It wouldn’t seem possible that Tatiana Maslany could be any better than she was in Season One, but I think it happened. The main thing is, we know the various clones and their personalities much better now, know their similarities and differences, and this shines the light even brighter on what Maslany pulls off. I was reading an interview with her where she talked about the various characters, and it was fascinating how as I read I forgot that the same actor was playing every clone. Talking about the great dance scene where four clones show up, Maslany said, “It’s a big combination for me, but I have to say all those scenes were so awesome. I was so excited to read them because there was nothing about them that was plot driven. They were just the characters, the sisters reunited and meeting Helena for the first time. And that was so much fun to play with as an actor. Regardless of the technical things, when you have that lovely scene work to play it just kind of takes care of itself.”
As she described the sisters meeting Helena, I recalled that moment, which was very touching, and I realized that she described exactly what I saw: three sisters meeting a fourth. At those moments, Maslany moves far beyond the parlor trick of playing multiple characters. It’s as if the characters are playing her. When Helena shows up, the scene has an emotional wallop because she is new to some of the sisters. And as a viewer, you don’t think “duh, they’re all Tatiana Maslany, of course they’ve met”. Instead, you get swallowed up in the coming together of separate characters.
Season Two demonstrated that there is a limit, if not to Maslany’s brilliance than at least to the makeup department’s abilities. Tony, the transgender clone, didn’t work … he looked like Tatiana Maslany with a fake beard. The other clones don’t instantly remind you of the actor … Sarah, Cosima, Alison, Helena, and Rachel are different people. Partly this is the makeup folks doing great work: Cosima’s dreads, Helena’s great blond mane, Rachel’s perfectly tailored look. Maslany makes them real, of course, but even she couldn’t make Tony believable.
Alan Sepinwall targeted what was the biggest problem for me in Season Two: while the various Maslany-clones retained their unique qualities, the plot(s) got so complicated I lost track of who was trying to do what. There may be some consistency in the various characters’ actions, but oftentimes I couldn’t follow them, and this bothered me. I’d be inclined to pass this off as my own tendencies to get confused at these things, but then I saw Sepinwall saying similar things: “[T]he story kept looping back in on itself until it was utter gibberish. I lost all track of who was on which side, the exact agenda of any faction within or without the Dyad Institute, and the show turned into a collection of trap doors for the clones and/or the audience to fall through as every non-clone character (save Felix and Art) kept switching allegiances.”
This is far from a deal-breaker … I have a hard time imagining ever getting tired of watching Maslany in this series. But the more I get lost in narrative problems, the more Orphan Black becomes a one-trick pony to me. OK, it’s more like a five-trick pony, but it would be nice if Orphan Black the series kept up with Tatiana Maslany the Should Win an Emmy actor.
Meanwhile, the dance party was arguably the greatest scene yet involving whatever tricks they do to work all of the clones into the same scene.. But my favorite moment of the finale was brief, when Helena was asked if she had burned down the ranch. The look on her face as she said “no” was perfect. A tip of the cap to “GIMMI-SAGAN-OM-DRAKEN” for this great gif:
Grade for Season Two: A-.