One episode was provided for reviewing purposes prior to broadcast.
BBC America’s Orphan Black, a story literally about a woman with multiple versions of herself, has always been a show with multiple identities of its own. It can be a comedy, thanks to some nimble writing and gonzo performances. It can be a thriller, due in most part to its inescapably compelling government conspiracy thread that propels most of the show’s big arcs forward. It can also be, how do I put this… bat-crap crazy, with a season one twist revealing that drifter Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany) and her “sisters” are smack-dab in the middle of an age-old war between a religious extremist group called “The Proletheans” and a pro-science movement who plan on taking evolution into their own hands and call themselves “Neolutionists.”
There are people with tails, more evil doppelgangers than you can shake a clone phone at, and subplots about local theater. After seeing the first hour of Orphan Black‘s third season, I’m happy to report that Graeme Mason and John Fawcett – the show’s co-creators – haven’t skipped a beat in continuing the series’ addictively bizarre melding between sci-fi thriller and offbeat comedy. In fact, after twenty short episodes, Orphan Black may be better than it’s ever been in its third season.
With the big reveal of last season’s cliffhanger now being dealt with head-first, the season three premiere mostly focuses on Sarah and co.’s desperate attempts to untangle – and understand – the truth behind Project Castor, a military-controlled male-centric cloning program positioned as the yin to Project Leda’s yang. A handful of the Castors run amok in the premiere, attempting to gain more intelligence on those closest to Sarah, with their ultimate endgame an enticing mystery left dangling (they all appear self-aware of their predicament, unlike most of what we’ve seen of Project Leda, sans Rachel).
Elsewhere, we regroup with the main quartet of clones, with a satisfying pace keeping up with Helena, Sarah, Alison, and Cosima all-at-once. Three seasons in and Maslany still mystifies, as well. Not only does she tug at tear ducts with a half-second “I love you” thrown out to Delphine (Evelyne Brochu) as Cosima, but she still convincingly plays the broken-minded psychopath with a heart of gold in Helena, who gets the premiere’s trippiest moments. And her face-to-face with a Castor midway through the opening hour, a clone-on-clone tête-à-tête , if you will, is so ferociously enjoyable it’s easy to wonder why a new group of clones wasn’t introduced earlier.
Whereas the introduction to another set of clones could have broken the show’s back under its own cleverness, Ari Millen plays each of the Castors with as much of a debonair strut and blank-faced ominousness as the best of Maslany’s villainous sisters. He’s foreboding and strange looking, and though it may grow tiring that not one of the Castors appears “good,” for now it’s a fascinating addition to an already head-spinningly dense mythology.