Orphan Black

Common Sense Media says

Twisty sci-fi show is thrilling but full of violence, sex.

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The world Sarah inhabits is dark and criminal, with lots of duplicitous behavior.

Positive role models

Main character Sarah is resourceful and sympathetic. She is also willing to lie and steal from other people to further her aims, and she commits crimes for money. Main character Sarah and foster brother Felix stick together admirably and help each other out in the clinches.

Violence

Sarah is nearly always in some type of danger, either physical peril or the threat of discovery. A woman steps in front of a train and we see blood spray; another is shot in the head and blood and gore smear a car seat.

Sex

Women are frequently shown in lingerie or other skimpy outfits; during one sex scene we see bared buttocks and thrusting, as well as a side view of breasts. Two men pull their pants back on after an offscreen "hay roll."

Language

"S--t!" exclaims Sarah frequently in difficult moments; one character is called a "little dick," another is called a "bitch."

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Many scenes take place in bars with characters ordering drinks (no one acts drunk), there are references to doing cocaine as well as selling it for money, one character runs his fingers over his teeth as if he'd been snorting cocaine.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Orphan Black is a dark, tense science fiction British series that features many adult situations, including discussion of stealing, using, and selling drugs, and moments of sudden, gory violence. The sympathetic main character is nearly always in danger, and frequently in physical peril and on the run. Sex scenes are fairly graphic, with thrusting, bare buttocks, and some side breast visible. Casual sex between men is implied, and there is frequent cursing (including "s--t" and "bitch").

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) is a woman with problems. She's on the run from her abusive boyfriend, from whom she's stolen cocaine she hopes to sell and finance a new life for her and her young daughter, whom she abandoned months ago at the home of a foster mother. But Sarah didn't count on bumping into Beth on a train station platform. Beth looks just like Sarah -- or, she did, before she stepped into the path of an oncoming train. Sarah impulsively decides to take on Beth's identity, using her keys to visit Beth's apartment and her ID to extract Beth's money from the bank. But Beth's identity comes with strings: She's a cop who shot a civilian, and she's under police investigation and being chased by mysterious, murderous strangers. Oh, and Beth also has some mysterious connection with a bunch of women born right around Sarah's birthday who, despite living in different towns, all share the same face. Does Sarah have a twin? Or is she just one of an army of clones? It's up to Sarah and her sidekick, foster brother Felix (Jordan Gavaris) to find out what kind of mystery they're up to their necks in.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

The "oh my gosh, there's another me!" gimmick is a familiar one, both cinematically and on television, where it's been used as a plot device in many a failed show (see: Ringer, Dollhouse). So though the ideas here are nothing new, the zippy plot, realistic dialogue, and appealing actors bring new life to an old premise. It sure doesn't hurt that the (mostly international) cast of actors are unknowns stateside; seeing fresh faces makes the mystery easier to swallow.

Main character Sarah isn't a nice person. She lies, she steals, she apparently asked her foster mom to watch her young daughter for a night and then didn't come back for almost a year. She even fakes her own death. But the actress playing her, Tatiana Maslany, is somehow still sympathetic, making viewers want to follow along with her as she figures out who she is and what part she plays in a big, bad conspiracy. The chemistry between her and wisecracking foster brother Felix is potent, and a lot of fun too. We really believe these two have a history, and want to see what they'll do next.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about similar themes in TV and movies. Can you think of any other shows that feature main characters who are doubles, twins, dopplegangers, and so on? Why is this particular narrative device so appealing?

  • What city does Orphan Black take place in? How can you tell? Do you think the show is filmed in the same place where it seems to be set?

  • Is the audience supposed to like Sarah? What about Felix? What about their characterization leads you to this conclusion?

TV details

Cast:Jordan Gavaris, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Tatiana Maslany
Network:BBC America
Genre:Drama
TV rating:TV-14

This review of Orphan Black was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.

See more about how we rate and review.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 14 years old Written bynatile55 July 27, 2013
AGE
15
QUALITY
 

Amazing show. A+

Orphan Black is a science fiction drama/thirller, and it had me hooked from episode one. Most of the episodes have blood and gore in them, some of them having gunshot wounds, others have people stabbing or mutilating others. The first epsiode is one of the more grisly ones, a woman commits suicide by jumping in front of a train, and later, a woman is shot in the head. There is partial nudity, a lot of strong language, and there are some seriously messed up characters. Tatiana Maslany does an outstanding job portraying all of the clones, the plot is very well done, and the cinematography is incredible overall. I would take caution if you're squeamish around blood, I almost stopped watching because of it, but I gradually got more tolerant of it. Also if you're easily offended by any type of language, stay away from this show. Decide carefully if you think your teen is ready to handle all of this. Aside from that, it offers a gripping plot, surprises at every turn, and a season finale that will leave you wondering what's going to happen next.

What other families should know
Great messages
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Parent of a 8 and 12 year old Written byunfairrobot May 20, 2013
AGE
18
QUALITY
 

Fantastic adult thriller

Great writing on this adult thriller and some very good acting from Tatiana Maslany. Well worth a watch. Not for kids, though!

What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 15 years old Written bygemmaobrien December 16, 2013
AGE
15
QUALITY
 

Great show, sex and violence levels low

This is one of my favourite shows at the moment. I'm 15 and I started watching when I was 14 and I don't think it exhibits strong themes of sex or violence. Considering myself quite mature for my age, I have recommended this show to a number of my younger friends and they find it just fine as well. I watch this with the knowledge of my parents as they believe that I am mature enough for the content. As far as sex and nudity goes, the most graphic scene of the series occurs in the first episode which only shows brief views of backsides. The only swearwords used are "s***" and other minor profanity. The show has a few violent and disturbing scenes such as when a man has his artificial tail cut off, and when a woman is stabbed in the stomach. Overall I'd say Orphan Black is suitable for teens over the age of 15, although it depends on the maturity of the viewer.

What other families should know
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Top Kids' Movies: An Essential Guide for Families