For a fourth year in a row, Orphan Black has presented a thrilling, action-packed, entertaining, and thought-provoking season. While only ten episodes, it makes up for the lack of time with a lot of story, character, and drama – with more than a few laughs. It demonstrates that a show can take itself seriously without losing its sense of humour.
Orphan Black is hard science fiction, which has led to a part of its appeal. It does not depend on space travel, future dystopias, or an amazing technological leap. In fact, it relies heavily on existing and near-existing technologies. The science behind the show is quite sound, if a bit farther along than current technological capabilities. (It also relies on the premise that cloning technology in 1983 was adequate to produce viable humans.) Again, this does stretch the imagination, but it is based on theories already presented to academia. The corporations in the show are not beyond believable – they are large conglomerates just as many companies are today, with their hands in multiple pots and working on many different projects and factions at once.
This season, we are introduced to the age-old war between research and profit, as interpreted by the various companies responsible for the cloning technology. Furthermore, we see that while some see the clones as subhumans to be destroyed and others view them as entirely independent human beings (namely themselves), there are those who love them as interesting human property, but would let them die for the sake of the scientific experiment.
Orphan Black is good at exploring multi-faceted characters who are morally ambiguous, depending on one’s point of view. None of the characters are purely evil, even though they commit evil acts – they are all driven by what they deem to be the greater good. The scientists want to perfect humanity. The companies want to make a profit while helping customers. The main characters want to survive.
Tatiana Maslany plays yet more characters in this season, bringing the various Leda clones to life to such an extent that even the actors sometimes forgot that she was playing them all. Each woman is a distinct individual, although similar in some ways (as one would expect). One thing that I did not like this year was that a couple of the clone sisters were primarily kept as comic relief and away from serious storylines, while the main characters (namely Sarah and Cosima) were overly heaped with drama – no room for lightheartedness. Unfortunately, it had the side effect of making these characters less likeable, as the comedic scenes were more enjoyable. However, it did make for good storytelling.
Next year is going to be the final season, and I can’t wait to see how they wrap it up!