WHAT TO WATCH: ORPHAN BLACK

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For almost a year now, CJ and I have been meaning to start watching Orphan Black.  Season 1 premiered about this time last year and received rave reviews.  However, we had yet to find time to fit it into our TV viewing schedule.  With season 2 quickly approaching, this needed to be remedied.  So, over the course of about 4 days last week, I watched season 1.  Now, keep in mind, the first season of Orphan Black was only 10 episodes.  Therefore, watching it over a 4-day span wasn’t completely crazy…but, it did make for some late nights.  Let me tell you though, it was totally worth it.  This show is amazing.  It quickly grabs you and each episode only wraps you deeper and deeper into the crazy mystery surrounding these clones–to the point that you can’t help but keep watching.  I was (and am still) enthralled.  And, I, more importantly, am dying to see more.

If I would have watched Orphan Black in 2013, it would have been #2 on my list of favorite shows of last year (only Breaking Bad would have topped it).  That is how good the show is.  I also told CJ that I wouldn’t be waiting on him to start season 2, if he didn’t start catching up quickly.  Yup, that’s right, I issued a television ultimatum.  I mean business.  Orphan Black is awesome and come hell or high water, I will be watching the start of season 2 this weekend.

I don’t want to spend too much time dissecting season 1 because I am afraid not many of you have tuned into this show yet and I don’t want to ruin anything for you.  So, here is what we are going to do.  I am going to give a brief teaser of what Orphan Black is.  Then, I will give you fair warning and tell you to stop reading if you have yet to finish season 1.  At the bottom of this post, I will try and provide a refresher for those who have made it through season 1, so that you will be fully prepared for the season 2 premiere this Saturday.  Everyone got the game plan? Ok, break.

What is Orphan Black?  Orphan Black is a Canadian science fiction television series starring Tatiana Maslany, as several identical woman who turn out to be clones.  The show airs on BBC America in the United States.  The first season premiered in March 2013.  The second season will premiere on April 19, 2014.

Basic Plot?  A young British woman (think early twenties), who clearly has been living life as some sort of street punk, named Sarah Manning, witnesses a woman commit suicide in the subway underground.  The twist: right before the woman jumps in front of the train, she and Sarah make eye contact and it turns out that she looks exactly like Sarah.  Say what?!  I know, it’s crazy.  Sarah snatches the woman’s purse before anyone else discovers it and decides to pose as the dead woman for the time being (she has motivations for doing so, I just don’t want to spoil them for you).  As the episodes go on, it is clear that it isn’t going to be a piece of cake for Sarah to simply pretend to be dead-girl, particularly because Sarah and dead-girl are one of an undetermined number of clones created for some sort of illegal science experiment.  Chaos, death, mystery, and some hilarity ensues.  You are hooked aren’t you?

Ok, now that is all that you are going to get to peak your interest.  Season 1 is available on Amazon Prime.  Trust me, you can, and will want to finish it before season 2 starts on Saturday.  If you haven’t watched or finished watching season 1 yet, then STOP READING THIS NOW.  SPOILERS MAY BE AHEAD.

Let’s start off our discussion of season 2 by looking at the trailer.

Awesome, right?  Now, let’s look at some of the season 2 promo pictures

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I take this to mean that Sarah is still largely the focus of season 2.

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It looks like Cosima and Delphine might still be working on the same team, but does the large gap between them mean that their relationship continues to be strained?

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I hope that this means we will be getting plenty of Felix and Alison time this season as well.  Donnie still appears to be creepy and like he is only pretending to go running.

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Has Paul officially joined team bad guys in season 2?  I hope not.

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It looks like we have a new face in the mix.  Michiel Huisman (Nashville and Game of Thrones is what I know him from) is set to play Cal Morrison this season.  Is he a new love interest for Sarah or more bad news?  We are also getting a new clone this season apparently…Jennifer Fitzsimmons, who is a school teacher.  I won’t go into all the new characters we will see in season 2 (but just start googling if you want to find out about them).  We are getting at least 5 new characters according to HuffPo.

Finally, just a little refresher on where we left everyone:

