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The clones from Orphan Black drawn like characters from The Simpsons

Last year, the BBC made a major science fiction action/thriller series, helmed by a woman, that made about 50% of the internet lose it. It was never in doubt that opinions about "Orphan Black" would make it onto Lady Business. Join Ana and Jodie as they examine the many amazing faces of Tatiana Maslany, super-actress, and share their thoughts about a story where human cloning has produced a set of interesting, diverse women. As usual, be warned that there will be plenty of spoilers.

Jodie: Tatiana Maslany though.

Tatiana Maslany smiles and runs her hand through her hair Tatiana Maslany smiles and runs her hand through her hair

Ana: I KNOW, RIGHT? There's no overstating how amazing she is in this. All the people who said they forgot they were watching the same person play different roles weren't kidding. I know you had some thoughts on her performance and what it adds to the series — if you'd like to elaborate on that here I'd really love to hear it.

Jodie: What intrigued me straight off about "Orphan Black" was the meta-idea of an actress playing a character who is, in turn, pretending to be someone else. It’s not exactly an original idea – shows like "Revenge" and "Ringer" have used similar set-ups recently. However, because Tatiana Maslany is playing so many different characters all at once, the meta-link between Maslany’s real life career as an actress and the deception of several of her characters, as they use their cloned appearance to pretend to be someone else, is strong.

There have been a ton of programs that use the medium of TV to examine and critique TV or the acting world ("Extras", "Episodes", some of Charlie Brooker's "Black Mirror" series to name just some recent examples), but I felt like "Orphan Black" became a show which connected medium and theme in an unusual, interesting way. It places an actress in a program where the whole set up constantly reminds viewers that she is an actress taking on a whole range of different roles; an actress trying to persuade the audience that her fictional personas are human and worth getting invested in. Maslany's own show is kind of constantly undermining this persuasion by pointing and saying "look, acting is happening" and "hey don't forget, impersonation is key to this program", which could make it difficult for viewers to suspend their disbelief and connect with the show. She responds to that difficulty by convincing viewers that each character is a distinct individual; demonstrating her strength at creating many distinct personalities. Fabulous.

Maslany’s acting in "Orphan Black" is just superb. She plays four long running characters, who are supposed to be recognisably, physically similar; five if you count Beth, which I kind of do despite her death early on. And, with the help of script writers, costume designers and directors, she makes them into such different people that (as you said) it's easy to forget they’re all being played by the same person. Had she failed to create so many believably different characters the connection between the medium of acting and the show’s central theme would have still existed - she’d still have been playing several characters- but it wouldn’t have really worked because it’s the skill of Maslany, the way that she manages to convince the viewer that we are seeing different women on screen, that forges that link between medium and theme. The importance of successful acting is key to keeping viewers connected and also key to helping many of the characters pulling off their storylines (Sarah pretending to be Beth for instance). Maslany, and the shows creators make sure we know how important well crafted acting is.

Maslany projects clear impersonation, characterisation and assimilation; visible acting, on to the screen for all to see thanks to the central device of the program (multiple clones who look the same but have turned into very different people). And the show writers set up scenarios where the viewer actually gets to see acting process detailed on screen, such as the montage of Sarah learning to be Beth. I found that section of the program fascinating. Maslany's skillful acting sits alongside Sarah’s take over of Beth’s live and challenges the viewer to see the meta-angle of this program; to notice and appreciate that Maslany’s performance is as impressive and dedicatedly created as Sarah’s impersonation. Scenes like this confront viewers with the skill of acting and encourage them to really notice what makes a performance without losing a sense of investment in the characters the actor portrays. Having a program tug me into looking at the details of a performance is like seeing magic, or nature, or science explained succinctly by someone who loves what they’re talking about. Oh my, that’s so clever! I love actresses who can show the craft of acting without breaking the illusory contract they make with viewers ("Hey, let's all pretend I'm someone else, someone you can get to know, for a few hours").

Clone Club: Helena, Sarah, Beth, Alison, Cosima

Ana: What you've just said reminds me of this famous Feynman video about how the beauty of a flower isn't spoiled by knowing the science behind it. I love Feynman's answer — and what you're saying here — because the idea that a close examination of the inner workings of something (be it nature or a human creation like a work of art) inevitably spoils its beauty and magic is kind of a huge pet peeve of mine. Hooray for TV series with lots of meta elements that remind us it doesn't have to be so.

