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Orphan Black – S1E1 – Natural Selection

The pilot opens with a train pulling into a station. A woman, the interestingly attractive Tatiana Maslany, is startled awake by an announcement. If her ripped shorts, leather jacket, and oddly streaked hair are anything to go by, this is not your conventional commuter. She wakes with an irritated “shit!”, earning her a withering glance from a mother seated near her. Her accent seems to suggest that she is British, which I guess is to be expected given that we’re watching a BBC America show.

In the station she makes a call on a payphone (they still have those??!) It seems her name is Sarah and she is indeed British. She’s back from some undisclosed location and the person on the other end of the call doesn’t want her to speak to someone named Kira. She is hung up on, and doesn’t have the coinage to redial.

Orphan Black Sarah on Phone

A neatly dressed woman at the other end of the station is quite upset about something. As Sarah approaches, the woman takes off her shoes and places her folded jacket on the ground beside them. She turns to face Sarah and — HOLY SHIT! She’s Tatiana Maslany as well! They stare at one another. What is going on here? Are they twins, time travelers, frequenters of the same plastic surgeon? I’m sure TM 2 will be able to shed some light on th— HOLY SHIT! Maslany the second just threw herself in front of a train! Sarah is understandingly pretty shaken up about the whole thing. Not quite shaken up enough to not steal her doppelganger’s bag and run off, but then, we all grieve differently.

Boy, that sure was an eventful 3 minutes! Now it’s time for the pleasantly trippy credit sequence. I’m kinda surprised that they need to credit any other actors. This is one of the better opening credits I’ve seen, with lots of thematically appropriate symmetry and doubling. The whole thing does kinda remind me of one of those screen savers that comes standard with your computer though.

We return to find Sarah robbing the Dead Tatiana Maslany’s wallet in some scungey bathroom. Stay classy, Sarah! From her drivers license we ascertain that DTM is named Elizabeth Childs. Although I know they’re identical, Sarah really doesn’t look very like the photo on the ID. In Elizabeth’s bag Sarah finds two phones, which is somewhat suspicious.

After all that excitement Sarah sits down for a much needed drink. She is met by her foster brother Felix who, in case you didn’t notice, is gay. I mean, for real, Felix is one of the gayest characters that I have ever seen on TV, and yet, he somehow doesn’t come across as an offensive stereotype, so kudos to the writers for that. They are pretty happy to see each other after such a long time apart. It turns out that Sarah has just left her abusive boyfriend, the aptly named Vic the Dick, after hitting him in the head with an ashtray. Oh, and she took his coke! The drug not the drink. The mysterious Kira is revealed to be Sarah’s daughter, who she hasn’t seen in nearly a year. She is in the care of the stern sounding Mrs. S. Felix gives us a little more backstory on the “poor little orphan wretch” Sarah, which I guess explains the first half of the title.

Sarah heads over to Elizabeth’s apartment, which is one of those impersonal modern straight out of a catalogue type places. The place is empty due to Elizabeth’s boyfriend being out of town, and Sarah has some fun seeing how her double lives.

Over at Felix’s graffiti filled warehouse apartment, his sexy-times are interrupted by the arrival of Vic the Dick. He is a rather unpleasant dude sporting a cut face from Sarah’s ashtray antics. He is looking for Sarah, or more accurately, the coke she stole, and is more than happy to get to her through Felix. Felix pleads ignorance, but Vic will be back.

Sarah is still at Elizabeth’s pad, and tells Felix that she is hoping to use the cash from the coke to run off with him and Kira. She finds out that Elizabeth has just opened an account with $75,000 in it. There was definitely something shifty going on with this chick. A conveniently timed news report about the suicide at the station gives Sarah an idea!

It turns out Sarah is remarkably good at identity theft. A montage shows her raiding Elizabeth’s closet and hair dye, trawling through her home movies, and doing other entertaining but morally questionable things. Sarah must have done a lot of drama in high school, because that girl sure can mimic an accent! At this point I had to Google Tatiana Maslany to figure out whether she is a British actress playing a British person playing a Canadian, or a Canadian actress playing a British person playing a Canadian. Turns out it is the latter! The more dignified of Elizabeth’s two phones keeps ringing. Someone called Art really wants to talk to her.

Orphan Black S1E1

Sarah as Elizabeth heads to the bank. Sarahbeth is greeted by an overly friendly banker-man. She flirt/bribes with him to get him to expedite the withdrawal waiting period so that she only has to wait 24 hours. In her safety deposit box she finds the birth certificates of several other women.

Returning to Beth’s house Sarah is flashed by a suspicious black car, but before she can investigate she is pushed into a different car by a rather irate man who tells her that they are late. He wants to make sure that she is ready. Him and Beth were definitely up to something. A form on the dash reveals that this is the mysterious Art, better known as DETECTIVE Arthur Bell. Beth was a cop!

