Last night, our favorite new clone Sarah came face to face with Beth, her apparent twin, and stole her identity. But stealing money from your doppelgänger turns out to be more complicated than dying your hair and affecting a Canadian accent, especially when she's hiding a few secrets of her own. Orphan Black delivered an hour of clones, cops, puke, and mocking the people at your own funeral. Spoilers below.
Orphan Black opens on Sarah, deadbeat mom, smalltime crook, and alumna of the foster care system, who has just cruised back into town in the hope of recovering her daughter, Kira, whom she left behind ten months earlier. After making a call on the train platform, Sarah notices another woman taking off her shoes and putting down her bag and coat. Sarah approaches her and the woman turns around to reveal Sarah's own face. Sarah is shocked, but the other woman has a weary expression, as if she halfway expected Sarah to be there at the moment of her death. Then she calmly steps in front of an oncoming train.
Even in her horror, Sarah doesn't miss the opportunity to snag the other woman's purse. Her name is Elizabeth Childs, Beth to her friends, and she has a rather nice address.
Sarah reconnects with her only friend, her foster brother Felix, and reveals her plan to recover her daughter. She's just stolen a huge package of cocaine from her boyfriend Victor (after braining him with an ashtray), which she wants Felix to sell. Once she has enough cash, she's going to recover Kira from foster parent Mrs. S and get them set up somewhere. Meanwhile, Sarah is going to check out this Beth lady's home.
Beth lives in a world of blacks and whites and grays. She has a lovely but sterile home, where the brightest color is the blue tiled backsplash in the kitchen. Sarah dives into the closet. "Boyfriend," she mutters, pushing aside a few a few men's shirts. "Square," she laments as she picks through Beth's dresses. There's a travel itinerary on the fridge announcing that Beth's boyfriend, Paul, will be back on Saturday, and a bathroom filled with medication. Beth is a woman with an ordered, regimented life. She also happens to have $75,000 in the bank.
Meanwhile, Felix is having a bit of trouble. Sarah's coke is no good, and he can probably only get half of what she needs for it. And a very angry Victor shows up on Felix's doorstep looking for Sarah and the cocaine. The relationship between these two men is kind of hilarious and does much to highlight the show's black humor. They could hardy be more different: Victor, the rough-and-tumble drug trafficker with anger management problems, and Felix, the gay artist with his nose planted firmly in the air. And while they hate each other, there's also a weird intimacy born from having been in one another's spheres for so long.
Sarah hatches a plan that he figures will get Vic off her back and land her the payday she thinks she needs. She convinces Felix to identify Beth's dead body as hers (and he successfully flirts with the odd but sweet coroner). And she decides to take Beth's place and withdraw the $75,000 before Paul gets home. She watches Beth's home videos, practices her accent, and gives herself a make under. Soon she's wearing a pair of pumps, smoothing out her English accent, and sweet-talking the bank manager into expediting a cash withdrawal in exchange for sponsoring his next charity walk. As it turns out, Sarah isn't a half-bad con woman. Felix thinks Sarah should be excited that she's finally found a biological relative, but Sarah claims she just wants to get paid, get her daughter, and get out of dodge.
But there's something weird going on in Beth's life. She has two cell phones, including one with a very un-Beth-like pink cover that keeps receiving mysterious text messages. There are a handful of birth certificates in Beth's safety deposit box, all for girls born within a month of Sarah. And a black car is following Sarah, flashing its lights at her. Sarah doesn't get a moment to investigate this, however, as she's suddenly stopped by a cop who starts screaming at her and drags her into his car. It turns out that Beth is a detective, and this is her partner, Art. Beth is on suspension after shooting an unarmed civilian. (She claimed she thought the woman was pulling out a gun instead of a cell phone.) Art drags her to an Internal Affairs hearing, but Sarah runs to the restroom and chugs a pint of liquid soap so that she pukes at the start of the hearing. She sees the shrink and cons her way through the appointment, claiming dissociation while eliciting a handful of details from the shrink.
Paul comes home early (black suit, white shirt, generically handsome, of course) to find out how the hearing went. He senses that something is off with Beth/Sarah, but she manages to distract him with the power of her vagina. (Thanks for all the male nudity, BBC America.) As it turns out, Beth's sex life with Paul hasn't been so hot, and Beth just went off some medication that made her affect flat. (Convenient, since Paul might take Sarah acting not like Beth as perfectly normal.)
Sarah succeeds in collecting Beth's money, but she learns that a distraught Vic has convinced Felix to hold a wake for Sarah. She watches from across the river with a pair of binoculars, while she and Felix viciously skewer the attendees via cell phone. At the last minute, though, Mrs. S (whom fans of The Tudors may recognize as Queen Catherine of Aragon) shows up with Kira in tow. So now Mrs. S and Kira both believe that Sarah is dead.
Upset, Sarah returns to her car, but another doppelgänger pops up in her back seat: Katja, a German woman whose birth certificate was in the safety deposit box. Katja is the one who has been texting Beth on the pink cell phone; she's also sick and has brought Beth samples for her "scientist friend." This is a sloppy bit of exposition, with Katja constantly reminding Beth she is Katja, as if the accent wasn't a dead giveaway, and the scene almost looks like it came from another TV show. But we get the picture: Beth knows about the clones and has been investigating them, a mantle that will now likely fall on Sarah's shoulders. Suddenly, Katja realizes that Sarah isn't Beth, and she's shot in the head. Panicked, Sarah drives away, but the pink phone starts ringing.
As a pilot, Orphan Black is uneven but highly entertaining. It comes off as a somewhat light scifi melodrama, with plenty of dark humor and the occasional bit of left-field weirdness. And I'm hoping that the relationship between Sarah and Beth's partner Art will provide a neat twist on the typical police partnership. And fortunately, the best thing about Orphan Black is Sarah, played with delicious ethical dubiousness by Tatiana Maslany. It's terribly fun to watch this street smart woman scheme and lie her way through this new life, and if there's some conspiracy out to keep the clones a secret, they're going to find a fierce foe in her.