Jodie: I also liked how Maslany's multiple performances cheekily nudge the viewer into noticing that Orphan Black has a smart, central, constantly running theme; a theme which is integral to its thriller genre makeup and its television medium. Deception. Boom - meta everywhere.

I really want to hear your opinion about what having different female clone characters adds to the science-y side of "Orphan Black". I have a feeling you pulled all kinds of interesting nature and nurture stuff out of this program.

Ana: Well, you probably know that the idea that human beings are infinitely flexible and that there isn’t a single “natural” or inevitable way for us to be is quite a big part of my thinking (I do spend a lot of time promoting books that put that idea forward, like for example Jesse Prinz' Beyond Human Nature). I also like challenging the notion that “hardwired” equals “natural” and “cultural” equals “artificial” — as I said when I reviewed Prinz' book, "culture is not a thin veneer hiding our true animal natures; it’s something that plays a role in building who we are alongside our biology". In other words, whatever we become is real; figuring out the elements that shaped is is a secondary question and not something we need to do in order to be able to defend the legitimacy of all the different ways human beings can be.

Stories about cloning give us a perfect opportunity to examine these ideas, as well as the dominant attitudes and cultural myths surrounding them. As The F Word put it when they reviewed Orphan Black, "given their shared DNA, the diversity represented by the clones is a striking affirmation of the feminist adage 'biology isn't destiny'". One of the first things that made me fall for the series was the fact that it was clear from the start that sharing the same DNA doesn't make these women the same person: they're all unique individuals with different preferences, different sexual orientations, different ambitions, different mannerisms, etc. I loved how the series challenged biological determinism and carved out a space for the cloned women to be individuals and not just replicas of each other. Additionally, the story doesn't frame one of them as the "true" clone and the others as distortions of this original's "real" inner nature. Only Helena believes that there's an "original", and we get to see exactly what shaped this erroneous belief. But — crucially — being a troubled young woman who carries around the trauma of a horrifying upbringing isn't presented as any less "real" than being a police officer, or a no-nonsense woman trying to protect her children, or a young woman who loves her brother and child, or a PhD student and science geek. All of these women are equally real, and they were all shaped by more elements than we can pinpoint (of which their shared DNA is only one). But I've gone on for long enough — your turn :D

Jodie: All I really have is enthusiastic agreement :) I really enjoyed the feminist nature vs nurture connotations that came out as the show introduced so many diverse, female clone characters. It was a premise that worked on two levels I thought, rebutting the ideas of bad science (biology as destiny) and bad art (bad habits the arts can display when creating female characters and female worlds).

I also liked seeing an acknowledgement that even though nature isn't the be all and end all, nature has an impact on our lives. Cosima is a lesbian and she wasn't culturally taught to be a lesbian. I know feminists have been called out for using the 'nurture' side of the gender argument to exclude sections of the feminist community and deny their life experience/re-write that experience (transgender people especially) so it was great to see the show make space for both nature and nurture without turning it into one of those falsely balanced productions where "everything is true to some extent" and "biology could be female destiny, who can to judge an opinion wrong". Blargh.