Meanwhile, at the morgue, Felix flirts with Colin the creepy mortician while identifying Beth’s body as belonging to Sarah. Dude can multi-task!

Sarah does not seem happy to be walking into a police station. Possibly because she has spent today impersonating a dead cop in order to steal from her, but I could be wrong. It turns out that “Beth” is here to give a statement in front of a panel about some sort of incident, which, incidentally, is one of the worst possible things that can happen to you when you are pretending to be someone you’re not. She heads to the washroom (the wrong way), and unsuccessfully tries to get on to Felix. Back at the morgue, Felix is both disgusted and intrigued by his sister’s dead-elganger, and leans on Colin for support.

In the bathroom, Sarah decides that the best possible solution to her problem is to chug a container of liquid soap. Heading back into the meeting, we find out that they are looking into Beth’s shooting of a civilian.

Orphan Black hearing

Before she can give a statement the soap has its desired effect, and Sarahbeth throws up some probably quite nice smelling vomit all over the table. Art is, contrary to what I’d expected, pretty supportive about the whole thing, telling her to forgive herself, and sitting with her as she waits for a shrink.

Felix, meanwhile, is back at his place painting a pretty horrendous picture of Sarah surrounded by what may well be several dicks. And speaking of dicks, Vic is here. He is greeted by a slap from Felix. I almost feel bad for the guy as Felix proceeds to tell him that Sarah killed herself because of him. Almost. Felix takes him to see the body. Felix and Colin make flirty eyes at each other as Vic sobs over the corpse.


At the shrink’s office, Sarah is pulling out some excellent bullshit to explain why she doesn’t remember the shooting too well. Beth’s pink phone sure is getting a lot of texts from unknown numbers.

Back at Beth’s apartment, Felix finally brings up what we’ve all been wondering: Why the hell do Sarah and Beth look so damned identical? He is leaning towards the twin angle, but Sarah doesn’t want to hear it. Felix also realizes that all of the women on the birth certificates has a birthdate within a month of Sarah’s. The plot thickens! Felix gets pissed off when he finds out that Sarah is going to leave again, and storms out.

Later that night, Paul comes home! He’s pretty damn attractive in that all-American chiseled jaw kinda way. It turns out Beth was not a Clash fan, and that her hair was longer, but Paul doesn’t seem all that bothered by this. Sharp as a tack he is. To distract Paul from all of his questions, Sarah engages seduction mode. They have hot, but thoroughly unhygienic sex on the kitchen table.

A kimono wearing Felix is woken in the early hours of the morning by the loud knocking of a sad and drunken Vic. He is adamant that they have to hold a wake for Sarah. Felix agrees, but says they have to hold it that day.

Sarah sneaks out of bed to steal Paul’s cash and his keys, but is interrupted by the man himself in all his naked glory. He is pretty randy, but would settle for talking to her about the hearing. Her oddness is explained away by Beth having just stopped taking her meds. They have a cute coupley moment as Paul helps her find the keys to her car.

Art is watching her as she heads off to the bank to collect her cash. It goes off without a hitch and she leaves $75,000 richer. Art, however, has other plans for her money, and breaks into her car when she parks it outside of Felix’s. Inside, Sarah discovers some lovely invitations to her own wake.

Next to a bonfire a bunch of oddballs have gathered to pay their respects to the dearly departed Sarah Manning. Clinging to “her” ashes, Vic delivers a heartfelt, but pretty terrible eulogy. From across the way Sarah watches the proceedings through a pair of binoculars. She calls up Felix and they have an amused chat before Felix is scolded by Vic for his insensitivity. Her levity is quickly quashed when Mrs. S arrives with Kira in tow.

Orphan Black Wake

Sitting in her car bemoaning the fact that her daughter may well think she is dead, Sarah is interrupted by – HOLY SHIT – a third doppelganger!!! (Can it be a doppelganger if there is more than two?) This one is European and sporting short red hair. It’s Katja, the woman from one of the birth certificates.

Orphan Black - Katja

She is wondering why Beth missed their meeting. Sarah, on the other hand, is wondering who the fuck she is. She has a matching pink phone, and is coughing up blood. She has samples of her hair and blood that she wants to give to Beth’s scientist friend. She figures out that Sarah is not Beth, but before she can finish her thought she is SHOT IN THE HEAD!! More shots come, but Sarah is able to drive off with the dead German in the back. Both of the pink phones start ringing, and Sarah answers.

Next time on Orphan Black: Vic gets mad. Art gets mad. Sarah gets mad. And Paul still can’t figure out that his girlfriend isn’t his girlfriend.

About Alison Millward (103 Articles)
Alison is a big nerd living in Melbourne, Australia. She is a lover of all things television, particularly anything in the "hot young people in depressing sci-fi situations" genre. When not watching tv, Alison enjoys long walks on the beach, corrupting young minds, and actively avoiding thinking about her future.
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