Orphan Black: Echoes TV Review

Orphan Black: Echoes TV Review

Krysten Ritter leads a solid sci-fi series that does not reach the same heights as its predecessor.

Last Updated on June 21, 2024

Plot: Set in the near future, Orphan Black: Echoes takes a deep dive into the exploration of the scientific manipulation of human existence. It follows a group of women as they weave their way into each other’s lives and embark on a thrilling journey, unraveling the mystery of their identity and uncovering a wrenching story of love and betrayal. Ritter plays Lucy, a woman with an unimaginable origin story, trying to find her place in the world.

Review: It has been seven years since the original Orphan Black concluded its five-season run. The series, which turned Tatiana Maslany into a star, was an innovative blend of thriller and genre storytelling that gave Maslany a showcase to create multiple characters who each had a distinct personality. Fans flocked to the Canadian series for good reason, as it delved into the ethics and repercussions of cloning. Orphan Black: Echoes treads in similar thematic territory to the series that inspired it but does not boast new leading actor Krysten Ritter playing variations of the same genetic template. Set decades after Orphan Black, Echoes is at once both a sequel and a spin-off of the original series. By distinguishing itself in the time period and style, Orphan Black: Echoes works best when it does not try to connect to its predecessor but cannot avoid the obstacles of maintaining a vast mythology.

Orphan Black: Echoes opens with Lucy (Krysten Ritter) awakening in an apartment without knowing who she is or how she got there. A mysterious doctor (Keeley Hawes) tries to calm her, but Lucy eventually leaves the room and discovers a facility full of vats of pink goo. When confronted by the doctor, Lucy is told she is a printout. That’s right, instead of clones like in the original series, Orphan Black: Echoes now deals with 3D-printed humans. It is a slight difference and mainly a technicality. Still, the concept becomes key to the main story. It facilitates the idea that multiple actresses can play the variants now instead of Krysten Ritter in a series of distinct hairstyles and accents. After the opening sequence, the series shifts two years later to 2052, when Lucy is living in isolation, having escaped from the facility. She has a boyfriend, Jack (Avan Jogia), and cares for his deaf daughter, Charlie (Zariella Langford-Haughton). When an accident pops Lucy back onto the doctor’s radar, she must go back on the run.

Instead of being a chase narrative, Orphan Black: Echoes quickly reveals to Lucy that another printout looks like her teenage self. Jules Lee (Amanda Fix) initially distrusts Lucy, but over the course of the series, they become allies in unraveling the truth of where they came from. This involves Keeley Hawes’ character, who I have avoided naming as her character, which is a major connection between Echoes and Orphan Black. Since Orphan Black: Echoes debuted in Australia in 2023, all of the spoilers regarding Hawes’ character are already online, but if you want to go in fresh, I would avoid looking them up. The conspiracy at the core of Orphan Black: Echoes is not nearly as fascinating as it thinks it is but does involve Dr. Eleanor Miller (Rya Kihlstedt) and billionaire Paul Darros (James Hiroyuki Liao). We also meet Darros’ head of security, Tom (Reed Diamond), Xander (Vinson Tran), and a bevy of other characters who are both allies and enemies of Lucy and Jules.

Orphan Black: Echoes review

Where Orphan Black dealt with identity, Echoes is more about memory. I enjoyed the conceit of the variations of Lucy being of different ages, which allows for a larger range of performances from different actors, none of whom try to imitate or emulate one another. Krysten Ritter is a talented actress, but most of her screen time in this series feels like a superpowerless take on how she played Marvel hero Jessica Jones. Ritter often gets to play the more subdued side of the story, with newcomer Amanda Fix having a breakout performance as Jules. With the potential for this series to continue for several seasons, seeing Ritter and Fix work with each other will be a treat. While both actors are key to this story, Keeley Hawes is the true core of this story. Hawes has a solid American accent and shows why she has been a mainstay on British television for years. She has a character that is heartbreaking to watch while also frustrating to follow as she makes decisions that have a massive impact on the path of this series. As a female-led series, Orphan Black: Echoes turns virtually all male characters into villains or underdeveloped personalities, but there is room to build on that in subsequent seasons.

Series creator Anna Fishko brings a fresh take to the universe of Orphan Black without turning this into a reboot but does rely heavily on the first series a bit too much. Because the two shows are connected to one another, it feels like callbacks to the original Orphan Black take away from the momentum of this new narrative rather than enhancing it. There are connections that I will not divulge here, which will both frustrate and please fans of the original series for very different reasons. Orphan Black director John Fawcett returned to helm three of the ten episodes of Echoes alongside Dawn Wilkinson, Ingrid Jungermann, Samir Rehem, and Jem Garrard. Fishko led a writing team of women who delved into gender and sexuality as inherent to the story rather than as curiosities or direct plot elements. Orphan Black: Echoes features straight and gay characters, but it never feels forced and often helps the story. I kept finding that Orphan Black: Echoes does not have enough stakes for the characters to make it feel different than what we have seen before.

Orphan Black: Echoes is the best kind of science fiction. It raises themes directly related to human emotions and obstacles while delivering them in a consumable genre format. As well-acted as the series is, the stakes do not rise to the level that Orphan Black did, which reduces the impact of Orphan Black: Echoes. The bad guys are not bad enough to make the heroes seem as heroic as they deserve. Krysten Ritter takes a back seat to the rest of the cast, which, after Tatiana Maslany stole the show in the series that inspired it, Orphan Black: Echoes feels like an echo of the show it could have been. There is certainly room for this story to grow in subsequent seasons, but I anticipate fans of the original will be divided over this new chapter in the Orphan Black universe.

Orphan Black: Echoes premieres on June 23rd on AMC, AMC+, and BBC America.

Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/orphan-black-echoes-tv-review/

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