Blurred identity: Orphan Black Sep21

Blurred identity: Orphan Black...

One of the most engaging aspects of the first season of Orphan Black, the acclaimed Canadian and British sci-fi co-production, is the intersection of two main themes around individual identity. The first of these themes is the ongoing question of the characters’ identities, notably Sarah Manning’s (Tatiana Maslany) search for answers about her own origin, about who she is and where she fits in a deeply layered conspiracy involving illegal human cloning. The second theme, one that works on the subtextual level, is an exploration of the performative nature of identity for the actor. When an actor plays a role, she “becomes,” on some level, that character. This is most obvious when considering the amazing work of lead actor Tatiana Maslany. In each episode, Maslany shows off the kind of range that few film and television actors get to demonstrate in a lifetime. Each clone is a separate role for Maslany, a unique and nuanced character, with distinct mannerisms and personality traits. At the heart of the first season’s narrative is Sarah’s story of identity. It’s a standard sci-fi/fantasy trope, which I call Potteritis, in which the main character thinks of herself as insignificant; she’s usually orphaned and alone, believing there’s nothing special about her and that the world would not notice if she just disappeared. Through a series of events and revelations, she discovers that not only is she special, she’s the key to something much bigger than she could ever imagine. Orphan Black examines the nature of human identity, what we project about ourselves and how others perceive us. In the pilot, “Natural Selection,” Sarah Manning arrives at “the big city” train station and sees a woman who looks exactly like her step in front of a train. Sarah makes the split...