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Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Orphan Black Series 3.

Orphan Black
Series 3.

As long term readers might recall, I actually did Orphan Black as an ongoing last year. It was my second ongoing - Game of Thrones was the first, because any fool and caddock can tell you that it is a legal requirement for all blogs to do weekly updates on Game of Thrones - and I hated doing it with a deep and fiery passion, despite enjoying the series itself.

Part of that was because I prefer marathoning it to watching it every week (and marathon it is what I did this time, watching the first nine episodes in one week and then the tenth when it aired) Orphan Black has a density of plot that often makes reviewing it episode by episode very difficult. I can respect that kind of dense, no-frills plotting, and it's always been one of Orphan Black's greatest strength - that it has a concision and understanding of form that ensures that there are no wasted minutes.

Picking up shortly after the end of the second series, the third series sees the Leda Sisters thrown into conflict with Castor, the military-created male line of clones. With both the Leda and Castor clones dying, and with Castor's masters having sinister intentions for the original genetic material, the two clone factions (along with Dyad and its corporate sponsors, Topside) end up in a race to find the Castor Original Genome. Meanwhile, several players begin to have suspicions that both Castor and Topside may be under the control of another organisation.

Is the moustache one called Seth? He might be called Seth.

Okay, so, I'm going to come out and say this right now: Castor was a mistake.

Much of Orphan Black's success is predicated on Tatiana Maslany's ability to convincingly portray a dozen different people and have them all seem distinct, different, and instantly recognisable through body language alone (in many respects, the show is what Dollhouse, Joss Whedon's sci-fi story about Eliza Dushku taking on different personalities, wanted to be - a very comprehensive showcase of a particular actor's abilities. The problem with that was that while Dushku wasn't lacking in acting ability, Whedon kept writing her as the same character over and over). Ari Millen, who plays the Castor clones, is not as talented as Maslany. Don't get me wrong, he's a good actor - but he's not good enough to make the Castor clones distinct from one another. They all act almost exactly the same, regardless of if they're good, evil, or slowly going mad. 

Luckily, they all have distinctive physical traits to set them apart: Rudy has a scar, Whatshisface has a porn star's moustache, and Mark has silly hair and no friends on account of being so boring that you could sleep through his scenes and not miss any entertainment.

Also, Cosima gets a new girlfriend who talks a lot about auras and things like that.

Lacking too was the sense of a dangerous balance: One of the things that made Dyad compelling as a villain is that while its motives were sinister, the sisters had no choice but to work with them somewhat, to try and find a balance between taking advantage of their resources while guarding themselves against the organisation's more sinister intentions. The result was a struggle between the two to gain leverage over each other, and you don't have that with Castor: They are unambiguously villainous and unreasonable, neither the sisters nor Dyad really need them, and the threat they represent is almost always a direct and physical one. It's a much less interesting dynamic.

(The series does try and spice them up a bit by putting resident whose-side-is-he-on-now character Paul with them, which would probably be more effective if Paul wasn't approximately as interesting as plywood.)

Did they practice their unimpressed poses beforehand, though.

And you could almost see the writers come to the same conclusion as the series progressed - increasingly as time goes on, they have less and less screentime, with even Castor clones du jour Rudy and Mark being given mere minutes of screentime by the final episode - minutes that result in one of them dying and the other one being shuffled out of the show never to be seen again. 

(Even Paul, who you might have thought could just switch sides again, perishes six or seven episodes in and is never mentioned again.)

The series ends on an alarming note, with Delphine seemingly killed (meaning Dyad will likely be taken over by slightly off-his-rocker executive Ferdinand, last seen flying off the handle and dumping a still living man into an acid bath), and the reveal that both Topside and Castor are under the control of the Neolutionists - you might remember that Leekie, former head of Dyad and prospective furry, was one of them - whose scientific advancements include horrifying mouth worms that may have mind control properties.

Which might end up being Orphan Black's shark-jumping moment. We'll see.

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