Orphan Black returns to BBC America for its pivotal Season 3, with a much larger audience potentially tuning in due to the network’s partnership with AMC. The Season 3 premiere will be broadcast simultaneously on all AMC channels including AMC, IFC, SundanceTV and WE TV. This season will introduce a whole new element to the show dynamic with the emergence of Project Castor: a male group of militaristic clones.
The Season 3 premiere, titled The Weight of This Combination, is directed by John Fawcett and written by Graeme Manson. It starts out extremely strong with a sequence that ultimately peaks the episode before the opening title sequence even begins. Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) and her Project Leda sisters are picking up the pieces after the revelations of the Season 2 finale while beginning to batten down for the oncoming Project Castor storm.
The Weight of This Combination relies a bit too heavily on the talents of its star, Tatiana Maslany, and her supporting cast to carry an episode that is heavy on setup and exposition. There are some really fun cat and mouse scenes with psycho clone Rudy (read our interview with Ari Millen) in captivity that spice things up a bit, in this otherwise slow-paced episode. New AMC viewers will probably be confused by a lot of nonsense exposition being thrown at them, and regular viewers will begin to get a bit bored by the same recurring themes: Helena as a captive, clones impersonating clones for drama, and lurking shady, faceless corporations.
The episode does manage to accentuate the regular strengths of Orphan Black in just enough moments. Helena’s scenes are still a blast to watch. Fawcett and Mason know Tatiana Maslany is captivating on-screen as the character. There are also some fantastic multi-clone scenes that are completely seemless and might be Orphan Black‘s best to date.
The side characters are each given a moment or two to shine as well, particularly Alison (Maslany again) and Donnie (Kristian Bruun), who seem poised for a hilarious and awesome season after reconciling at the end of Season 2.
The episode also introduces us to Ferdinand (True Blood and The Intruders actor James Frain), a Topside internal investigator that is feared by all the employees he comes to inspect. Delphine is the new “Rachel” in charge and the higher-ups apparently think her house is in disorder. There is some fun interplay with Tatiana Maslany and Frain, who is on top of his usual, creepy and charismatic, game.
Project Castor is by far the biggest and most intriguing new element, but the episode doesn’t really set them loose – introducing a more of the bro clones and some back story, but nothing satisfying or all that substantial. A recovering Cosima (you guessed it, Maslany) and Felix (Jordan Gavaris) are strangely mopey while spending time together, also seeming just a bit off for their characters on the series.
I can’t help but feel the episode would’ve been better suited to air as a two-parter, though. There’s a lot going on in The Weight of This Combination, but it feels like the episode gives very little pay off and spending a lot of time spinning its wheels. I’ve heard the next episode of Orphan Black brings the bang that was expected, but seems like a waste to lose that huge AMC viewer boost on a setup episode.
Orphan Black‘s Season 3 premiere isn’t a low point to the series, but definitely feels a bit repetitive, when it should be putting its best foot forward with exciting new characters, bigger threats and shocking twists. The Weight of This Combination still features great performances from its star and supporting cast, but might leave fans, new and old, scratching their heads and a little underwhelmed when the credits roll.