Orphan Black

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Orphan Black TV Poster Image
Twisty sci-fi show is thrilling but full of violence, sex.
Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 29 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

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

Positive Role Models & Representations

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
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.

What 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").

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 8 and 12 year old Written byunfairrobot May 20, 2013

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!
Adult Written byglitterazra May 25, 2015

It's amazing

This show is amazing. It's one of the best storylines i've watched in a long time. Some scenes are a bit iffy but obviously you can just look away. Al... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bygemmaobrien December 16, 2013

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 vio... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bynatile55 July 27, 2013

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 g... Continue reading

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?

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.

Talk to your kids 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

For kids who love drama

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