This penultimate season is a doozy
UK Broadcast Netflix, finished US Broadcast BBC America, finished Episodes Reviewed 4.01-4.10
When we reviewed Orphan Black’s third season in Viewscreen one year ago, we mentioned that the show had perhaps steered too much into dark territory, thus contrasting badly with its more comedic elements. We hoped this would be fixed in time for season four. Were our hopes realised?
The answer’s a resounding yes. Tonally this year has been absolutely spot-on, able to juggle grim scenes of stinky dead bodies being exhumed with the Hendrixes having phone sex; maggot-bots being dug out of victims’ cheeks with a pregnant Helena complaining about farting too much. There’s no whiplash, no jolts: everything fits together seamlessly. This is probably the most assured season of Orphan Black since it began.
Fittingly, given that we just said that, we also start season four with a flashback to the life of Beth Childs – the cop whose suicide originally set her clone, Sarah, on the path to finding all her sisters and fighting the Powers That Be. While it’s tempting to wish we could be introduced to more new clones instead (although dippy Krystal does pop up again, which is great, and a clone named MK also debuts), it’s fascinating seeing how Beth was driven to end her life after a landslide of crap lands in her lap. And it’s pertinent, too, as the rest of the clones have to climb that landslide as the season progresses, investigating a gene-tampering organisation. While last season enjoyed a grungy military subplot, this time we get the gleaming world of science and an array of clinical, whip-smart villains, who bring us twists and turns that veer from nail-biting to tragic.
But, as always, the focus of the show is Tatiana Maslany’s extraordinary performance as Sarah, Cosima, Alison, Helena, Rachel and company, and, as ever, she does us proud. Each clone gets a meaty storyline this year – although Helena could perhaps have been used more – and the result is just as compelling and believable as ever.
Season five, which airs in 2017, will be Orphan Black’s last... and if it’s as good as this year, it’ll be going out on a high. Jayne Nelson
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