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The best SF show currently running returns for its second season, and the premiere episode doesn’t disappoint.

Title: “Nature Under Constraint and Vexed”

Cast and Crew
Director: John Fawcett
Writers: Graeme Manson

Tatiana Maslany as Sarah Manning/ Alison Hendrix/ Cosima Niehaus / Helena / Rachel Duncan
Jordan Gavaris as Felix Dawkins
Kevin Hanchard as Detective Art Bell
Dylan Bruce as Paul Dierden
Evelyne Brochu as Delphine
Matt Frewer as Dr. Aldous Leekie
Ron Lea as Lt. Gavin Hardcastle
Skyler Wexler as Kira
Inga Cadranel as Detective Angela Deangelis
Melanie Nicolls-King as Amelia
Matthew Bennett as Daniel Rosen
Kristian Bruun as Donnie Hendrix
Alex Ozerov as Ramon
Ari Millen as Mark
Maria Doyle Kennedy as Siobhan Sadler
Josh Vokey as Scott

Full cast and crew information may be found here.

Premise

“You know a gun dealer named Ramon?”
“He’s a gun enthusiast.”

Sarah runs from multiple adversaries as she attempts to recover her daughter and foster mother. Alison buys a gun, Cosima refuses to apologize for her heart, and the Prolethean Religious Sect proves at least as dangerous as Dyad.

An unexpected clone appears in the penultimate scene.

High Point

Tatiana Maslany ties with Game of Thrones‘s Peter Dinklage for sheer awesomeness among actors in contemporary television of the fantastic. Maslany, once again, must play multiple characters in the same show, who interact constantly and, as in this episode, sometimes impersonate each other. Her achievement may be assisted by contemporary technology, but her acting chops cannot be denied. She’s quite driven and desperate this week as Sarah, while her Alison, still dealing with her darker side, nevertheless remains weirdly, hilariously entertaining. The scene where someone tries to kidnap Sarah, only to realize they have Alison, elicits far more laughs than an attempted felony should.

Low Point

The trailer for Salem, given heavy exposure during the Canadian premiere of this ep, suggests that show fails at every level.

What? An Orphan Black low point? Oh, well….

This isn’t so much a low point as something that could have been better handled—and you may disagree. They film Orphan Black in Toronto, and the city could not look more like Toronto if they tried (Remember—T.O. often plays other cities quite well). The characters make Toronto references and spend Canadian money.

Yet they never name the city, and several elements aggressively don’t fit. The police, for example, have been played like American Cops or, at least, American Cop Show Cops. The badges are of the American design. The detectives complain about “the Feds” interfering; Art Bell says “I didn’t get an acronym.” Even Continuum would name CSIS or the RCMP.* None of this need be a problem; we’re watching a somewhat stylized, high-adrenaline reality. However, the vagaries of location feel less the result of a stylized world (as in, say, Max Headroom or 1989’s Batman) than a half-realized one. It doesn’t harm the show in any significant way, but it feels off in places.

The Scores:

Originality: 4/6 I congratulate the show’s creators for giving us a conspiracy thriller where the conspiracy isn’t some all-powerful, far-reaching corporation run by people with monolithic, identical goals and perfect predictive skills. Dyad is a comparatively powerful, somewhat skittish company run by people who could factionalize at the drop of a DNA sample. They face enemies not even they understand. And they couldn’t have bred less controllable, more unpredictable clones if that had been their intention.

Effects: 6/6 The clones have been seamlessly integrated into scenes.

Story: 5/6 Forget catching up the audience; the second season plunges us full-tilt into chaotic action, uncertain enemies and adversaries and, uh, community theatre. Felix is high and trying to initiate a fivesome. Sarah must escape unknown enemies, and one of the main antagonists nearly gets her head blown off.

Some developments happen in a rather fortuitous and forced manner. Detectives Bell and Deanegelis show up at exactly the right (or wrong, depending on your point of view) time by sheer happenstance; Sarah finds unexpected aid twice.

Acting: 5/6 I’ve addressed the extraordinary lead under “High Points,” but this show also boasts a strong supporting cast. Jordan Gavaris is perfectly-cast as Sarah’s hedonist brother. Inga Cadranel as Detective Deangelis, alas, remains a series of postures, rather than a real character.

Emotional Response: 5/6

Production: 6/6.

Overall: 5/6 The show addresses serious themes and subject matter, but the often dark humour and character-driven developments carry it.

In total, “Nature Under Constraint and Vexed” receives 36/42

Note

*Yes, a new review of Continuum, the other SF show set in a Canadian city, is forthcoming. The impetus to review or post a discussion weakens when the U.S. schedule lags several weeks behind the Canadian one, and this week will see no new episode. Look for a review of “Thirty Minutes to Air” later this week.