Ana: I actually have very complicated thoughts on this. I won't delve into them in a lot of depth or else I'd be here all day, but briefly: while it's true that arguments that emphasise the social side of human experience have been used to delegitimatise queer and trans* identities, my position is that it absolutely doesn't have to be that way. We don't need to default to a "it's certainly genetic!" position to accept that a wide spectrum of identities are perfectly legitimate and fully deserving of our respect. And just as importantly, we don't need to default to that to challenge the idea that these identities are a deviation from the straight or cis norm. For anyone interested in reading more on this, I recommend Hanne Blank's Straight, Pat Califia's Sex Changes, and these two blog posts at Social (In)Queery, a blog edited by sociologists and queer theorists Tey Meadow, C.J. Pascoe and Jane Ward. I especially like how they address the fact that the dominant discourse around the idea of cultural construction constantly oversimplifies what that actually means. To quote two passages I found particularly useful:
Ultimately, the terms set forward in the public debate about this subject–biology versus “choice”–are quite limited, mainly because “choice” is not the most useful term for describing all of the possibilities that sit apart from biology. Several social, cultural, and structural factors can shape our embodied desires and erotic possibilities. The fact that these factors are not physiological in origin does not mean that they aren’t coercive or subjectifying, resulting in a real or perceived condition of fixity or “no choice.” We know that social factors also become embodied over time. And yet, I remain somewhat committed to the concept of “choice”–or something like it–to describe the possibility of a critical and reflexive relationship to our sexual desires.
Perhaps most importantly, the fact that we might cultivate or “choose” something doesn’t mean that it is a trivial, temporary, or less a vital part of who we are. For instance, is religion a choice? Certainly it is if we define “choice” as anything that isn’t an immutable part of our physiology. But many religious people would feel profoundly misunderstood and offended if I suggested that their religious beliefs were a phase, an experiment, or a less significant part of who they are then, say, their hair color. Choices are complex. Choices run deep. And yes, choices are both constrained and fluid–just like our bodies.

To bring my point back to Orphan Black, I think the show's portrayal of Cosima's and, say, Sarah's sexual orientations shows us that neither one is destined to be gay or straight because of their genes. However, accepting that "people’s sexual desires are shaped by their social and cultural context" is not the same as saying that queer identities are a learned or temporary deviation from the “natural” heterosexual default. The crucial point here is that everybody's experiences of desire (or gender) are the result of myriad factors, and straight identities are not any more "natural" or "real" than queer ones. So for example, I would have hated it if the show had shown us Cosima "learning" to be a lesbian but didn't remark on the contexts and experiences that shaped Alison's, Sarah's or Beth's sexualities, as if only the former was deserving of scrutiny. To turn the conventional wisdom on its head (as Hanne Blank does), these ladies learn to be straight. Fortunately the series doesn't go down this dubious path.

Cosima and Delphine run through the campus holding hands Cosima pulls Delphine closer

Orphan Black also gives us an intriguing update on the trope of the mwahahaha-ing evil scientists performing experiments on human subjects without their consent. As if that wasn't troubling enough, towards the end of the series Cosima finds out that their DNA has been patented, which means that from a legal standpoint they're someone's property. I really liked what Tatiana Maslany said about this storyline in an interview:
The beautiful and horrific thing about the patent storyline is that, for me, it resonated as a woman — this idea of your body, your personality and your image not being yours. As an actor, I understand that and the more I'm in a public consciousness, the more I understand that role a lot of women are forced to take, which is about giving up a lot of your identity to serve the public. For me, it was really incredibly resonant point in terms of the ownership women have over their bodies.

I hadn't thought of what the show is doing in these terms explicitly, but once I read her commentary I could see it immediately: there are gendered dynamics at work in the relationship between the cloned women and Leekie; and, in Alison and Beth's cases specifically, between the clones and their watchers. When the series starts and Sarah slips into Beth's life, we find out that a group of these women had been trying to take back control of their lives, which makes for some really interesting social subtext in addition to making sense in terms of the science-fiction/thriller plot. Any thoughts on this you'd like to share?

Jodie: I hadn't really thought about the patent storyline reflecting a gendered dynamic until you pointed to that interview, but I can see that now you point it out. And I think seeing the patent revelation as a form of scientific ownership makes me glad that the show includes Cosima - a lady who can fight the science of a male dominated operation with more science. I'm also really interested to see how Rachel is going to play into a creepy science organisation largely run by men. From the brief glimpses we see of her it looks like she's in a position of control, but I wonder how much power she really has and whether she'll turn out to be a more presentable Helena (set in opposition to the other women by men). And how does she feel about her DNA being patented? How has this been sold to her?

Ana: Ha — I thought you might say that, as you've commented before on the predominance of science fiction stories that present science as dangerous or evil. MOAR and better science is definitely my favourite way of fighting science gone wrong.

Cosima: Dude, that's complex Cosima: I just want to, like, make crazy science with you

Jodie: Going back to your question about gendered dynamics, I find the opposition between male watcher and female experiment most interesting in Alison's case. Initially, she's set up as this dominating, overly-controlling, up-tight suburban housewife. And I think the viewer is supposed to doubt Alison and pity Donnie as her "paranoia" escalates, even as we're brought around to see an interesting picture of Alison.

