Tatiana Maslany as Alison, Helena, and Cosima.
Photo: BBC AMERICA
In the fifth and final season of Orphan Black, the BBC America sci-fi series has a lot of questions to answer. But while it’s fun to trade theories about Rachel Duncan’s ultimate game plan or Kira’s weird special abilities, there’s one point that deserves the most debate: Who is the best clone? There’s no doubt that Tatiana Maslany plays each of her many characters with such nuance that she is able to pull off one of her personas pretending to be another perfectly (a frequent occurrence that can happen multiple times in a single episode) and certainly deserved her 2016 Emmy win. Yet, not every Orphan Black character has been created equal. Which one of the clones — including the 11 personalities Maslany slips into and the one child clone she does not play — should be crowned Queen of the Clone Club?
12. Jennifer Fitzsimmons
Jennifer is only seen through a series of video journals that she was told to record after she became sick with the rare conditions killing other clones. She seemed pretty nice in her limited testimonials, but her naïve status mixed with her lack of a distinguishing wig or non-American accent made her rather unmemorable. Basically, Jennifer is there to drive home the medical danger facing Cosima and (potentially) other members of the Clone Club. Snooze.
11. Katja Obinger
Oh Katja, we hardly knew thee. While she only appeared in the first episode, and just for mere moments before she was shot in the head, she served as Sarah Manning’s (and therefore the audience’s) first piece of evidence that this look-alike situation was farther reaching than one long-lost identical sister. She was also Tatiana Maslany’s third accent in one episode (German) — a record the actress would soon enough beat — and the show’s first non-brunette clone. How is it fair that one person can pull off so many hair colors?
10. Tony Sawicki
After Tony’s season-two debut, there was plenty of fan debate about Orphan Black’s first and only transgender clone: Was this a hokey gimmick to get a bearded Maslany flirting with Felix? Or was it a genuine attempt at inclusion that plays into the series’s bigger ideas regarding nature, nurture, and personhood? Although it’s hard to definitely conclude one way or another based on his appearance on a single episode, Tony receives his low ranking, frankly for not being more interesting. His dialogue and swagger seemed canned at best, despite Maslany’s clear efforts to commit.
9. Charlotte Bowles
The only LEDA clone not played by Maslany, Charlotte at first seems like a creepy child straight out of a horror movie. A self-aware clone with perfect braided pigtails and an all-knowing smile? Yikes. As Rachel gets to know Charlotte, however, she comes into focus as a clever little girl facing the same health issues as the original batch of clones, just 20 years younger than her sisters. After helping Cosima escape at the end of season four, perhaps Orphan Black will find a bigger role for its pint-sized living experiment.
8. M.K. (Veera Suominen)
We’re not introduced to this Finnish clone until season four and her story is even more shrouded in mystery than normal — which says something, considering weird, half-explained tragedies make up a large percentage of the series. M.K.’s life is covered in more detail in the spin-off comic books, including the Helsinki incident that killed several clones in Europe, but in the TV series we only know that she’s an excellent hacker, an expert bomb-maker, and the owner of a sheep mask. Until she drops her “trust no one” mentality, it’s hard to imagine her moving up in the standings.
7. Beth Childs
The series opens on Beth Childs committing suicide by stepping in front of a moving train moments after Sarah recognizes that they share the same face. We learn who Beth was, though, based on what other people say about her and how they interact with Sarah when they believe her to be their fallen friend or co-worker. It isn’t until a series of flashback scenes in the fourth season that Beth’s persona as a humorless detective is finally given a bit more depth when we discover just how trapped she was in the bigger conspiracy. The delayed reveal of her story was worth the wait from a plot standpoint, but as person, she remains too much like a clichéd character straight out of a cop drama to be very memorable.
6. Krystal Goderitch
In lesser hands, Krystal would never stray from a one-note joke about dumb blondes. Yet somehow, this beautician with a mouth as big as her heart and a “voice like a can opener” is a winning combination. She’s proved to be resourceful, successfully uncovering many secrets on her own without ever learning that she’s a clone. Her addition to the mix late in Orphan Black is a breath of fresh air, especially considering how heavy other parts of the show have become.
5. Rachel Duncan
Rachel is at her best when she’s hatching evil plots. Though the cracks in her steely exterior were much appreciated at first — like her internal temper tantrum when she discovered that the clones were deliberately created sterile — the weaknesses revealed during her imprisonment in her mother/creator’s house were tiresome. Worse, any compassionate steps Rachel seemed to make proved pointless when she returned to her old conniving self at the end of the fourth season. She’ll likely flip to being a Clone Club ally once more before the series ends, but that’s not necessarily a good thing for the fiendishly arch character. As it stands, she’s one plot twist away from turning into a soap-opera villain.
4. Cosima Niehaus
It’s hard to imagine the series without any of its core Clone Club characters, but Cosima’s role as the scientist and researcher makes her essential for uncovering the series’s vast mythology, at least on the Neolution side of the equation. Between her brains and empathy, she is clearly the one you would most want in your own secret friendship club. Also, if she weren’t slowly dying of the rare clone genetic disorder, Sarah and her squad would have little reason to keep coming back to Toronto where bad things keep happening.
Though the show too often relied on various factions kidnapping Helena as a plot device, it is a complete delight whenever Helena is actually free. As a semi-feral person who grew up with little knowledge of the world outside her strict Ukrainian convent and religious cult, her approach to babies, boyfriends, and babka cake is magnificently weird. It’s hard to take your eyes of Maslany when she dons that blond wig and throws herself into Helena’s odd idiosyncrasies — any episode that includes her full-body dance moves is an instant classic. Of course, Helena is at her comedic peak when living with the uptight Hendrix family in the suburbs. In addition, her loyalty and periodic tornadolike violence certainly come in handy. She might not be the best clone, but she is the best sestra.
2. Sarah Manning
Sarah is the audience’s surrogate: After she unknowingly throws herself into the middle of the clone drama, we learn almost everything about the nefarious groups attempting to control the genetic identicals right alongside her. Her near constant deal-making and negotiations with shady double-crossers is maddening — why would she trust Rachel again?! — yet she is most necessary for peeling away at the evil-science-driven mystery at the core of the show. She’s the fast thinking, fist-throwing, protective mama with a real knack for impersonating other clones. What would Orphan Black even be without Sarah? She’s our rock, even if she sometimes doesn’t appreciate Felix, or the slew of smoking hot guys who love her, as much as we know she should.
1. Alison Hendrix
Soccer mom, school-board trustee, drug dealer, I.D. forger, Glendale community theater star: Is there anything Alison can’t do? With just a few meaningful exceptions, Alison stays removed from the high-stakes conspiracy drama of the city, as she, her husband, and Felix have their own suburban subplots that are like Weeds, if Weeds was better. Alison’s interactions with every character make them more likable and fun, including Sarah’s awful ex-boyfriend Vic. Whether she and Felix are attempting to pull a “reverse-Pygmalion” in the first season, or she’s burying the man her husband accidentally murdered, Alison is the most consistently great character and the best clone. All hail the Queen of the Clone Club!