BBC America’s thrilling, addictive, sometimes darkly funny clone drama “Orphan Black” kicks off its second season on Saturday; its cult fanbase has grown during its time off the air, thanks to strong reviews and word of mouth that resulted in some serious after-the-fact Season 1 binge-watching. However, it’s one of those shows that was so packed with plot that if you haven’t watched it in almost a year, it’s likely you’ll be very lost during the upcoming premiere.
If you don’t have time to read lengthy, in-depth recaps, theories and explanations about genetic coding, or thinkpieces about why Tatiana Maslany really deserves the Emmy, here’s a quick look at everything you probably forgot from last year that you’ll need to remember for Season 2. Or, if you’re a newcomer to the show, consider this to be the basic summary that can get you somewhat up to speed.
Sarah Manning (Canadian actress Tatiana Maslany) was just your average British grifter living in unidentified-North-American-city-that’s-probably-Toronto until a chance encounter on the subway platform with a woman who looked exactly like her — then she watched as the woman committed suicide by walking into the path of an oncoming train. Sarah grabbed the woman’s purse and then proceeded to steal the woman’s identity, and got ready to clean out her bank accounts and go on the run with her young daughter, Kira, and foster brother, Felix. That is until Sarah learned the woman, named Beth Childs, was more than just a doppelganger; and that Sarah herself (along with at least nine others, all played by Maslany) was part of a clone experiment gone awry.
Actually, from the perspective of the clone creators, it didn’t really go awry until someone started trying to kill off all the clones. For a while, things were just great: We were introduced to “neolution” specialist Dr. Aldous Leekie, part of the mysterious Dyad Institute (a big believer in “self-directed evolution”), who is behind the cloning experiment. Dr. Leekie put the clones in various spots across the world, but kept careful tabs on them. He assigned a monitor to each subject, someone that would report on the clone’s behavior — and let doctors perform illegal experiments and medical testing on them while they were asleep.
Everything was going just fine until a group of anti-cloning religious extremists who hate science (known as the Prolethians, led by a guy named Tomas) captured Helena, one of the clones living in Ukraine. They brainwashed Helena and told her that she was the “original,” and sent her on a killing spree against the other clones, convincing her that the clones were an abomination against society and they were not human.
That’s how Sarah got involved — when she took over Beth’s life, she started getting calls from mysterious people asking if she “got the briefcase” and other weird things. Turns out, those people were her fellow clones, Alison and Cosima, who were on a mission to find the clone killer and discover who was behind the clone experiment. Beth was a cop, and we’re told that six months earlier she got a call from a clone, Katja, saying that her genetic identicals were being hunted across Europe. Using her police expertise, Beth used facial recognition software to find her other clones in North America (Alison and Cosima), and they teamed up to try and find the killer.
Then Beth killed herself, and Sarah had to take her place as a police officer. Eventually, the new trio tracked down Helena, which was only made slightly more complicated by the fact that in the finale, Sarah’s birth mother, Amelia, appeared and told her that Sarah and Helena were not just clones, but twins separated at birth. But after Helena put Sarah’s daughter in danger, Sarah wound up shooting her, anyway.
While that was going on, Dr. Leekie and his mysterious colleague, Rachel Duncan (yet another clone) were trying to convince all the remaining clones (Sarah, Alison, Cosima) to sign papers that would “release” them from being monitored by the institute, provided they come in for yearly medical testing. Alison signed. Sarah didn’t, and arrived home to find her daughter and foster mother, Mrs. S., had disappeared. Cosima didn’t sign, but discovered the papers were all a lie; because Dr. Leekie had put a patent on the clones, they were all his intellectual property and he technically owns them. (See below for more lingering questions from the finale.)
THE CLONES, ranked from alive to dead
Sarah Manning, U.K.: (Alive) The main character clone who took over Beth Childs’s life, is by far the most mysterious because she has a daughter — and clones can’t reproduce. Or can they? We don’t really know the identity of Sarah’s monitor, but when she took over Beth’s life, it was Beth’s boyfriend, Paul. Despite all odds in the insane situation, Sarah and Paul have since hit it off and seem to have a tentative relationship.
Cosima Niehaus, North America: (Alive) The “science geek” getting her PhD, she handled the technical research part of the clone club. She ended up falling in love with her monitor, Delphine, who was only using her to steal information to give to Dr. Leekie. Cosima wound up heartbroken, and was also coughing up blood in the finale.
