OR­PHAN BLACK

This penul­ti­mate sea­son is a doozy

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Viewscreen -

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

Don’t touch, the uni­verse will ex­plode!

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