TV Review | Orphan Black | Season 2
Season summary: Sarah discovers more about her past and mysterious newcomers appear, but can they be trusted? As the mysterious world of Orphan Black widens, new layers of the conspiracy are peeled back. (Orphan Black Wiki)
I did enjoy this season of Orphan Black more than the score might suggest - another reason to not just look at scores in a review of anything - but, much like Age of Ultron, it's due to the cast and characters, not the story. This season is a lot of wheel-spinning and if I was to relay what happened in each episode, it would be very repetitive.
Honestly, the number of random abductions, both that the audience is forewarned about and those that come out of nowhere, reaches almost parody levels at times this season, with Helena suffering the most. Quite the comedown for one of the more aggressive characters in the show, constantly being made helpless because... she needs to be written out of the story for a bit.
Saying that, at least Helena fares better than Kevin Hanchard's Art Bell, who has effectively stopped being a character and is just there to provide Sarah and Felix with help when required. He was a big, big part of the first season, so it's more than a little strange that he's been almost ignored for most of this one.
Speaking of Felix, he still feels like a walking stereotype, but Jordan Gavaris' performance is still enjoyable enough, and his character is involved in some of the funniest moments of the season. Unfortunately, he too suffers from more limited screen-time - especially in the second half of the season - and doesn't really get a character arc of his own either.
Instead, this season focuses on the clones, each played brilliantly by the reliably incredible Tatiana Maslany. Well, almost all - there is a trans clone who appears in one episode and, while a neat idea of adding even more diversity to the show, Maslany isn't helped by a one-note character that she can't really stamp any personality on other then general scoundrel and petty criminal.
The main issue I have with Maslany's characters this season isn't anything to do with her performance(s), but more with each of the clones feeling less complex and more like jigsaw pieces to slot next to each other rather than individuals with more than one layer to them. It can lead to some fun - Alison has become one of my favourite characters thanks to how much comedy her scenes provide.
Unfortunately, the central character of Sarah is starting to become annoying with how repetitive everything is for her - there'll be an encounter with Dyad, some kind of trade or deal, a quiet moment of respite/time to run, and then repeat. But that's the primary issue with the entire season: there's so much repetition that it feels like this season could've been half as long and still accomplished the some plot development.
I will say that I think this is more to do with how the show was made and how much a product of the pre-streaming boom it was. Orphan Black absolutely feels like the wrong kind of show to binge and more like one that would've encouraged wild theory-crafting between each episode from the fans. Watching it all in such a short space of time doesn't have anywhere near the same effect.
This is also what I believe is the chief cause of the repetition: needing to make sure viewers were up to speed each week beyond the 'previously on' segments. This might've been fine when first broadcast as it would certainly help rather than having to re-watch multiple previous episodes before each new instalment, but not while you binge it on Netflix like I am.
Each episode has enough dialogue, and sometimes entire scenes, that could be cut if it had been made for streaming - and always covering something that you'll have just seen if bingeing. The reason I do still think that this is a valid criticism of the show and not the format is that Orphan Black doesn't seem to trust its audience's intelligence enough.
That might seem like a strange thing to say considering how many near-identical characters there are played by Maslany, but those repetitions or clarifications of plot points do grate when it was clear enough what was going on in the first place and felt more like a waste of time than anything necessary - if someone is committed to the show, they're going to be paying attention anyway.
I'm still going to keep watching Orphan Black as I do want to see where it all leads, plus I adore watching the gifted Tatiana Maslany putting in multiple awards-worthy performances across the season, I just wish it was all moving a little faster than it is. I really hope the tendency of saving the big developments for the season finale dies off next time around.
Orphan Black's second season is a clone of the first, at least in terms of quality - it's really well made and there are some incredible performances (including multiple from Tatiana Maslany), but it does feel messy and directionless. I don't know how early they knew there would be a third season, but season 2 feels like it's just sitting still a lot of the time.