'Orphan Black' even better in Season 2

The San Francisco ChronicleApril 17, 2014 

  • On TV

    'Orphan Black'

    9 p.m. Saturdays, BBC America.

Leave it to BBC America to swim against the tide. In the middle of what seems to be a still growing trend to kill off major characters in TV shows to maintain viewer interest, Orphan Black has the luxury of being able to go in the opposite direction.

But last year's runaway hit has no reason to worry about keeping eyes on the thrill-packed story of a young woman named Sarah Manning who discovers she is just one of a number of clones and that someone is out to get them. Actually, make that everyone is out to get them, or so it seems.

The various clones might look alike, but Sarah has learned, the hard way, that they're anything but the same beneath the surface. Alison Hendrix is a suburban housewife with a drinking problem and a bad case of OCD; Cosima Niehaus is a brilliant biologist; Rachel Duncan is a ruthless executive with the Dyad Institute, which created the clones; Beth Childs, who committed suicide at the start of the series, was a cop; and Helena X was a psychopath and is presumed dead. All of these women — and maybe others — are played with jaw-dropping brilliance by Tatiana Maslany.

We already know what Sarah and her clone allies know, that almost no one, with the exception of Sarah's foster brother Felix Dawkins and her young daughter Kira, can be trusted, and that includes Sarah's foster mother, Siobhan Sadler; Beth's lover Paul Dierden; Cosima's lover, Dr. Delphine Cormier of the Dyad Institute; and Alison's husband, Donnie.

The second season takes a deeper dive into the trust and ethical issues at the heart of the show, as the "good clones" — i.e., Sarah, Cosima and Alison — close ranks against science on one side, represented by the Dyad Institute and its director, Dr. Aldous Leekie, and a group of religious extremists known as the Proletheans, who raised Helena X. Oh, and there are the cops.

But don't worry about Orphan Black turning into a live-action version of an Oxford Union debate on cloning. There's plenty of action in the new episodes sent to critics, not to mention hilarious comic relief via Felix's droll running commentary and even a music interlude.

The show was created by Graeme Manson and John Fawcett. And as good as it was last year, it's off to an even better start in its sophomore year.

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