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The season two premiere of Orphan Black doesn’t waste much time in jumping back into the action. “Nature Under Constraint and Vexed” picks up right where the season one finale left us. Kira and Mrs. S have been taken from their home and Sarah is determined to get them back. What follows is an intense and truly suspenseful opening sequence that instantly shoves us back into the universe and the storyline. It is unnerving and exciting and successfully provides us with some immediate narrative agency. While the episode doesn’t necessarily retain the fast-paced intensity as it progresses, the sense of urgency never really falters. Sarah’s quest drives the entire hour and provides a clear and compelling objective in which the rest of the cast of characters can participate.
It is a successful premiere in the sense that it does an adequate job re-introducing us to some of the key conflicts while at the same time incorporating new complications and obstacles. However, as the primary conspiracy gradually unfolds, I have to admit, the less intriguing it becomes. It is the classic case of the mystery always being more entertaining/compelling than the actual answer. It is not as if there is no mystery left, on the contrary the opposinggroups are incredibly shady and scheming in their machinations, but the conspiracy has since grown convoluted and at times tedious. It isn’t exactly clear what the Dyad/Rachel/Leekie group or the religious extremists’ motivations or ultimate endgame are. I guess we are supposed to be actively speculating and/or anxiously awaiting enlightenment on the subject but these answers are just not as compelling as the specific character journeys. Basically we have shadowy group vs. shadowy group and our characters are essentially caught in their crossfire. Nevertheless, that’s all we really need to understand in order to enjoy the real crux of Orphan Black, which is the characters, their interactions with each another and the people that surround them.
The writers have masterfully created people we care for and enjoy watching in almost any situation in an impressively shortamount of time, which allows them to go in all kinds of directions with the plot and narrative. So, despite the seemingly complicated conspiracy/conflict elaborated by the powers that be, what really matters is that Sarah wants her family back, Allison wants to take control of her life, and Cosima wants be in charge of her own “biology” as she puts it. Fundamentally, all these characters are striving for something that is completely relatable and down to earth despite the extraordinary circumstances they find themselves in.
And in this latest episode, Sarah’s quest takes center stage and dictates the action of the show. It constitutes a fun hour with tense moments and entertaining action as well as wonderful instants of comedy that the show does so well. It is so much fun to see Alison pursuit her Stepford aspirations, Cosima dealing with her potential illness and its implications, Sarah’s relentless search for her family and yet again impersonating another clone, not to mention the awesomeness that is Felix. (Felix in chaps is a revelation) The series has constructed fully realized characters (in just ten episodes) that, thrown in almost any situation, will provide a bounty of entertainment. I mean, I would totally watch an entire episode dedicated to Alison’s foray into musical theatre. I want to watch that play. What is going to happen to Sheila? Will her asthma overcome her? These are things we need to know.
Also, Tatiana Maslany can sing, is there anything she can’t do? It cannot be overstated how amazingly talented she is, how impressive her performance is and how important it is for the success of the series. She is fantastic, playing each character with an incredible amount of nuance and apparent ease, it truly is incredible to watch. One forgets that it is virtually the same person onscreen playing most of the main characters, especially when she plays Rachel, which is the latest clone we’ve met and so different from the personalities that came before. How great is that moment when Rachel is finally no longer in total control? The face-off between her and Sarah is a treat to watch and it’s only afterwards that the fact that that is one person acting against herself creeps in. The technical proficiency of the series is also something that cannot be extolled enough.
“Nature Under Constraint and Vexed” is a fine episode, while Sarah’s story is emotionally compelling, it doesn’t necessarily advance the plot much. Chasing after Rachel most of the episode, Sarah is therefore distracted from the people who actually took Kira. However it is a fun hour with which to immerse ourselves back into the Orphan Black universe and get reacquainted with these fantastic characters.
What do you think?