Then, wham - turns out she's not so paranoid. Donnie is her watcher and the viewer can see how the program has used a tale about marriage that we've all been sold again and again to almost manipulated its viewers into taking up a negative position towards Alison. I mean, I was 95% convinced Donnie was her watcher after her burned things in his secretive barrel, and I knew to watch out for storylines that play on traditional ideas about the roles of a man and woman in a straight marriage. Even then, I started to doubt whether he was her watcher towards the end of the series. Well played, show.

Related - how did you feel about Paul at the end of this series? I know all the watchers have their own sad reasons for getting involved in skeevy behaviour, but I find I have very little sympathy for that man. I took against him quickly when Sarah found out that Beth knew he didn't love her but couldn't work out why he wouldn't leave. Keeping someone in a loveless partnership and making them aware of that situation just seemed so shitty to me.

Ana: Meh. Not a fan either. I get that he was being blackmailed and all that, but like you I wasn't convinced. And I think it's a sign of how powerful Sarah's evocation of Beth was that I was so very sad for her. The series gives us a real glimpse into how desperate and suffocating things must have been for her before she took her life the night Sarah saw her. I wonder if season two will give us Donnie's reasons for becoming a watcher? I'd be interested in hearing how he got involved with the whole scheme, especially as he and Alison have been together since high school — what could they have on a kid to make him get himself into something like this? I suspect I'm much too invested in Alison to ever find Donnie truly sympathetic no matter what his backstory turns out to be, but I'm curious nonetheless.

Orphan Black: promotional shot of Alison, Sarah and Cosima

Speaking of watchers, will you join me for a loud and clear "NOOOOO, ANYONE BUT FELIX" in regards to Sarah? I really don't believe Felix will turn out to be Sarah's watcher, but I've heard enough fans express concern that there's now a nagging fear at the back of my mind. The fact that the series finale suggested that Sarah's watcher, assuming she has one at all, could be Mrs S (or, at the very least, that had been hiding something pretty major from Sarah all along) was heartbreaking enough for me.

Jodie: If Felix is her watcher we may have to quit this show! I'm a little confused about Sarah's watcher tbh because if it is Felix or Mrs S how did she manage to leave them for so long? Donnie and Paul have to keep their respective clones under really close supervision; staying in romantic relationships they have no investment in. Observation from afar doesn't seem acceptable. So, I would be surprised to learn that Sarah had been able to leave if she'd had a watcher to begin with. It would be much more plausible for me if Vic were her watcher but it's hard to imagine Vic pulling that off. Perhaps he's a very good actor? PERHAPS THIS IS MORE META!

Ana: This brings me to another point: I was really interested in the series' portrayal of families, particularly in how it present families as something you can make for yourself rather than something that's necessarily restricted to blood ties. It's a nice addition to the themes of plasticity and the validity of the choices we make for our lives that we discussed above. Sarah calls Felix her brother and she means it: the two of them and Kira are a family, no doubt about it, which was quite refreshing to see. However, I wonder what we should make of the final reveal that Sarah and Helena are twins, and of the suggestion that this is the explanation for the link between them — is the narrative saying that blood is thicker than water after all, even though in previous episodes it seemed to support and validate the ties that people who aren't related but chose to be there day after day forge with each other? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this ambiguity, as well as any speculations on where the series might be going with the reveal about Sarah and Helena.

Jodie: For me, the way events play out after Sarah and Helena's biological tie is revealed made another strong case against biological destiny. The two of them do feel connected, and they're revealed to be biological sisters, but in the end Sarah choses not to let that connection obscure her view of Helena's actions. She says she doesn't want to be her sister and then kills her; verbally and metaphorically rejecting any draw of their relationship. And I think, like you said, the rest of the series is so full of people making families (don't forget Alison and her adopted kids) that it keeps any suggestion that blood is best at bay.

