BBC America’s ORPHAN BLACK returns this week with “The Weight of This Combination.” The network (rightly) has asked the press not to spoil anything, so I promise to do my absolute best to give you enough of a tease without crossing the line. It will be quite difficult to do so, and if you’d rather go in with a completely blank slate, which I would totally get, bookmark this and come back after. But I pledge not to give away very much at all.
To start with, anyone worried that the introduction of male clones (all played by Ari Millen) would steal the spotlight from the girls, do not fret. There are multiple iterations of the new guy in the season premiere, but this is still very much The Tatiana Maslany Show, and I see no signs of that changing. The clone story may deepen and expand, but the writers know who made this show work, and Maslany will continue to be the focus of the vast majority of the running time.
All of our favorite clones are back, and most of them are in the opening scene of “The Weight of This Combination.” In fact, the opening is one of my favorite moments of the episode, with a terrific soundtrack and a very satisfying picture of the sisters together. It’s a fine way to open the season before all of the craziness descends, as of course happens in short order.
After the beginning, much of the premiere directly follows up last year’s cliffhanger. The Dyad Institute is not going anywhere, and is still very much interested in the girls. Sarah’s daughter, Kira (Skyler Wexler), remains a focal point, representing the possibility of reproduction by clones, and thus sparking the interest of many. The cast more or less remains intact, and there is almost immediately fall out from what transpired previously.
On that note, another one of Mrs. S.’s (Maria Doyle Kennedy) secrets comes to light very quickly. Honestly, I am wondering how she still thinks she can be a part of the Clone Club at this point; she’s an outside member of the family at best. I understand her intentions are good, but she’s got to quit doing stupid things she knows Sarah (Maslany) won’t agree with. She loves Sarah, yes, but Sarah loves her sisters (and Felix (Jordan Gavaris) of course), and Mrs. S. needs to get that into her head if she wants to stay in Sarah’s life.
Last season, Rachel (Maslany) is stabbed in the eye with a pencil. I don’t think that it’s spoiling much to say that she’s not dead, as after Helena’s surprise return, it doesn’t seem like ORPHAN BLACK is in a hurry to kill off its primary players, and I expect to see more versions in the near future. What this does mean for Dyad, though, is that Rachel is in no shape to carry on as she’s been, “The Weight of This Combination” picking up incredibly soon after the previous episode, so there has to be a “new Rachel” to run things, at least for a while. And there is.
I think it would give too much away to tell you who the “new Rachel” is, but it is a face we’ve seen before. It also gives the chance for a character to greatly expand their role on the series, and I’m very excited by not just the selection, but also the implications for various relationships because of this.
I mentioned new clones, and I will not say whether there is one of those in this episode or not, but I will say that there is at least one new character. It was announced that James Frain is joining the cast this year, and his character has some very juicy scenes in the season premiere. I’m not sure he’ll stick around long, but I hope he does, as I enjoy the actor, and the part he’s playing is an interesting one.
One of my favorite things about ORPHAN BLACK is when Tatiana Maslany plays one of her characters pretending to be another one of her characters. “The Weight of This Combination” not only gives us that, but provides a fresh twist on it that is awesome.
For my last tease, I will mention that Alison (Maslany) has an excellent new thread that plays into her suburban life and will have nothing to do with her sisters, or at least it doesn’t seem like it will. I like very much that these characters do have their own motivations and lives, and not everyone is as wrapped up in the conspiracy as Sarah is. Alison’s latest venture is a perfect way to continue this.
I can’t rave enough about the season premiere of OPRHAN BLACK. I feel like it has lots of surprises in store while continuing a very fascinating story. All of my favorite things about the first two seasons are back right away in this hour, and are being done better than ever. This is only season three, so the writers are probably still teeming with fresh ideas. This episode doesn’t prove to me that the show has strong stamina over time. But to get this far and continue to not only meet high expectations, but exceed them, is a feat, and I think those making this program are doing more than a few things right.
ORPHAN BLACK returns Saturday at 9 p.m. ET on BBC America.
CHIEF TELEVISION CRITIC | Creator of and writer for It's All Been Done Radio Hour live show and podcast. A voracious reader wanting to tell stories of his own, Jerome began writing around the age of 8 and hasn’t stopped, both original works and television reviews. Lives in central Ohio. Favorite current shows include The Walking Dead, Jessica Jones, Flaked, Outlander, and Archer.