By Jeff Jensen
Updated April 07, 2016 at 02:23 PM EDT
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Ken Woroner/BBC AMERICA

How many lives does Orphan Black have left to live? The low-fi sci-fi serial has remained resonant thanks to Tatiana Maslany’s multiplicity of performances and clever outsider shadings. But it’s struggled to consistently generate the inspired zap from the show’s lightning-strike, wholly realized 2013 debut. Creators Graeme Manson and John Fawcett have turned the series into a never-ending origin story, with each conspiracy-thriller season sending scrappy antihero Sarah and the clone club “sestra”-hood on a journey of dark discovery. The gambits were obvious—an inevitable attack of bad-boy clones happened last year—and the widening gyre of mythology only muddied and lost energy over time.

But new hope arrives in season 4, with three episodes marked by tonal cohesiveness courtesy of an ironic strategy. Pulling from the Star Wars: The Force Awakens playbook, Manson and Fawcett reignite our interest by replicating the story that started it all. The premiere rewinds to before the very beginning and tracks cop clone Beth’s final days. The premise brings a hit parade of departed characters, and a sparky new hacktivist clone, M.K., enters the mix. Jumping back to the present, Sarah begins investigating that mystery—a threatening expression of bleeding-edge transhumanism (creepy biotech bug implants are involved)—and reinvestigating Beth’s life. This duplication of season 1’s structure includes slow-burning supporting clones Cosima and Alison and makes them relevant to Sarah’s work, but subplot is at a minimum. Cloning the past to supercharge the present? That’s very clever, Orphan Black. For now. B+

Episode Recaps

Orphan Black

Tatiana Maslany plays half the cast of BBC America’s paranoid clone thriller.
type
  • TV Show
seasons
  • 5
rating
  • TV-MA
genre
network
  • BBC America

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