TV: Orphan Black (Season 4)

Somewhere along the way, Orphan Black went from a show I was genuinely enthusiastic about to one I merely watch out of a sense of science-fictional duty. Well, that and a justifiable allegiance to the amazing, sustained performance of Tatiana Maslany, of course. Alas, the show has never quite matched the heights of its outstanding first season, and while what’s happened since has often been polished and diverting, it’s never been more than merely good.

Season four continues that track record, as the drama, intrigue, and struggle for survival of the “Clone Club” continues. Sarah, Cosima, Allison, Elena, and more (all played by Maslany), having come together to solve the mystery of their collective origin, are once again circling the edges of conspiratorial scientific factions attempting to shape the future of humanity. The season gets off to a good start, with a flashback opener (“The Collapse of Nature”) that brings us back to the final days of Detective Beth Childs (Maslany), whose investigation played an integral role in bringing the clones together. It both capitalizes on the nostalgia for those exciting early days, and reintroduces Neolution, the organization who serves as the Clone Club’s major nemesis this year.

However, while the season does churn out generally entertaining interactions and continues to showcase Maslany’s impressive range, it never quite achieves a the level of engrossing satisfaction that started it all off. Indeed, it feels increasingly like a show unsure what it’s about, and also one that relied so strongly on its ability to surprise that it’s not certain what to do now that surprise is no longer necessary.

Is it still worth watching? I think so, if you’re invested in the characters. Season four feels like that much more “product,” serving fans interested in seeing their clones united in nebulous jeopardy, in every combination the writers can envision. Smartly, Maslany is given every opportunity to “get her nuance on” as she not only plays every clone, but often plays them impersonating each other. It’s still a mesmerizing feat, and the literal “created family” still packs some emotional punch. It’s a step up from season three, I think, and I still like it enough to want to see it through, even if part of me thinks the show might have worked better as a one-season wonder.

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