as Donnie and Tatiana Maslany as Alison in Orphan Black
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Photograph: Steve WilkieTatiana Maslany as Sarah in Orphan Black
Tatiana Maslany Rachel and Sarah in Orphan Black
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Photograph: Steve WilkieDylan Bruce as Paul in Orphan Black
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Photograph: Steve WilkieTatiana Maslany as Alison in Orphan Black
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Photograph: Steve WilkieTatiana Maslany as Cosima and Evelyne Brochu as Delphine in Orphan Black
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Photograph: Steve WilkiePeter Outerbridge as Henrik Johanssen and Ari Millen as Mark in Orphan Black
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Photograph: Steve WilkieTatiana Maslany as Sarah and Jordan Gavaris as Felix in Orphan Black
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Photograph: Steve WilkieTatiana Maslany as Sarah in Orphan Black

Orphan Black, Season 2: TV review

Tatiana Maslany's acting gymnastics continue to make Orphan Black a highly rewarding viewing experience

By Jessica Johnson

Premieres Saturday, April 19 at 8pm on BBC America.

One of the biggest surprises in TV last year was BBC America's sci-fi thriller Orphan Black. A network that was largely defined by re-broadcasting British imports like Doctor Who, BBC America upped it's game with its second original scripted series, a paranoid mystery about a set of genetically engineered clones sent out into the world by a suspicious mega-corporation. At the center of the new cult drama was a collection of riveting performances by newcomer Tatiana Maslany, who played seven different characters so beautifully that you'd have to constantly remind yourself that the show's vast ensemble is largely composed of a single actor. In its second season, Orphan Black is doubling down on the conspiracy-laden plot it set up last year, sending Maslany's clones into dark world where no one is safe.

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When last season concluded, the Clone Club had suffered all kinds of drama and the new episode picks up right where we left them. Scrappy Sarah is desperate to find her daughter Kira (Skyler Wexler) and foster mother Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy), who appear to have been kidnapped. She's certain that head clone Rachel and her creators, the Neolutionists, have taken them and is willing to go to great lengths to get them back. Meanwhile, science-buff Cosima is considering teaming up with the bad guys and their head brain Dr. Leekie (Matt Frewer) so that she can find out more about her mysterious illness. And then there's soccer mom and constant source of comic relief Alison, who's coping with her complacency following frenemy Aynsley's death by assuming the lead role in the community theatre's latest musical.

Maslany certainly hasn't lost her edge; being reunited with her clones is the true gift of Orphan Black's return. There aren't any all-hands reunions in the sophomore season's premiere episode but there are some playful bits including Alison Skyping into Sarah and Cosima's plot to infiltrate the Neolutionist's headquarters and Sarah tackling Rachel, leading to a memorable shot of Maslany's face looming over itself. Sarah's foster brother Felix (Jordan Gavaris) adds some welcome levity to the show's tense return, as she finds him in the center of drug-addled and debaucherous night, right when she needs his help the most.

The thrill of Orphan Black's premiere season was watching Sarah unfold the mysteries of how she and her fellow clones came to be, never being able to tell when she might come face-to-face with another version of herself. Now, with so many cats of the bag, will the second season be able to carry that same level of tension through to her confrontations with the Neolutionists—and any other foe that may view the clones as dangerous or valuable? One thing is certain, with Maslany's impressive acting gymnastics at its center, Orphan Black continues to be a highly rewarding viewing experience. The show continues to be at its best when it rests on her shoulders, rather than its conspiracy-laden plot.


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