Orphan Black Season 1 Episode 1: Natural Selection

Orphan Black (Photo: Steve Wilkie for BBC AMERICA)

BBC America decided to be awesome and is re-broadcasting the first season of science fiction drama Orphan Black. This week we meet Sarah, a petty criminal returning to the city to reunite with her daughter. When she witnesses a woman (who looks exactly like her) commit suicide, she and her foster brother Felix get started on a potential new con.

If you have not yet experienced the awesomeness of Orphan Black, you need to correct your behavior immediately. If you are on Time Warner, eight of the ten episodes are available on demand (episodes 7 and 9 are not available for whatever reason). BBC America has also paired up the show with a rebroadcast of Torchwood: Miracle Day, so the next ten weeks of sci-fi Saturday will have some intensity.

Anyway, this first episode introduces us to Sarah Manning, a woman who has returned to Toronto to reconnect with her daughter Kira. She has just left her drug dealer boyfriend Vic (the dick), from whom she stole a kilo of cocaine. Sarah’s plan was to get her foster brother Felix to sell the cocaine for $20,000, then use that money to scoop up Kira and Felix so they can start a new life together. However, at the train station Sarah sees a woman sobbing on the platform. She walks over as the woman removes her shoes and coat. Sarah is shocked to see a woman who looks exactly like her walk off the platform in front of an arriving train.

Amid the chaos, Sarah spots the woman’s purse and runs off with it. She ducks into an alcove to rummage through the bag: some money (which she pockets), two cell phones, some keys, and a driver’s license for Elizabeth Childs. After meeting with Felix and filling him in on her scheme and what happened at the train station, Sarah investigates her doppelgänger’s flat. She finds pictures and notes from Beth’s boyfriend Paul and a bank statement for $75,000. Meanwhile, Vic has tracked down Felix and wants his coke and Sarah. Fe keeps both hidden for the time being.

Sarah hatches a new plan for a big con. After she spends several hours matching her look to Beth’s and studies videos to match her speech patterns, Sarah will go to the bank to withdraw the money. Meanwhile, Felix will go to the morgue to identify the train jumper’s corpse as Sarah. Felix reluctantly goes along with this, but he gets the fringe benefit of flirting with Collin the mortician. At the bank, the manager says they have to special order the money since they don’t typically hold that much cash on hand, which will take a day. He does let Sarah/Beth in to her safe deposit box, which contains birth certificates for Beth, a woman named Alison Hendricks and another named Katja. Sarah takes the documents.

As Sarah walks back to the flat, a car flashes its lights. Sarah heads toward the car, but gets intercepted by another vehicle. A man steps out, asks Sarah/Beth where she’s been and tells her to get in the car. Once in the vehicle, Sarah figures out that the man is the “Art” who has been calling her phone non-stop. He warns her that she needs to be ready because she missed the chance for them to walk through it again. Sarah/Beth plays along, but has no idea what Art is talking about. They reach their destination: police headquarters. Art leads Sarah/Beth to a conference room where she is about to give a deposition. Sarah/Beth panics and excuses herself to the washroom. She tries to call Felix to abort the mission, but he’s already getting his flirt on as he signs the morgue paperwork. Sarah’s plan B: drink soap. She returns to the conference room, gets asked on question, then vomits profusely. Ew.

Later, Vic returns to Felix’s apartment to track down Sarah. Felix says she’s dead and hands over the death certificate as proof. Vic smells a scam, so Felix takes him to the morgue. Vic sees the corpse and identifies it as Sarah. He starts sobbing. Felix gives the dealer a half-hearted pat on the back. Hehe.

After an appointment with the police psychiatrist, Sarah meets with Felix back at the flat. They are trying to fill in the gaps in Beth’s story. Felix thinks Beth could be Sarah’s long-lost sister, but Sarah doesn’t agree. Felix looks through the birth certificates and notices the birthdays are all within a month of Sarah’s. Not getting anywhere, Sarah tells Felix to sell the cocaine and make sure half the money gets to Kira. Felix chides Sarah for abandoning her daughter again.

Later, Sarah gets out of the shower and starts packing a duffel bag. The front door of the flat opens and we meet Paul, Beth’s ridiculously hot boyfriend. He notices she’s wearing a Clash t-shirt. “They rock,” Sarah/Beth says. “Yeah, but you don’t.” Sarah/Beth heads to the kitchen, but Paul follows while noticing other things that are slightly off. Sarah/Beth gets cornered, panics, then jumps Paul’s bones right there on the countertop.

The next morning Sarah/Beth tries to sneak out to collect her money from the bank. Naked Paul checks in with her, but she manages to deflect suspicion. As she drives away, Art follows. Sarah/Beth continues to deflect suspicion when she collects the cash at the bank and when she goes to pick up Felix at his flat. While upstairs, Art breaks into Sarah/Beth’s car and finds the money. Sarah can’t find Felix but does spot invites to a memorial service Victor forced her foster brother to put together.

Sarah gets to an overlook near the memorial service and call Felix. He says everything is cool and Sarah snarks on the ceremony as she watches through binoculars. Vic, who struggles to read through his eulogy, tells Felix to hangup. Before he does, Sarah notices a truck pulling up. It’s her foster mother Mrs. S and Kira. Sarah tells Felix Kira can’t think her mom is dead. Felix heads over to intercept. Sarah gets back into her car to collect herself. The back door opens and a woman enters. “Why haven’t you answered my messages?” she asks in a German accent. The messages have been coming through on the second cell phone Sarah found, one in a pink case. This woman, who we learn is Katja, has a similar pink phone.

Sarah exits the car, but Katja follows. The woman has a coughing fit into a handkerchief, and we see the cloth covered in blood. Katja says she saw Art following Sarah, causing Sarah to realize Katja must have been the one flashing the car lights earlier. They both get back in the car, but Sarah still can’t answer any of Katja’s questions. The German takes a closer look. “You are not Beth,” she says. Those are her last words: a gunshot pierces the windshield and goes through Katja’s head. Sarah ducks and manages to drive off. Katja’s phone rings, then Sarah’s pink phone starts to ring. She debates her next move. Sarah answers the phone.

Next time on Orphan Black: Sarah buries Katja. Vic doesn’t think Sarah’s really dead. Art meets with Beth, but thinks she might be wearing a wire. Kira asks about her mom. Sarah finds a suitcase.

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About Mike McComb 669 Articles
Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it "TV Camp." After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail: mike@whatelseison.tv