First Watch: Orphan Black – “Natural Selection” (Season 1, Episode 1)

I’ve been struggling for the better part of a day and a half on how to write a review of the pilot of Orphan Black that would get readers excited about the series without spoiling too much about the show and it has left me rather stumped. The thing that makes Orphan Black’s story interesting isn’t quite revealed in the first episode, but is easily gathered with a bit of metagaming (that is, using outside information to supplement what you learn while, in this case, watching the show). I was spoiled simply because I was late to the party and had been seeing commercials for the series while watching Doctor Who, but I also had no idea that it was a spoiler that I had learned. Spoilers don’t usually hinder my enjoyment of a series, but I do wonder how much different my take on Orphan Black would have been if I hadn’t known what I know now.

Oh well, let’s talk about Orphan Black’s pilot, “Natural Selection”.

Orphan Black begins with a young woman, Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany), witnessing a woman who looks eerily like her (only a bit less punk and a tad more class) commit suicide by train. Obviously, this comes as quite a shock to Sarah, so she does the only thing anyone would do in this situation: she grabs the woman’s bag and gets out of there.

After taking a brief look at the contents of the bag (which includes an ID for the now-deceased Elizabeth Childs), Sarah goes to meet up with her foster brother, Felix (Jordan Gavaris), at a bar. Through their meeting, we learn quite a bit about our protagonist: Sarah has been missing for about year with her abusive boyfriend, Vic (‘the Dick’); she has a daughter named Kira that she left behind with a ‘Mrs. S’; she grew up in a foster home and, well, she’s a bit of a con-artist. After her chat with Felix, she takes the next sensible step in her investigation of Elizabeth Childs — she heads over to Beth’s apartment and lets herself in.

While Sarah is busy finding out about Beth, Vic storms in to Felix’s apartment looking for her and the coke that she stole from him (which Felix is also trying to flip for her), but Felix covers for her and says she hasn’t been around. Of course, Vic doesn’t believe him and tells him he’ll be back. Hurray. Sarah calls Felix about her findings in the apartment and gets some bad news from Felix about the coke: it’ll only fetch her $10,000, not nearly enough for her to start over with Kira and Felix somewhere far away. While she’s on the phone, a reporter on the television begins to talk about an unidentified woman jumping in front of a moving train, which gives Sarah yet another idea for the next step in her completely sensible plan.

She’s going to become Beth.

What I’ve covered here only accounts for about half of the episode’s duration, but so much happens in the second half that I won’t be getting into with this review. Overall, Orphan Black didn’t quite draw me in with “Natural Selection”, but that might be because I know more than I should about the show. The pilot was filled with drama and does a great job setting up the rest of the series, but like the final seasons of Lost, I signed up for a science-fiction show and it just isn’t satisfying my science-fiction craving at this point. I’m certain that Orphan Black will win me over by the end of the season, but hasn’t yet. If the first season fails to get its hooks into me, though, Tatiana Maslany will probably keep me coming back until it does.

  • Rating: “Certain will win me over, but hasn’t yet.”
  • Comment:  Orphan Black goes for the long con with its pilot: it sets up a bunch of great plot points to deal with for the rest of the season at the expense of its pilot.
  • You might like Orphan Black if you like: Not going to touch this one for fear of spoiling the show.

Orphan Black finished its first season earlier this year, but it has been renewed for a second season in April 2014 on BBC America.

About Daniel

I'm a guy who spends way too much time playing board games and watching television with his friends. View all posts by Daniel

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