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playing catch-up

Your 10-Day Catch-up Guide to Orphan Black Season 1

Orphan Black, the BBC America show about a group of really hot clones, begins its second season on April 19. It’s a fun show, and if you didn’t watch the first season (which you can, for free, if you're an Amazon Prime member), there is still plenty of time to catch up — ten days, actually, which works out to exactly one episode a day. One hour a day! You can do this. Here is a catch-up guide — with discussion points — to keep you company.

Today, April 9: Episode One, “Natural Selection”
If you have agreed to watch Orphan Black, then you are presumably aware of its premise (and also we just spoiled it in the intro). So yes, this is a show about clones — but our main clone Sarah Manning initially has no idea about her origins, which means that the pilot episode is mostly Sarah looking confused and impersonating other people to get money (or laid). Enjoy this; the most astonishing thing about Orphan Black is the ease with which Tatiana Maslany switches between multiple characters, and it is extra mind-melt-y when she plays one clone imitating another. Levels, as the kids say.

April 10: Episode Two, “Instinct”
Clones are humans, too, and so that means we have another episode focused mostly on Sarah's character: her foster care upbringing, her daughter, the multiple dopplegängers who keep dying on her, and the shitty police case she got wrapped up in by pretending to be Beth. (Orphan Black: efficient!) We also meet Alison, the soccer mom clone who is bankrolling this investigation. Watch Maslany’s body language as she switches from Sarah to Alison; her physicality is key.

April 11: Episode Three, “Variation Under Nature”
And the gang’s all together — or at least aware of each other. While Sarah, Cosima, Alison, and the killer clone grapple with their identities, the men of Orphan Black attempt to outdo one another with their annoyingness. Are you more irritated by Felix, the overly dramatic foster brother; Paul, the super mansplainy boyfriend; Vic, the dumdum ex; or Art, the needy and thieving cop partner? Don’t rush to an answer.

April 12: Episode Four, “Effects of External Conditions”
At some point you will be asked to choose a favorite clone, so here is the case for Alison: She is an attentive mother; a burgeoning actress; and a very organized ringleader. And it really is very sweet of her to stand in for Sarah, so that she doesn’t lose contact with Kira. Consider Alison! (Meanwhile, are there no security checks at this police department? Can anyone just wander in and say, “Hey, I’d like to work here, please give me a gun”? Come on.)

April 13: Episode Five, “Conditions of Existence”
What were we saying about men on this show? Right, they exist only to spy on you and break your heart. Do not trust men. Be like Cosima, who only has eyes for genes and pretty French ladies.

April 14: Episode Six, “Variations Under Domestication”
There is a lot of strange ideology on Orphan Black, and it’s up to you how much you want to worry about the Neolutionists or Helena’s religious beliefs or other fake science-y stuff. The beauty of Orphan Black is that you don’t have to obsess over these nerdy plot points if you don’t really want to. The important thing to remember is: clones, good; other people, bad.

April 15: Episode Seven, “Parts Developed In an Unusual Manner”
Helena may be a deranged Jesus freak, but the last few minutes of this episode elevate her to legend status. (Also, it may be time to forgive Felix, who has taken on an Honorary Clone status at this point. Discuss among yourselves.)

April 16: Episode Eight, “Entangled Bank” and Episode Nine, “Unconscious Selection”
I know I said that you’d only have to watch one episode a day, but just trust me: You will finish episode eight and you will need to immediately know what happens. So block out two hours and prepare to go on an emotional journey about mothers, daughters, and sisters.

April 17: Day of rest.
Spend some time asking yourself, What would I do if I discovered that I was a clone and then someone kept trying to kill me, but that person turned out to be my twin sister? Would you tell Art, in the hopes that the police could help? Would you cooperate with the weird scientists? Would you kill Helena to save yourself? Orphan Black is a show about ethics. What are yours?

April 18: Episode Ten, “Endless Forms Most Beautiful”
Clones are good; other people are bad. But what if someone is both?! Ponder this thought for the next 24 hours, when season two finally debuts. We will all find out together.

Photo: BBC