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'Orphan Black' season 3: Are the male clones an exciting twist or cause for concern?

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BBC AMERICA

Orphan Black is upping the clone ante in season 3 with a whole new set of male clones. All played by Ari Millen, these Project Castor clones will present an entirely new source of information—and potential threat—for the Tatiana Maslany clones of Project Leda.

It’s a departure for the show in some ways, but also a chance to delve deeper into its mythology. As the series’ third season premiere looms closer, though, is everyone sold on the idea of these new clones? EW’s Andrea Towers and Jonathon Dornbush debate whether Orphan Black‘s latest plot twist is an exciting new development—or a cause for concern.

ANDREA: I can’t believe that this time next week, we’ll have finally started the third season of Orphan Black. It’s been too long. Obviously, I’m looking forward to seeing the many faces of Tatiana Maslany (and whatever new faces show up)—but I need to talk about how excited I am for the male clones. I mean, this was a twist I didn’t see coming at all until it happened. I think I was skeptical for awhile about where they could go with this storyline, but the more I sat on it, the more in favor of it I became. And now that the premiere is so close, I’m intrigued to see how it all plays out. Because MALE CLONES. Finally, we’re upping the game on this show!

JONATHON: But Andrea, isn’t this perhaps a case of too many clones? (They’re like cooks.) Season 2 threw a few too many Project Leda clones into the mix—and rather than being characters we care about, they existed more as plot devices. I’m more than happy just to spend more time with Sarah, Cosima, and Allison—I can always do with a little less Helena—with maybe one or two new clones being introduced as well. And I wasn’t exactly a big fan of Mark Rollins last season.

Mostly, I just want more time to see Tatiana Maslany try on new personalities like outfits. She’s rolled with whatever the show has thrown at her, and I feel like there’s so much more for her to explore with the clones who are still around—and those yet to be introduced.

ANDREA: Look, I love Orphan Black—it’s honestly one of my top favorite shows—but I feel the series has been suffering from some creative fatigue. Season 1 was on the ball with twists and turns, worldbuilding and deeply exploring the storylines of its characters. Season 2 built on those storylines—but it also kind of blurred its focus. I felt a little lost during the second half of the season, as if there was too much going on. Male clones, to me, seem like the answer to getting the show back on track. 

Is it a Tatiana bias for you, or do you just not like the idea of male clones in general? 

JONATHON: I totally agree with you about season 2 losing focus. But won’t adding another group of completely different clones—not too mention whatever other Leda clones pop up—only make that worse? 

The show is already trying to juggle so many characters and twists, I can’t imagine a completely new set of clones will make that easier. Why not take season 3 to pull the scope in a bit? The show’s writers can still build out their world, but rather than doubling the number of clones in play, they can do it with the ones already on the scene.

And sure, there’s a bit of a Tatiana bias here—but how could there not be? The Emmy-robbed actress is so fun to watch that I certainly don’t want less of her. What aspects of the male clones have you excited, though, keeping in mind that they’re taking away precious screen time from Tatiana?

ANDREA: Wait: You’re implying that Tatiana can’t actually play a male clone. For all we know, Mark Rollins may be Tatiana in disguise. Actually, I’m still not convinced Tatiana isn’t somehow playing everyone on this show.

Male clones will open an entirely new world for Orphan Black. I mean, think about it—we really don’t know much about the clones other than what we’ve learned from Project Leda. There’s so much history we could dive into. I want to know everything about Prolethean Mark! I want to see how these male clones differentiate from the female ones! (For example, we get the sense they’re more emotionless—but why?) I really see the male clones as a game changer for the show, a way to find its footing again and a chance for it to slide back into the nuanced storytelling I loved so much in the first season.

You mentioned pacing and story, but what in particular has you so wary of male clones?

JONATHON: My main concern is with the show spreading itself too thin. The male clones will undoubtedly inject some new personality, but that could also make it an even more unwieldy series to follow. Season 2 tried to deepen the mystery, but instead turned Orphan Black into a show about Kira and a local theater production. 

When the show never really seemed to have a hold of its mythology, essentially doubling the size of that mythology is just a bit worrisome. I’d rather see Orphan double down on what it already has in Project Leda, and try to make some more sense of it.

But look: There’s something to these male clones that’s exciting. And after season 2’s unevenness, I’m willing to let the show try some new things, even though I’m not convinced that this is the best choice. Any last thoughts about the male clones you have to try to convince me?

ANDREA: I guess we’ll have to reconvene at the end of the season to see how it all shakes out. In the same way that you’re willing to let the show try new things, I’m willing to see it fail if it moves forward creatively…so long as the ratings hold. I love this program; it would be a shame to have it sit in a creative slump and never try anything new. I think the male clones could be the answer to a mythology that hasn’t really been cemented very well yet.

Plus, there’s always the possibility of Blood Ties: The Musical, starring all six Proletheans. I’m not giving up on that dream ’til it happens.

JONATHON: Well for both our sakes, I hope you’re right—since the writers seem to be fully invested in this male clone front. I still have my reservations, but it least the show isn’t holding back. And let’s be completely real—I’m still going to watch no matter what. Even just to see if the season ends in an even bigger dance party than last year.

And just in case you aren’t caught up, never fear – the cast is here to explain everything that’s happened to you in just thirty seconds:

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