Helena: Seastra? Helena looks at Sarah
Helena: You're my twin seastra Sarah: I don't want to be your sister, meathead

However, I didn't really make the connection between the disturbed fascination Sarah feels when she meets Helena and a biological bond until I'd finished the show. So, what I said above is all retrospective analysis. I initially interpreted it more as Sarah looking in a mirror and seeing a twisted version of herself look back and being unable to look away. It's one thing to be surrounded by women who look like you and are reasonably normal. I can imagine that might be a bit more difficult to hold on to an uncontaminated understanding of your individual identity, your own morality, when the woman with your face is a total car crash. I thought that was kind of why Sarah had a sort of creeped out compassion for Helena, because she was getting drawn into feeling like Helena was a vision of herself; a kind of "Blood Brothers" horror show she couldn't stop examining. That's all speculation of course.

And I have absolutely no idea where the storyline about their biological connection is going. I think the big storyline next series is going to revolve around Sarah and Kira - clone pregnancy, it seems media is obsessed with that idea. Do you have ideas about how that might fit into the next series?

Ana: First of all, I think it will have implications for the patent storyline. When Leckie and the Neolutionists registered these women's DNA as property, they clearly weren't expecting something like this. Also, Kira's existence is clearly connected to what makes Sarah different from the other clones, and I think we're going to find out plenty more about that. Lastly, I suspect that whatever the reason Sarah could have a child is, Cosima will be the one to figure it out, which will hopefully tie in nicely with what you were saying above about an awesome knowledgeable woman helping defeat a male-dominated scientific conspiracy with her superior scientific expertise.

Anyway, we've spent quite a bit so far discussing some of the most interesting themes and plot threads in Orphan Black, so I thought I'd now give you the chance to talk about your favourite characters.

Jodie: OMG I liked 90% of the characters in this show so we might have to take this in sections. Amy and I are going to spend a bit of time talking about Alison (*hearts*) in a future post so I guess I can leave expressing my love for her character for the gifs section, but I can't leave this doc without saying Alison and Felix FRIENDS 4EVA before I talk about other characters.

I think Sarah, my favourite clone, shares a common core with Alison despite all their many differences. Like Alison, she can appear spikey because she's fiercely protective of herself and her family. She makes a lot of choices, like attempting to steal from a dead woman by elaborately impersonating her, which cast her as an unpleasant character. Ultimately though, Sarah is both a sympathetic character and the protagonist of the show. Making these sketchy, uncompromising decisions show that she's a fighter and that she'll do pretty much anything to reunite her family, just as Alison will do anything to protect her family. I guess Sarah and Alison kind of bring us back around to questions like "Do you have to like a character to find them interesting?", "Is admire the same as like?" and "Can you like a character you would dislike if they were a real life person you had to see every day?". I am so bored of these questions I can't even tell you because when, like me, you have spent a zillion hours watching Jack Bauer the answer is freaking obvious.

Tangent: I know there are probably wider questions about whether individual morality justifies criminality borne of a survivor instinct, and whether viewers should have sympathy for a particular character who acts in a criminal way that apply to Sarah. And we could get into those questions whenever we discuss any character who make a criminal choices to keep themselves and those they love alive. However, I find myself kind of bristling when these questions are asked about female characters, because so often they come from quarters that are only asking these questions about women. I think the only people I've so far felt comfortable having this kind of conversation with are Renay and Amy, because I know broadly where they were coming from in terms of responding to female characters. I guess I get a little protective of female characters when other people ask if I can really "like" female characters who make less than good choices for good reasons/because they don't have whatever resources they need to make other choices. Idk, I should probably just get more into precise language and get over myself :P.

Anyway, I do really, really like Sarah - she seems like she would have been fun before she ended up with Vic and like she'd go to the ends of the earth for you if you were important to her. And I admire her, I like how hard she is (pretending to be a policewoman for several days, handling all the violent situations she ends up in), how smart she is (seriously, I could not learn to impersonate another person in such a short time), how adaptable (picking up a plan on the spur of the moment) and how sympathetic she can be when she lets her defences down enough to really see other people's situation. I thought she was such an interesting character to centre the story on.

