How do you beat the Buffy Hangover? How can you remedy the seemingly endless period in which you are in a perpetual state of Buffy-induced unrest, unable to find another television show that can measure up to the golden standard of Whedon perfection? No matter what you try, there just seems to be something missing from other programs. Maybe the plot lines are too loose. The dialogue too generic. The characters too one-dimensional.
Sorry to say, but I’m here to tell you that there is no cure. I’m confident that there will never be another show better than Buffy in our lifetime. However, while there may be no show that rivals BTVS as a whole, there are a lot of shows that master certain aspects of it.
In this first entry in a series of television show suggestions for what to watch after Buffy, I’ll be honing in on certain aspects that you may have enjoyed about BTVS and recommending TV shows based on those elements. Today’s suggestion is the Canadian science fiction series Orphan Black.
NOTE: EVERYTHING IS SPOILER FREE SO DON’T WORRY. Click on pictures and gifs for sources.
1. Orphan Black
Watch it if you liked the following aspects of Buffy:
-Tight plot lines
-Action and suspense
-Strong female leads
Plot: “Orphan Black follows outsider, orphan and street-wise chameleon Sarah. After witnessing a woman’s suicide, Sarah assumes the stranger’s identity – who happens to look just like her. Expecting to solve all her problems by cleaning out the dead woman’s savings, Sarah is instead thrust headlong into a kaleidoscopic mystery as she realizes the dizzying truth – she and the dead woman are clones. As Sarah searches for answers, she discovers the chilling fact that there are more people like her out there – genetically identical individuals who were planted in unsuspecting birth parents and nurtured in completely different circumstances. With no idea who created the clones, she’ll need to discover the reason in a hurry as an assassin is killing them one by one.” (Source x)
My Thoughts: The key to Orphan Black‘s success lies within the hands of lead actress Tatiana Maslany, and you’ll read this time and time again when reading a review of the show: she’s magical. An unbelievable tour de force of an actress that manages to portray multiple characters in starkly unique ways. The premise of Orphan Black centers on a group of female clones, but due to Maslany’s brilliant, nuanced acting you’ll forget that they’re originally the same. Though they are genetic identicals, Maslany gives such life to each woman, flawlessly tapping into the paranoia of a soccer mom, the brilliance and vivacity of a science student, the determined spirit of a street smart single mom, and much more.
Acting is honestly the single most important thing to me in a television series. No matter how great a premise may be, if the acting is forced and fake, it’s a definite no-go. This was one of the main reasons why I loved Buffy, because even though some of the plots or episode situations were a bit outlandish at times, the performances by the actresses and actors always sold me completely. I felt as if everyone really became their character, and it made for very believable and authentic television. The same goes for Orphan Black, as Tatiana Maslany’s co-stars are equally as charismatic and entertaining as she is. They work together with a natural ease that allows you to become invested in their stories almost immediately.
In addition to pitch perfect acting, the Orphan Black writers do a great job with delivering a tight, fast-paced script tinged with humor in all the right places. Plot threads are carefully woven as the series progresses, leaving viewers satisfied yet yearning for more as twists are revealed. The writers love to keep you on the edge of your seat, putting the characters in unbelievable situations that you’d think could never be resolved, and they love to play with their own premise. You’ll see things like clones impersonating other clones and clones interacting in the same place at the same time.
It’s a lot of fun to know that the writers realize what great material and talent they have to work with, and use the whole clone idea to their advantage to create nerve-racking yet endlessly entertaining sequences that keep you on the edge of your seat.
