Wednesday, June 26, 2024

TV Review: Orphan Black Echoes

A fast-paced melodrama replaces the intellectual puzzle box of the original series.

Orphan Black Echoes is a sequel to the 2013 hit series Orphan Black starring Tatiana Maslany. Maslany received an Emmy Award for her clever portrayal of several characters on the show. The original series follows an ordinary woman, Sarah Manning, who suddenly encounters multiple versions of women who look just like her. The women discover that they are clones and that much their lives and relationships are not what they seem. They band together to solve the mystery of who they are while trying to protect the very different lives they have built for themselves. The first two seasons of the original Orphan Black presented an innovative type of television series: a fascinating combination of police procedural, psychological thriller, sci-fi puzzle box, and found-family introspection, with Tatiana Maslany simultaneously portraying streetwise Sarah; uptight soccer mom, Alison; hippie scientist Cosima, and quirky, violent Helena, among others.

Orphan Black Echoes takes place initially in 2050. The new show is the story of Lucy, a woman who wakes up in a lab, not remembering who she is, what year it is, or anything about her past. The pilot episode begins with Lucy in a faux homelike setting where she awakens feeling disoriented. A kind doctor (Keeley Hawes) asks questions to get Lucy oriented and tells Lucy she’s had a “procedure” which is why she can’t remember. The doctor is deliberately vague about what the procedure was. Despite the doctor’s gentle voice and attempts to be calming, Lucy quickly gets frustrated by her brain fog and devolves into shouting things, like “why can’t I remember?” and smashing lamps. We soon find out that she is in a giant lab where humans are 3-D printed to create organs needed for transplants. Lucy is handed a photograph of a young child and asked if she can remember the child. Although she can’t, the question lets us know that this is not Lucy’s first rodeo as 3-D print / clone. Lucy manages to make her escape and the story fast-forwards two years to 2052, where she is living an idyllic life with a kind single dad, Jack (Avan Jogia) and his deaf, school-aged daughter, Charlie (Zariella Langford). If you are a fan of the original show, this sweet setting immediately sparks suspicions that there is more happening than appears. As expected, the people in the big, science lab come for her, putting her happy, found-family setting at risk and nudging her to finally solve the mystery of who she is.

Echoes is fast paced and entertaining but it lacks the thoughtful, puzzle box approach of its predecessor and lacks the mesmerizing acting by Tatiana Maslany which defined the original show. Echoes is much more of an in-your-face show. There is no subtlety and there are very few twists and surprises. For the most part, it is an adventure / chase film focused on a character with whom the audience has not yet truly connected but, hopefully, at least identifies with enough to stay interested between the dramatic scene breaks.

Unlike Sarah’s streetwise cleverness and deception in the original series, Lucy gravitates to impulsive, emotional responses. In the first episode, when Lucy cannot remember who she is or where she is, she immediately starts breaking things in the room and then takes off. Later in the show she takes a child hostage and holds a gun to the child’s head before kidnapping her. Despite a few opportunities for obligatory moments of kindness with her boyfriend’s hearing impaired daughter, Krystin Ritter’s Lucy is portrayed overall as unstable, impulsive, and violent. The intensity is appealing but the effect is ultimately a completely different type of show from the original Orphan Black.

The audience is also given repeated, melodramatically vague flashbacks to feed the tension in the story: a knife dipped in blood; memories of neon pink liquid on Lucy’s hands or on her face as she emerges, baptism-like, from a pool of pink goo that represents her creation (or recreation). The visuals are cliché but still fun. The antagonists also get a bit of screen time, clarifying the business, science, and social motivations behind Lucy’s creation.

The early seasons of the original Orphan Black explored different forms of feminism manifested through the various lives of the clones as they support each other. In contrast, Orphan Black Echoes, feels more like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, an exploration of an artificially created person searching for meaning and self-determination while fighting against its creator. It’s an interesting concept delivered in an action drama package. Orphan Back Echoes is not as clever as the original series but it is entertaining enough to pass the time when you need an adventure.


The Math

Nerd Coefficient: 7/10

  • Questionable protagonist
  • Cliché elements
  • Entertaining action but not groundbreaking

POSTED BY: Ann Michelle Harris – Multitasking, fiction writing Trekkie currently dreaming of her next beach vacation.