Ana: The other thing about characters of this kind is that they tend to belong to marginalised and socially excluded groups, and very often the legal troubles they find themselves in are directly linked to that. They're often characters who were screwed over by the system and had to figure out ways to live outside it. So I'm also very wary of responses that are all about facile condemnation (and that very often veer into dehumanisation) without seeing the bigger picture. I loved Sarah — she was one kickass lady who had a hard life, and as her story progresses we come to understand why she was where she was when the series begins. No, I don't generally give the thumbs up to running off with a recently deceased person's purse and trying to empty their bank account, but I like empathising with a lady who does that — isn't that one of the best things about fiction? And yes, I think people are much more likely to react with this kind of knee-jerky condemnation when the ambiguous character in question is a woman or a person of colour. We've all heard lots about glamorous white male anti-heroes at the centre of narratives that humanise them, but what about everyone else?

Jodie: Speaking of Sarah, shall we take this opportunity to talk about Sarah and Felix's relationship, then fall into raptures about Felix?

Ana: Yes! Seriously, how wonderful were Sarah and Felix together? As I said above when we were discussing the series' approach to families, the fact that they're siblings and that their tie is for life is never called into question: I loved that. They're loving and supportive (which doesn't mean they don't call one another out when necessary) and they just seem to have this wonderful grounding effect on each other. It's like they both know that whatever happens, they'll always have that one person who'll stick with them through anything. I know that family relationships are often portrayed a little sentimentally in fiction and that real life is less rosy a lot of the time, but it was just wonderful to see two adoptive siblings share what is pretty much my definition of a perfect brother and sister tie.

On to raptures about Felix — go :D

Jodie: I think describing the wonderfulness of Felix properly requires gifs:

Felix: The reverence seems all right. Actually, he's kinda sexy Felix drinks from a bottle of vodka
Sarah pushes Felix away as he shouts, You cannot hide in minimalist furniture Felix: I need to change. Fetch me something gay
Felix: Okay Eliza. Holy shit. We need to pull a full reverse Pygmalion here Felix: Well, unleash the doves. World peace must be right around the corner

Alison: I only want to talk to Felix Felix advances looking delightfully and adorably smug

Agree, agree, agree that Felix's relationship with Sarah is lovely. I enjoyed how real it felt as well - they both sold it and put this easy connection on screen while also exploring the serious issues that Sarah's abandonment brought up.

Like you, I'm also a big fan of Felix with other people. Felix and Alison's antagonism, quickly followed by their growing friendship, is wonderful. And I looooove the few moments we get between him and the mortician. And I really liked how much thought went into setting him up as a character with a life beyond Sarah, even though his life on screen often revolves around her actions.

I also wanted to talk about this gif of Jordan Gavaris answering a fan's question about gay and lesbian representation with you.

Look Amy we did see it :D

When I watched the first episode of "Orphan Black" I was worried that Felix would end up the sassy gay best friend archetype, mostly because those kind of characters are usually played for negative comedy. Felix is quick with a comeback and gay and Sarah's BFF brother but I think there's a difference between a straight talking gay character and a kind of blank or negative stereotype prop. Felix is far from a prop or a foil that encourages the viewer to snigger. Instead he is a character of many parts. Including gay men like Felix in media reflects a reality that deserves equal space in culture, no matter how often media creators have co-opted mannerisms and lives like Felix's to project their/society's insecurities.

This gif also reminded me of a lot of what Anthony Cotton reportedly said about playing the first gay character in "Coronation Street". Like Renay is always saying, under-represented groups aren't homogenous. And while it can sometimes feel like that internal diversity within those groups creates a war to be won by the "right" side really there are no right sides. It's just that all the segments of these groups want to push for a fair share of varied mainstream representation and mainstream media is reluctant to expand its space for representation which leaves many out in the cold. Can I use both 'All the stories' and '...the point is to direct our attention to the straitjacket, not its dutiful wearer.' here?