Alison Hendrix, North America: (Alive) The pill-popping, heavy drinking soccer mom became considerably less uptight last year when she banded together with her other clones, and went on a self-destructive bender at the end of the season. Unbeknownst to Alison, her monitor is actually her seemingly simple husband, Donnie.
Rachel Duncan, North America: (Alive) We don’t know much about Rachel except that she’s “pro-clone” and works closely with Dr. Leekie, and very much believes in the neolution and cloning experiments. She may have also kidnapped Sarah’s daughter and foster mother, but that is unclear.
Helena, Ukraine: (Dead) The craziest and scariest clone of all, Helena was raised in a Ukranian orphanage and adopted by religious brain-washing extremists, so she never really had a chance. Still, she murdered a bunch of clones, so it’s a relief that she can’t do any more damage. She did have some good one-liners, though.
Elizabeth Childs, America: (Dead) She’s the cop who had her identity taken over by Sarah Manning. After killing Maggie Chen — a Prolethian who infiltrated Dr. Leekie’s ranks and was on a mission to kill the clones — Beth couldn’t take the madness anymore, so she killed herself. Her monitor was her boyfriend Paul (see above), who helped with some illegal contract killing in Afghanistan during his time in the military, and was being blackmailed by Dr. Leekie to be involved in his operation.
Katja Obinger, Germany: (Dead) Showed up briefly in the first episode to deliver information on her fellow European clones to Beth, only to be shot in the head by Helena.
Janika Zingler, Austria: (Dead) Never met her, presumably killed by Helena.
Danielle Fournier, France: (Dead) Ditto.
Aryanna Giordano, Italy: (Dead) Ditto.
LINGERING QUESTIONS FROM THE SEASON 1 FINALE
What happened to Kira and Mrs. S?
The season ended as Sarah refused to sign Dr. Leekie’s “peace treaty” and subject herself to voluntary medical testing for clones in exchange for freedom. After sending an e-mail to Dr. Leekie’s colleague/her clone Rachel Duncan that said “UP YOURS, PRO-CLONE,” she arrived home to find the house ransacked and that Kira and Mrs. S., had disappeared. Was it Rachel? Was it Mrs. S., who started to grow increasingly mysterious as the season went on, refusing to tell Sarah anything about her past?
What was Amelia about to say about Sarah’s foster mom, Mrs. S?
You know when characters say, “I need to tell you something” and then get interrupted or put it off until later and it’s incredibly frustrating because obviously they’ll get killed off before they get a chance to reveal the crucial information? That’s exactly what happened to Amelia, the woman who had in vitro fertilization years ago and was impregnated with twins, Sarah and Helena. Amelia randomly showed up in the finale and promised Sarah she had important information to share about Sarah’s foster mother, Mrs. S. She was about to spill all the details, but Helena (dressed in a Sarah wig) stabbed her first.
What is Project LEDA?
The one clue Amelia managed to give was a mysterious photo dated 1977 that said “Project LEDA” — it showed two scientist-types in lab coats, but their names were blurred out. Expect to hear more about that this season.
What’s up with the discovery that the clones are the intellectual property of Dr. Leekie?
Doing research about her genetic material, Cosima discovered that Dr. Leekie had included a clause in the code that the clones were “restricted intellectual property.” Who knows if that’s enforceable, but Cosima was especially horrified because that means that Leekie legally owns all of them, and by extension, Kira.
Is Cosima sick?
There was chatter throughout the season that the German clone, Katja, was suffering from a respiratory disease before she was shot. While trying to gain more information about the clone genetic coding, Cosima also researched this — and then to her horror, started having coughing attacks where she hacked up blood.
What’s going to happen with Alison after she watched Aynsley die?
Alison, who started out as an uptight suburban soccer mom, started to completely lose it as she grew especially paranoid about the identity of her monitor. At first, she assumed it was her sweet-but-dumb husband, Donnie, and tortured him with a hot glue gun trying to get him to confess. He swore it wasn’t him, so Alison then assumed it was her busybody neighbor, Aynsley. Her suspicions were confirmed when Dr. Leekie promised to call off the monitors, and the next day, Aynsley’s house had a for-sale sign. Alison went to confront Aynsley, who in a furious state, managed to get her scarf stuck in a garbage disposal — and was strangled to death as Alison looked on and refused to help. That’s going to have some repercussions for sure, especially as it was revealed that Donnie actually is her monitor.