Orphan Black had me worried for a bit.
The trailer for the second season of BBC America’s relentlessly entertaining series made the show look like a dark, slick techno-drama—all rain and trip-hop and guns. Saturday’s premiere opens in that mode: Protagonist Sarah Manning runs frantically through a storm, takes refuge in an empty diner, and has a violent confrontation with goons who seem like they’d be pals with The Matrix’s Agent Smith.
Uh-oh. Had Orphan Black decided to go all-in on the dystopian-thriller vibe you'd expect from a show about human clones hunted by religious cults and scientific cabals? If so, that would mean ditching a lot of what made the first season so lovable: the cheeky humor, the manic tone switches, the satirical edge, and the excellent hijinks provided by Tatiana Maslany playing more than a half-dozen different characters with distinct personalities.
Luckily, after the premiere's title sequence, we learn that this remains basically the same series as before. Sarah goes to look for her brother at a gay club that preposterously fuses the broadest and most dated stereotypes imaginable—it's a warehouse filled with lasers, house music, leather, ecstasy, and assless chaps. Felix, Sarah's foster sibling, is annoyed at his sister’s intrusion: “I’m in the midst of a five-way!”
If this were any other show, you might bristle at all the clichés on display, both in the noir opening and in the sequence at the club—and, basically, in every other scene. Nothing is subtle on Orphan Black. The ex-military boyfriend protector-type is a square-jawed Ken Doll. The cops come in biracial duos slinging sub-Law & Order banter (“.45 to the sixth chakra,” says a deputy describing a murder). The nefarious cloners espouse a philosophy called “neolutionism” and follow a bald visionary whose first name is Aldous.