It’s a pretty good time to be a fan of genre television, as right now there’s a little something for everyone. Horror fans have got The Walking Dead on AMC and The Strain on FX, fantasy lovers can enjoy Game of Thrones over on HBO, and comic book enthusiasts have a bunch of series to choose from like ABC’s Agents of SHIELD, Fox’s Gotham, and, of course, the perfect pair of Arrow and The Flash on The CW. In addition to all of those shows, viewers who enjoy sci-fi also have some great series to watch, like The 100, Black Mirror, and, of course, Doctor Who, but one sci-fi series stands above the rest right now: BBC America’s Orphan Black.
For those who have somehow escaped the hype surrounding Orphan Black and Tatiana Maslany’s Emmy-worthy performance, the show focuses on a group of clones and how they become a family together, even in the face of constant peril from those who mean them harm. To be honest, that’s a really quick and cheap explanation that doesn’t really do the show justice. In order to fully get what Orphan Black is all about, you really need to watch it, which is why I’ve compiled a list of the essential Orphan Black episodes any newbie to the series must watch. Really, you should just binge-watch all 20 of them (there’s only 10 per season), but if you don’t have the time, these Orphan Black episodes will not only give you a good sense of just how good of a series this is but also provide you with a pretty solid catch-up guide before the show returns for Season 3 in 2015.
Must-watch Orphan Black Episodes from Season 1: “Natural Selection,” “Instinct,” “Variation Under Nature,” “Effects of Eternal Conditions,” “Unconscious Selection,” and “Endless Forms Most Beautiful”
Although I was trying to keep both of these lists at five episode each, it’s impossible to not put both “Natural Selection” and “Instinct.” While “Natural Selection” is actually Orphan Black‘s first episode, in which we meet our protagonist Sarah Manning, it and and “Instinct” really almost act like a two-parter. To watch one and not the other would not be fulfilling.
“Variation Under Nature” probably isn’t one of the best Orphan Black episodes of all-time, but it’s certainly an important one, as it’s revealed to both Sarah and the audience that she and the women who look like her (Beth, Allison, Cosima, and Helena) are all clones, and no one’s certain how many of them there are out there. The series’ next episode, “Effects of Eternal Conditions” is worth watching for Maslany’s performance alone, as she not only plays Sarah, Sarah playing Beth, Allison, Cosima, and Helena, but also Allison playing Sarah and Helena playing Beth (it’s not as confusing as it sounds, and Maslany’s acting is just incredible here).
If these first four Orphan Black episodes don’t hook you, then jump straight to the last two of Season 1, “Unconscious Selection” and “Endless Forms Most Beautiful.” Both episodes are fantastic, two of the show’s best, and if the cliffhanger at the end of “Endless Forms” doesn’t leave you wanting more, I don’t know what will.
Must-watch Orphan Black Episodes from Season 2: “Nature Under Constraint and Vexed,” “Governed As It Were By Chance,” “To Hound Nature in Her Wanderings,” “Things Which Have Never Yet Been Done,” and “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried”
Coming up with this list of Orphan Black episodes is even more difficult than coming up with ones for the show’s first season, as Orphan Black Season 2 only become more and more dense as it went along, sometimes to a fault. However, that doesn’t discount for all of the standout episodes the show produced in its second year. First is the Season 2 premiere, “Nature Under Constrain and Vexed,” which plays like a 45-minute thriller and is Orphan Black at its best.
After the premiere, the next truly great episode is the season’s fourth, “Governed As It Were By Chance,” which has many memorable moments, including an expertly staged sequence near the end of the episode that is scarier than anything I’ve ever seen in a horror film in recent years. You’ll also want to check out Season 2’s sixth episode, “To Hound Nature in Her Wanderings,” purely because of how good Maslany is as Helena and for a guest appearance from Suits star Patrick J. Adams, who is a self-proclaimed Orphan Black superfan.
Finally, make sure to watch the ninth and tenth episodes of Season 2, “Things Which Have Never Yet Been Done” and “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried.” The penultimate episode is better than the finale, but there’s a game-changing twist in the final moments of Season 2 that can’t be missed. It sets the stage for what should be a very different third season for Orphan Black.
Again, if you haven’t checked out Orphan Black yet, I really encourage you to watch both seasons all the way through, but if you’re really pressed for time between now and the Season 3 premiere in the spring, these 11 episodes should do quite nicely. Watch, enjoy, and become another member of the Clone Club!
Photos via BBC America