Ana: Yeah, I agree. I'd heard some rumblings about Felix being too much of a stereotype before I started the series, but when I did watch it what I found was a complex, multifaceted human being whose sexual orientation is not played for laughs. Of course, I'm not a gay man, and I don't have to grapple with a long history of harmful representations, but I can make some parallels (obviously very imperfect, because these things are never quite the same) with my complicated feelings on gender representation here. For example, it always makes me deeply uncomfortable to see people say they're tired of this or that kind of girl or woman in fiction — especially when the character in question is a girl like me, quiet and more inclined to walk away than to answer back, and not what most people would call "strong" by any stretch of the imagination. And of course we do need more stories about outspoken, undaunted, resilient women, especially stories where they're not punished for showing what many people still deem "unfeminine" traits, but this is about asking for more, not asking for less. You know a group has reached full equality of representation when they're allowed the full range of humanity without anyone thinking that whatever personality traits a single member has are a reflection of the entirety of the group. And so far, only straight white cis men are really there.

Jodie: Which is part of why, as I think we said above, "Orphan Black" is so great. You get a range of different women. Not all the women, as its female characters are predominantly white and entirely cis, but still there's a range. Which leads us nicely on to talking about another of our beloved clones, Cosima.

Cosima: You just broke the first rule of clone club Smoking Cosima: Holy watershed!
Cosima laughing in a white lab coat Cosima speaking on the phone: what am I, the geek monkey?
Cosima on her laptop gesturing in exasperation Cosima: I'm Evo Devo

Do you want to elaborate on why she is so wonderful? I kind of think you might have a lot of Cosima feels :D

Ana: You think right :D I don't know if I can even explain why I immediately liked Cosima so much. You know how you're just drawn to some people? If this were real life I'd have wanted to be her friend straight away. I loved her style, her mannerisms, her way of talking, the way she carried herself. And then we get to know her better and my appreciation only deepened. She's smart (duh), and she's also very practical, collected and no-nonsense. Our first glimpse of her is when she's on the phone with Sarah-as-Beth just after Katja is killed, and she manages to keep her cool during a remarkably tense situation — but not, as it soon becomes obvious, because she's uncaring. On the contrary, she's generous and kind to the other members of Clone Club, and I love how she and Sarah quickly become friends. I also love that she's a science geek who's obviously passionate about her research and competent in her field. She's a successful woman in a male-dominated profession, and seeing media representations of women like her never fails to make me happy.

And lastly, there's Cosima's romance with Delphine. As I said before, Cosima isn't given a backstory that "explains" her sexual orientation. This is really important, because doing so would inevitably set her up as a deviation from the heterosexual default, which would have been a sucky thing to do. Instead, she's into girls and that's that. She falls for Delphine against her better judgement, and I love how even though she's generally a "cool" sort of girl, we get to see her be vulnerable with Delphine. Their scenes together are so passionate and tender and just beautiful to watch. I'm terrified of two possibilities for S2: one, that Cosima's illness is going to kill her; and two, that Delphine will turn out to be playing her after all. Please, please, please, writers, can we have a happy on-screen lesbian romance? You're doing so well so far — don't let us down!

Jodie: I am so worried about possibility one. The mysterious, untreated cough and bleed has been the downfall of so many characters :(

I feel reasonably confident possibility two has been kicked into touch… reasonably. I think the fact that Cosima finds out that Delphine is a watcher in the first series probably means Delphine's return to her is genuine. Still, there's always that worry ticking away, right, because of the wealth of break-your-heart endings out there in lesbian romance stories. I have high hopes for this show, but yeah always with the slight worries.

Let us wash these worries away by reminding ourselves how great the on screen relationship between Cosima and Delphine is:

Cosima and Delphine shake hands and smile at each other Cosima and Delphine kiss passionately
Cosima and Delphine smile flirtatiously Cosima: Why are you here? Delphine: Because I...
Cosima and Delphine kiss tenderly Delphine approaches Cosima from behind and kisses her

So, we've already established that we fell head over heels for a lot of characters but before we wrap up character chat I just have to mention Detective Art Bell. I was a massive fan of the cop show element of "Orphan Black" because it was so intriguing to watch Sarah try to convincingly bluff her way in the police force. And then Art, her boss, turned out to be this smart, sharp professional who both cares about "Beth", believes in her ability, and is exasperated as he tries to logically work out the reasons for her unconventional behaviour. Also, Kevin Hanchard's excessively expressive face is just TOO MUCH.