  • Sarah Manning – Our main clone.  At the end of last season, Sarah found out her birth mother was a woman named Amelia, an African-British woman, who was the in-vitro surrogate for a couple of scientists.  Amelia actually had two babies:  Sarah and Helena (twinsies).  Helena, being the crazy psychopath that she is, stabs Amelia in the stomach.  Sarah confronted Helena upon finding Amelia and Helena got shot.  We haven’t seen her since, but I bet she isn’t dead.  Sarah also decides to bail on her deal with Rachel (pro-clone) and the DYAD Institute when she learns that they are full of crap.  When she returns home she finds Mrs. S’s house destroyed and Kira and Mrs. S nowhere to be found.   In regards to Sarah’s love life, it is unclear where she and Paul stand and whether he will remain on Team Sarah for season 2.
  • Alison Hendrix – Soccer mom clone.  After being approached by Dr. Leekie with an agreement that Alison gets to live as normal of a life as possible in exchange for voluntarily doing medical tests for the DYAD, Alison agrees to sign the contract with Dr. Leekie believing that by doing so Alison’s monitor will be removed.  Alison also let’s her neighbor and former bff die (in front of her) because she believes that Ainsley was her monitor.  In turns out that her beloved husband, Donnie, actually is.
  • Cosima Niehaus – Scientist clone.  Cosima arrives in the city at the end of season 1 (from Minnesota) in order to get away from Delphine (her monitor/love-interest).  In depressing news, Cosima starts suffering the same symptoms of respiratory disease that German-clone was suffering at the beginning of season 1.  Cosima, with the help of Delphine, discovers that each of the clones have a message in their DNA stating that they are patented and the property of an unknown person or organization.
  • Helena – Ukrainian psyscho-path clone.  Helana was shot by Sarah at the end of season 1.   I doubt she is dead.  And, she is probably still crazy.
  • Rachel Duncan – Pro-clone.  Rachel works for the DYAD Institute and in the last couple episodes tries to strike a deal with Sarah, Cosima, and Alison.  My guess is she is involved in the disappearance of Kira.  We don’t have very much backstory on her though.
  • Art and Angela – Cops.  Sarah almost revealed everything to Art before the DYAD’s attorney showed up and bailed Sarah out.  Art and Angela realize the similarities between Sarah, Beth (dead-clone),and Alison, but haven’t put the pieces together yet.
  • Paul Dierden – Monitor.  Paul was Beth/Sarah’s monitor during season 1.  He appeared to align with Sarah at the end of the season, but the DYAD also has him blackmailed due to what happened to him in Afghanistan (i.e., he killed several marines is friendly fire).  I want to keep trusting Paul, but I don’t know if we will be able to.
  • Felix – Sarah’s foster brother (and my favorite character).  Felix is the only non-clone that is privy to all this clone business.  He and Sarah were raised together by Mrs. S.  Art and Angela know that Felix is related to the death of Beth somehow, but haven’t quite figured it out yet.  Felix’s apartment appears to have become the location for clone meetings.  We last saw Cosima there.
  • Mrs. S. – Foster mom.  Mrs. S has been caring for Sarah’s daughter Kira, presumably since Kira’s birth.  Sarah’s birth mother has warned her that Mrs. S is not all that she appears to be.   We just don’t know yet how involved in the clone conspiracy Mrs. S actually is.  At the end of season 1, Mrs. S disappeared.
  • Kira – Sarah’s daughter.  Kira is the only biological child of a clone that we know about so far. Kira was hit by a car towards the end of season 1, but magically healed really quickly.  We don’t know why.  Sarah finds that Kira is gone at the end of season 1.  I presume that the DYAD has Kira, at least that is how it seems.
  • Dr. Leekie – DYAD scientist.  Leekie runs the DYAD institute, a research organization dedicated to the Neolutionism philosophy of self-guided evolution.  He isn’t at the top of the food chain, but he is powerful and evil.

Who’s dead:  Beth (cop-clone); Ainsley (Alison’s neighbor); Tomas (religious fanatic), Maggie Chen (proletarian who went undercover in the Neolutionist organization–killed by Beth); Amelia (Sarah and Helena’s birth mom); German-clone.  Who else am I missing?

That’s it!  In case you need a reminder, season 2 starts this Saturday, April 19th on BBC America (8 p.m. central).  Happy watching!

-LJ

 

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WHAT TO WATCH: APRIL 2014

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Sorry kids, all the fun and games are over. April is not messing around. I hope you’re not behind on anything, because April is not going to leave you any opportunity to catch up on things. Premieres, finales, specials, reality shows, comedies, dramas…April’s got it all. And, it’s got it all in spades. January to March has been nice and relaxing, and I hope you’ve taken advantage. There are a couple of Sunday nights that I look forward to each year (or have in the past): Breaking Bad and Boardwalk Empire was an amazing Sunday of TV for the last several years, but my favorite Sunday for the last 3 years has been and will remain Game of Thrones and Mad Men (topped off this year with Veep and Silicon Valley). This is what April brings us. And, while last month, I couldn’t even come up with 10 items, this month, there are far more than 10, so let’s get to it:

10. Turn (AMC, April 6) — With Breaking Bad gone, and Mad Men on it’s way out, it’s time for AMC to start restocking on high quality, prestige dramas (I was really looking forward to Low Winter Sun, but that didn’t work out so well). AMC tries it again here with an American Revolutionary War drama about a group of spies lead by Jamie Bell. Most importantly though, the recurring cast includes the one and only Stephen Root (Office Space, Justified, King of the Hill, No Country for Old Men, Boardwalk Empire). Early reviews seem to be mixed, but AMC has bought enough good will with me to at least give it a look.

9. Orphan Black (BBC America, April 19) — So, here’s the thing. I’m just going to be honest with you. I’ve still not watched the first season. I have every intention of doing so, and hope to before the beginning of season 2. But, regardless of whether I’m able to do so or not, the fact remains that Orphan Black belongs on this list. More people (in this case, including myself) need to watch shows like this, and less people need to watch shows like The Following.  Sorry Kevin Bacon.

