The second season of Orphan Black hits the ground running with Sarah (Tatiana Maslany, Picture Day, Parks and Recreation) in a desperate race to find her missing daughter Kira (Skyler Wexler). Her scorched earth tactics spark a war with pro-clone, Rachel (also Maslany), dividing and imperiling all the clones. As Sarah discovers more about her past, mysterious newcomers appear, but can they be trusted?
Going into its second season, it would be almost impossible for 'Orphan Black' to match the excitement and wit of its first year – and, sure enough, the series' sophomore season never quite reaches that level of entertainment. However, the show still has an ace up its sleeve in the form of Tatiana Maslany, who continues to impress by taking on the majority of the lead roles.
Season Two picks up right where Season One left off – with Sarah Manning (Maslany) frantic over the disappearance and apparent kidnapping of her younger daughter, Kira. Fortunately, 'Orphan Black' is one of the few series on television that rarely spreads out plot threads over an entire season, so the Kira disappearance is resolved early on in the season. Unfortunately, putting young Kira in danger is a plot thread the producers can't seem to resist going back to again and again, as the character's well-being is put at risk at least a couple more times before Season Two wraps up.
One storyline that isn't wrapped up so quickly concerns the fate of Sarah's sister clone, Cosima (again, Maslany), who has become ill and is slowly dying. A huge chunk of this second year is devoted to Cosima and her scientist girlfriend, Delphine (Evelyne Brochu), trying to find a cure for her. Of course, unlike other TV shows, Cosima's character could very well be killed off, since the lead actress here plays so many other major roles. This adds a tension to Cosima's storyline, as the viewer is never quite sure if she's going to make it or not (and, no, I'm not going to tell you!).
If there was one clone who added the most comic relief during this series' first year, it was soccer mom Alison (you guessed it, Maslany), who once again is the provider of most of Season Two's biggest chuckles. However, the majority of Alison's storyline this year doesn't have much to do with the other clones and characters – meaning she's more of a distraction to the main events, albeit a refreshing one. Fortunately, by season's end, the producers/writers figure out a way to get Alison and her husband, Donnie (the underrated Kristian Bruun), back into the spotlight.
There's also a surprise return of yet another clone, whom viewers thought they had seen the last of in Season One. Because her reappearance has been so well-publicized, I don't think it's a spoiler to reveal that it's Helena (yep, Maslany), whose character does a real 180 this year – turning very much into an additional comedic character, although she still can be as dangerous as ever. Helena's return relates to one of the big storylines in Season Two: a cult-like group called the Prolethians, whose charismatic leader (played by Peter Outerbridge) wants to use Helena for purposes I won't reveal in this review.
Fans of some of the supporting characters may be disappointed to hear that Paul (Dylan Bruce), who played such a big role in the first season, only appears in a handful of shows this year. Also given less to do is Detective Art Bell (Kevin Hanchard), who appears on screen much more than Bruce does, but isn't really given much of significance in terms of storyline throughout the season.
While 'Orphan Black' still proves to be entertaining, I'm sure even the most die-hard fans will agree with me that it lost a step in Season Two. One of the biggest problems, I believe, is that the show went and got too scientific on us. Granted, because of its premise, there's always going to be that aspect to the series, but this year it seems to come at the expense of the characters just having fun. There are still some very humorous moments in Season Two, but they seem fewer and farther in between, and each episode this year doesn't nearly have as much 'quotable' material as was the case last year.
With all of the above in mind, make no mistake – 'Orphan Black' is still one of the more entertaining and original series on TV, and this release is certainly worth adding to one's permanent collection.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Orphan Black: Season Two' arrives on Blu-ray in an eco-friendly Elite keepcase that houses Disc 1 of the set on the inside left of the box, and Disc 2 on the inside right. Disc 1 contains the first five episodes of the season, while Disc 2 contains the remainder. Unlike Season One, Season Two's Blu-ray's release does not come with a slipcover, and there's a reason for it. Apparently, BBC Video misprinted those slipcovers and instead of saying 'Season Two' on them, they all said 'Season One'. A number of these copies actually made it to retailers, so if you get the misprinted 'Season One' slipcover, consider yourself lucky, as they're probably collectible. Otherwise, the rest of us are stuck with just the keepcase.
Disc 1 is front-loaded with a trailer for The Musketeers: Season One, plus a BBC America promotional ad. Disc 2 is front-loaded with trailers for Ripper Street: Season Two and 'In The Flesh: Season Two'. The main menu consists of a still of the same image as the box cover, with menu selections running along the bottom of the screen.
This Blu-ray set is region free.
For those who already own the Season One set of 'Orphan Black', you'll discover that the video quality for this season (as well as the audio, for that matter) is pretty much along the same lines as that of the first season. Once again, this season has been shot using digital cameras, resulting in a picture that is quite sharp and colorful at times. Like the first season's Blu-rays, the best images with the most detail and color come during the daytime scenes and those in well-lit locations (like scenes that take place at the Dyad Institute). Nighttime and darker scenes suffer slightly, due to the fact that the black levels here – while decent – aren't as inky or as strong as one might hope. As a result, some occasional crush sneaks its way into a shot here or there, but it's nothing too frequent or to the point of distraction.
Skin tones and overall contrast are consistent throughout the episodes, and there are no major issues with banding, aliasing, or compression artifacts. The biggest issue overall is that the image is so sharp, that some of the special effects shots (which I think are actually weaker in Season Two than they were in Season One) are more obvious – particularly the dance sequence in the finale, one of the few sequences in the entire series where the producers don't pull off the multiple clones in one room illusion very well.
Overall though, any complaints are minor and nitpicky, and this is another outstanding (albeit just short of reference quality) transfer of the show.
Like Season One, the only audio option on this release is an English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. Much like that first season release, the audio here doesn't always impress, but is noticeable when the scene calls for it. Dialogue is once again primarily front and center, with the rears kicking in during action sequences and/or when the musical soundtrack comes into play.
Directionality is occasionally noticeable, but not as often as one might hope. While the track provides crisp dialogue and a nice separation between distinct sounds, it never quite gets to the immersive feel one hopes for from a great lossless 5.1 track. Still, there's little to complain about here, and no obvious issues with dropouts or distortion.
Subtitles are available in English SDH only.
Although it never manages to recapture the excitement and fun of the first season, 'Orphan Black: Season Two' still has plenty to enjoy, thanks largely (once again) to the amazing acting abilities of Tatiana Maslany. However, much of the humor that fans loved from the first go-around is replaced with a more hard-science storyline in 'Orphan Black's sophomore outing. The show is still very watchable, but some of the magic has faded. Still, it's worth picking up. Recommended.