I really enjoyed watching him foil Sarah's plan to take the money and run. However, I think I liked it best when he stepped out from under the shadow of being a plot device designed to keep Sarah on screen and moved off to investigate with Detective Deangelis. Their partnership feels so natural as they bounce ideas off each other in an attempt to expand their understanding. If anyone out there is thinking of commissioning a spin off from "Orphan Black" I would like to make a case for an SFF crime show featuring Art Bell and Angela Deangelis. It could form a triumvirate with "Grimm" and "Sleepy Hollow"!

As I said, I am reigning back my Alison appreciation for the gifs and links section but is there anyone else we haven't discussed yet that you want to talk about?

Ana: Well, I haven't said much about Alison myself, so just briefly, I loved her too. It was especially great to see Orphan Black take a type of character who's usually either portrayed as dull or made into the butt of a joke and turn her into a really interesting and complicated woman. Alison really cares about her children and she's willing to go to great lengths to protect them, but being a mother and wife isn't the total sum of her identity. I look forward to seeing where S2 will take Alison: obviously the signing of the contract will backfire, but hopefully she'll be able to protect the people she cares about and live the life she wants to live without having to accept the arbitrary limits that are being imposed on her world.

Jodie: Series two can not come fast enough. Let us retire to the gifs section to tide us over until it arrives.

MOAR Gifs:

Other Reviews and Supplemental Material:


Date: 2014-02-26 04:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] readingtheend.pip.verisignlabs.com
Ahhhh, so many good things here to respond to.

The family thing: I thought the reveal that Helena and Sarah are actually twins was great, exactly because it doesn't say anything about how they relate to each other. Sarah responds to Helena with compassion because she's become more compassionate since the start of the show; and Helena's responding to that. I just thought it was incredibly telling of what the show thinks about family to have Helena say in the end "Sarah, we make a family," and for Sarah to immediately say "I've already got a family" and shoot Helena. (Getting chills writing about it!)

I'm crazy excited for Season 2, and also a little nervous for what the plotlines are going to be. Mysterious pregnancies have never interested me that much, and they interest me less and less with every passing year, which also transmits to my not caring that much about Mysterious Fast-Healing Kira (except insofar as Sarah and Felix care about her, obviously). And the whole plotline where their genes are patented, I'm just not sure what the implications of that are going to be as the series shakes out. I can't see how that could possibly prevent them from doing what they want to do -- saying "I've patented this" doesn't actually mean it's patented, particularly as human cloning's illegal, and even if your genes were patented, you are still a free person who gets to do whatever you want. (Right?)

Anyway, I want to see how they handle it. I am excited for Season 2. It cannot get here fast enough for me.

Date: 2014-02-26 07:43 am (UTC)
londonkds: (Librarian respect! (blindingtorment))
From: [personal profile] londonkds
Also, the maximum length of patents in most countries in the world is twenty years, so it would have expired by the age that Sarah and her sisters are. (Yes, I know, SPCs, but I don't think cloning would fall under pharmaceuticals.)

Date: 2014-02-27 08:56 am (UTC)
nymeth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nymeth
I should have thought of that! You're both right, yet Cosima treated the discovery as if it had major implications, and the comments from Tatiana Maslany are along the same lines. I'm really curious to see how they're going to handle it.

Date: 2014-02-27 12:36 pm (UTC)
londonkds: (Default)
From: [personal profile] londonkds
The way it was dealt with in the story made me think somebody read a dystopian "corporate-feudalist"/"IP gone mad" SF story and thought it was a realistic depiction of the contemporary world.

Date: 2014-02-26 04:43 am (UTC)
raincitygirl: (Default)
From: [personal profile] raincitygirl
Thank you very much for writing this. It's fab.

Date: 2014-02-27 08:56 am (UTC)
nymeth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nymeth
Glad you enjoyed it :D

Date: 2014-02-27 08:13 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I don't think Sarah and Helena have watchers. The neolutionists couldn't find them.

Date: 2014-03-01 02:34 pm (UTC)
nymeth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nymeth
I'd always thought the same, but I read some meta at some point that suggested that Sarah (and, more importantly, the people who helped her) was only made to believe she'd managed to escape their control. (Typically, I can't find the link). I don't *want* that to be truth, but I guess I can't discard it completely. We'll see where they're going with the plot about her biological mother and Mrs S and Kira.


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