Orphan Black: 101-102 ‘Natural Selection’ & ‘Instinct’ Review
Reviewed by Adam James Cuthbert
Orphan Black thrusts the viewer into intrigue from the beginning. Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany), a punk Brit, raised in America, arrives at Huxley Station; a passing allusion, perhaps, to Aldous Huxley, as a brand new world emerges out of the night. There, she witnesses a woman, Elizabeth Childs, who is physically identical to herself, commit suicide by stepping in front of an incoming train; a shocking discovery that subsequently embroils Sarah within a dark and compelling series of events, as she gradually pieces together the facets of the deceased woman’s life.
Sarah, impulsively, purloins Beth’s purse, deciding to adopt Beth’s identity, in an opportunity for a new life – away from her abusive drug-dealer partner, Vic (Michael Mando). Learning that Beth has a savings account containing 75,000 dollars, Sarah plans on using the money to forge a fresh start; for herself, her foster sibling Felix (Jordon Gavaris), and her daughter Kira (Skyler Wexler), who’s currently residing with their foster mother Mrs S (Maria Doyle Kennedy). Sarah’s relationship with Mrs S is understood to be problematic, concerning Kira.
With Beth’s corpse still unidentified the next day, Sarah cunningly plans to fake her own death, thereby placing herself beyond Vic. Unfortunately, events spiral out of control when a distraught Vic insists they conduct a wake for Sarah, placing Sarah in a troubling predicament: will her daughter believe she’s dead? Beth’s life, as a police detective on prescribed medication, who recently shot an innocent civilian, as well as being in contact with other doppelgangers, presents its own problems – Sarah’s life becomes endangered by an unknown assassin, mistaking her for Beth.
Orphan Black, thus far, primarily acts as a showcase for Maslany’s talent and versatility, as the storyline requires she skilfully play Sarah convincingly masquerading as Beth (deceiving Beth’s boyfriend, psychiatrist, and colleagues), whilst introducing several other clones, each with a distinct personality, characteristics, and even nationality: the German Kajta Obinger (who is terminated by the assassin), the American soccer mum Alison Hendrick, and lastly Cosima, who was corresponding with Beth via phone. The nature, origin, and perhaps even purpose, of the doppelgangers remain a tantalising mystery for the present.
It’s curious that the episode titles should evoke evolution, and the evolutionary process: natural selection, and (animal) instinct – for survival. Sarah herself is described by Vic as: “It was always fight or flight with her.” Indeed, Sarah is portrayed as an opportunistic, goal-oriented creature of cunning and impulse, dogged, yet prepared to run from the complexities of Beth’s life.
Overall, a promising start.