Speaking of keeping you on the edge of your seat, Orphan Black is a non-stop whirlwind of suspense and action. I can safely say it’s first season is the best first season of any television show I have ever seen. It hooks you almost instantly and rapidly pulls you into a crazy world of conspiracy and secrecy. I have a friend who rarely gets invested in shows, and I can always tell if she hates a show by how often she picks up her cell phone to check her Facebook profile or whatever. When I made her watch the first episode of Orphan Black, she didn’t look at her phone once, and proceeded to watch the next two episodes right after. Believe me when I tell you that never happens with her. I think it’s a testament to the creative team behind Orphan Black that they can keep both thoughtful viewers entertained as well as more apathetic ones. It is a rare show in that it balances a fast-paced plot with careful character development, leaving casual television viewers hooked and invested and more attentive ones satisfied as well. Because though Orphan Black is fast it isn’t cheap; the layers of drama, intrigue, self-exploration and philosophy that go along with the brisk pace of the plot are rewarding to people who like to enjoy and examine their television shows in depth rather than casually.
To me, the core of Orphan Black is the idea that these women who are supposed to be the same are so very different. Each one leads a different life. Each one is motivated by different things, loves different people, and has different thoughts, perspectives and feelings. It’s really a story of identity and how people should have the right to live freely, and if they don’t, how important it is to fight for self-liberation and individualization.
“There’s only one of me.” -Sarah Manning in Season One, Episode Seven
These women are taking control of their lives and vowing to find their origins and discover their true nature, and it’s inspiring to watch. In a much different way Buffy grappled with the same idea. Buffy constantly struggled with coming to terms with her role as a Slayer and knew she needed to find out where her supernatural powers came from. Season 7 specifically explores the idea of where the Slayer line originated and why it came to be. These questions needed to be answered in order for Buffy to move forward with her life, and also for her to gain some closure over her origins. Xander and Willow had a similar journey, establishing their identities first as sidekicks rather than unpopular kids in high school, and then from sidekicks to individual heroes in their own right. Identity is so very important and though it’s tackled in different ways, it’s a thread that both BTVS and Orphan Black explore.
If I told you that one of my selling points for Orphan Black is it’s strong female leads, you’d probably roll your eyes at me, thinking it obvious. But it goes beyond much more than just having a lot of female characters played by the same actress. The way that brilliant scientist Cosima operates is a lot different than uptight, protective soccer mom Alison Hendrix does. Sarah Manning is bold and brave. They were all raised differently and come from various backgrounds, and I think it’s really special to see the lives of these very different women portrayed on screen. People are finally realizing that it’s becoming more and more important to show diversity and individualization specifically in female roles on television. They are sick of seeing cookie-cutter female characters with stereo-typical story lines, or even worse, female characters pushed to the side because of a lead male character. Orphan Black realizes this and represents many different kinds of women in lead roles, not only because it’s natural and authentic, but because it’s important for people to see various degrees of female identity and power on screen.
Final thoughts on why you should watch Orphan Black:
It’s really the first show I’ve gotten “hooked” on since I finished Buffy last August. It was honestly very hard for me to find something that was of good enough quality to not have me constantly comparing it to BTVS the whole time. But then I decided to click play on the first episode of Orphan Black and never looked back. It shares some common ground with BTVS but is such a unique show in it’s own right. I have no doubt that you’ll love it if you like the aspects of BTVS that I mentioned at the beginning of the post. Plus, the fans are called the Clone Club and they do some really awesome stuff online. Take, for instance, the #clonepocalypse on Tumblr which basically is just a whole ton of funny shit, because Orphan Black fans are super witty. Example, going off the name of the character Sarah Manning:
The fandom in general is very respectful and kind, so you have that to look forward to if you end up joining Clone Club.
Where to Watch:
Each season is ten episodes long, and season two just wrapped last week. That being said, new episodes won’t be airing for awhile. Regardless, BBC America actually has a page dedicated to ways you can watch Orphan Black, including On Demand via Time Warner Cable (though that might just include S2, I am not sure) and Amazon Prime Instant. Find their list here.
Otherwise, someone on Tumblr made a master post with links to the episode of S1 and S2 online. I’m not personally vouching for them but if you want to try them, click here for the post.
Hope you enjoy Orphan Black as much as I did 🙂
Next post for What to Watch After Buffy will be another Canadian series, supernatural crime drama Lost Girl. Stay tuned!
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