8. The Writer’s Room (Sundance, April 14) — Hosted by Community’s (and award-winning screenwriter) Jim Rash, The Writer’s Room is an hour long show discussing the writing process for several of your favorite shows on TV. Season 1 saw the writers from Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Parks and Rec, and New Girl come by. Season 2 brings more interesting personalities to the show, including Robert Kirkman (TWD), Kurt Sutter (Sons of Anarchy) and Beau Willimon (House of Cards). The conversations are usually funny, often insightful and always worth your time.

7. Silicon Valley (HBO, April 6) —  Brought to us by Mike Judge and starring (among others) Martin Starr, TJ Miller (Denver, yeah!) and Kumail Nanjiani. If I need to say anything else to make you want to watch this show, I don’t even want to know you.

6. Fargo (FX, April 15) — So, here’s the thing, FX might be the best thing going right now for dramas. Justified, The Bridge, The Americans, Sons of Anarchy, and now Fargo (and soon to come The Strain). FX continues to deliver excellent shows from bright people. The reason they are able to do that is probably directly related to FX’s President, John Landgraf. He sees talent, and he doesn’t try to contain it, or think he knows better. So here we have Fargo, set in the same universe as the classic Coen Brothers film (and they also serve as exec producers), starring Billy Bob Thornton, Dr. Watson himself, Martin Freeman, Colin Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, Kate Walsh, Adam Goldberg, Oliver Platt, Key and Peele. Oh, and it’s been run by Adam Bernstein, who has been studying at the school of Vince Gilligan for the last 5 years while working on Breaking Bad. So, yeah…I’m looking forward to this.

5. The Challenge: Free Agents (MTV, April 10) — The only reality show I still watch. And, I will never stop watching. The Challenge is the fifth major sport in this country, and it is the perfect mix of embarrassing, exhilarating and horrifying moments. My man CT is going to be wheeled out there when he’s 80 years old, still starting trouble…And guess what, I’ll still be watching.

4. Veep (HBO, April 6) — Veep had a historically great second season, and all the early reviews point to season 3 even being an improvement on that ridiculously high bar. There is no better (or funnier) commentary on the current state of American politics than Vice President Selina Kyle, and her ridiculous staff. The show is occasionally sweet, sometimes thoughtful, usually hilarious, and flat out always insulting! Watching these characters berate Jonah, better known as Jolly Green Jizz-Face, will never stop being funny.

3. Justified finale (FX, April 8) — While season 5 has admittedly been an up and down season of Justified (my number 1 show of 2013), the penultimate episode which aired on April 1 was as good as almost any episode of Justified. More so than looking forward to the finale of this season, I’m looking forward to seeing what it sets up for the sixth, and final, season. I’ve been saying since before this season even started that season 5 was likely going to be tough, as it had to hold off on, and set up the stories that will play out in the final season. Specifically, the resolution of the Raylan/Boyd friendship, or whatever it is. I was thrilled with the episode this week, am looking forward to the finale next week, but can hardly contain my excitement for seeing where the story of Raylan, Boyd, Ava and Art ends next year.

2. Game of Thrones (HBO, April 6) — I sometimes think about whether or not Game of Thrones is a “great” show, on the level with shows like The Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad or Mad Men…But, then I stop thinking about that, and I realize, “who cares.” I don’t actually need Game of Thrones to be those shows. What I do need out of Game of Thrones, is for it to be one of the most enjoyable experiences I have watching TV all year (like Justified). And, that is EXACTLY what Game of Thrones gives us. Game of Thrones has never been in my top 5 shows of any given year, but it’s always a show I’m looking forward to. It’s just fun to be in this world and with these characters, and I can’t wait to get back to see what hijinks the characters get into this season (side note: does anyone else want to help me Kickstart a spin off show with Arya Stark and The Hound as private detectives in Westeros? Amazing, right? #truedetectiveseason2 is all I am saying).

1. Mad Men (AMC, April 13) — So, look. Those who know me, know that I argue that Mad Men is the greatest TV drama of all time (or, if not, it’s millimeters behind The Sopranos). So, of course, this is going to be the top of my list. I know there are many out there that didn’t love season 6 of Mad Men, and I understand that. But, even if you didn’t love it, you had to love the way it finished. Season 6 was all about the multiple versions of ourselves, mainly, the 2 sides of Don Draper. This comes to a head in the haunting and heart-wrenching meeting with Hershey’s, and then with Don taking Sally to see where he grew up. His two lives are melding into one, and this final season (split into 2 parts, just as Breaking Bad was) will deal with the repercussions of that fact. Add that with the fact that Don was “fired” from his job, and the season is setting up for some truly interesting introspection by Dick Whitman.

So, there you have it. April 2014…Not messing around. Some honorable mentions: Playing House (USA, April 29) and Jim Gaffigan: Obsessed (Comedy Central, April 27).

-CJ