I'm thrilled to report that the second season of Orphan Black did a really great job living up to the promise of its first, and if there was any question as to whether a show with a high concept like this can sustain itself for several years, I think it's been firmly answered in the affirmative.
Tatiana Maslany continued to amaze this year (give her the Emmy already!) as she played the characters we came to know and love last season, and deepened them as we got to know and spend time with each clone in their own particular environments, while constantly shifting back and forth with the various supporting characters from each clone's world coming to interact with the people in another. One of the great pleasures of this series is the way that the ground is constantly moving, and events are so fast-paced and lively that you barely have time to keep up with the dubious science fiction that lies at the heart of the mysterious Dyad organization, and that's a good thing, believe me. Unlike certain other sci-fi shows (cough, Lost, cough) that were too wrapped up in their ridiculously complicated mythology, showrunners Graeme Manson and John Fawcett understand that the heart of this series lies in the characters, the relationships, and Maslany's transformative performance(s) that can entertain for miles all on their own.
This year we got to know the evil Rachel more, as she progressed to be more haughty, cold and narcissistic than ever (even succeeding in gasp, kidnapping little Kira!), and also Helena was developed into more than just the crazy killer antagonist from last season. The latter in particular is a good thing because Helena was originally my least favorite clone and I was kind of disappointed at first to see that she'd miraculously survived the shooting from last season's finale. But as we spent more and more time with her this year I came to appreciate her badass assassin-like skills, weird sense of humor and longing to have a family of her own, and I'm fully on board with her now to the point where I'm actually sad to see her apprehended and shipped to god knows where by the always flip-flopping Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy). Clones with less character development but just as much screen time remained our protagonist Sarah, science nerd Cosima, and suburban mom Alison, who remains mostly comic relief, as her activities were consumed this season by participating in the community musical (a bizarre little subplot which Maslany gave her all to- yes she can sing as well), a stint in rehab, and rekindling the sparks with husband Donnie over their mutual accidental homicides.
Speaking of which, the supporting cast was expanded this year to great effect, as every non-Maslany actor is given good material and an interesting character of their own to play, most of whom have great interaction with at least one, sometimes several, of the clones in question. Hapless Donnie (Kristian Bruun), who'd remained a lunkhead for most of the time he'd been on the show, came to life this year when it was revealed that he stupidly knew nothing of the clone project in his job as Alison's monitor, and to redeem himself he stumbles in head first to his wife's secretly repressed life of crimes, which reunited them in passionate romance to hilarious effect. Jordan Gavaris remains indispensable as Felix, Sarah's sidekick and foster brother, and he's always funny and dependable when interacting with Sarah, Alison, Helena, and most surprisingly Art (Kevin Hanchard), who he was paired up with several times in a kind of odd couple friendship as the two tracked down leads, with Detective Art being fully folded into the clone support group this season. And Kennedy as Siobhan Sadler, the mysterious Mrs. S., continues to switch allegiances (I still don't even know exactly what she does or why she does it) but remained intriguing throughout, as she's essentially written to be a character who could very easily be revealed to be behind anything, everything, or nothing at this point and I'd believe it.
The only storyline I wasn't totally on board with at first was Helena's early stint in the company of a strange religious cult, where we were introduced to some bizarre characters that I was originally wondering why we had to spend so much time with. But I'll tell you right now, that storyline is paid off by the season finale in spades, and the time spent on that weird cow ranch ended up being worth every minute. Another new character they introduced this year was Kira's father Cal (played by Nashville's Michiel Huisman) who immediately made for a more appealing love interest for Sarah than last year's Dyad handiman Paul (Dylan Bruce), who was almost gone for virtually the entire season this time, only to show up again near the end in what's basically a new iteration of himself. That's the great thing about this show- characters may disappear and come back only to be revealed as something else, and events are moving so quickly that you don't even have time to think about whether what you just saw really makes any sense or not (but in a fun way). Finally, the other thing we've got to mention here is Tony, the new clone who showed up for just one episode, again Maslany of course, but Tony is, wait for it...a boy! Well, almost, as he's a "transclone," on his way to becoming a boy, so the question is can Tatiana play male just as well as she can everyone else? Well...it was a little bit tough to buy on this one, I'll admit. Tony looked so much like Apolo Ohno that I was too distracted by that fact alone. But it was still fun to see her try.
Every aspect of the show is exciting, fun, crazy and unpretentious, which might be the most important factor. When a show isn't striving to be high art but instead a roller coaster ride made up of elements pulled from almost every genre, it's a really entertaining concoction if you buy the characters and the action. It doesn't ask you to make sense of it but just to enjoy what you're seeing and that I always do. I love this show and I can't wait for it to return. Is it next April yet?