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'Orphan Black' Season 2 premiere review: More action, more Maslany

Rachel (Tatiana Maslany) and Sarah (also Tatiana Maslany)

Rachel (Tatiana Maslany) and Sarah (also Tatiana Maslany) in season 2, episode 1 of "Orphan Black." Credit: BBC America

THE SERIES "Orphan Black"

WHEN|WHERE Second-season premiere Saturday at 9 p.m. on BBC America

WHAT IT'S ABOUT They are each exactly 5 feet 4 inches in height, weigh (about) 117 pounds, and were born on the exact same day 29 years ago. Similarities don't end there: They are clones, each with radically different personalities. Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany -- who plays them all) is the only one able to conceive a child (Kira). Beth -- whose identity Sarah briefly assumed last season -- was a cop who committed suicide right in front of her.

Alison is a suburban housewife. Cosima, who is gay, is a PhD student at the University of Minnesota. Rachel is a top functionary for the apparently evil corporation, DYAD, that created these clones as part of a "neolutionary" -- directed evolution -- initiative for reasons unknown. Then, there is Helena X, identical sister to Sarah, and both raised by one (apparently good) Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy). Helena has been killing off the clones one by one, after she was brainwashed by a religious anti-clone zealot (called a Prolethean).

In the first season's finale, Kira is kidnapped. Sarah suspects DYAD's Rachel, and top scientist Dr. Aldous Leekie (Matt Frewer). Also: Helena was shot by Sarah. In the second season premiere, Sarah is frantically hunting for Kira while someone is hunting for her.

MY SAY "Orphan Black" is a cult hit, though it's not immediately apparent why. There is an enormous amount of story (and backstory) jammed in the series, some of it muddled, purposely or not. The show also plays with a number of potentially big ideas, from directed evolution (manipulating DNA toward a desired end) to the nature of the human soul. But "Orphan Black" is less interested in the science or those ideas -- few if any of which are deeply explored -- than in the action or the star.

She is pretty much the show, in fact.

Maslany continues to conduct a master's class in acting, which isn't meant to dazzle, even if it often does anyway. What's best about her performance(s) is that each of her clones has now emerged as a fully formed character in her own right, with her own flaws, tics and style. Each even has her own set of fans, some distraught by the apparent death of Ukrainian "riot grrrl" Helena in last season's finale.

At least more clones are on the way. The show can be messy and confusing -- a headlong rush to who-knows- where-or-why at times. But those clones keep it grounded.

BOTTOM LINE More action this season, more answers (and questions), more Maslany.


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