‘Orphan Black: Echoes’ Is Not an Exact Clone of the Original — It’s Gayer

What makes you you? Is it your physiology, your biochemical makeup, your memories and experiences? These are some of the questions posed by Orphan Black: Echoes. This spin-off takes a different angle to the same nature vs. nurture debate of the original 2013 show, and, like the original, Echoes is quite queer.

It’s been over ten years since Orphan Black premiered, but in Orphan Black: Echoes, much more time has passed. It’s 2050, in a futuristic Boston, immediately ramping up the sci-fi of the original. Phones are paper-thin, neon holographic signs adorn the city skyline, and you can stream on social media from your full-length mirror.

Both series start in similar ways. In the original, we open with Sarah Manning waking up on a train. In this, we open with our new main character (Krysten Ritter) waking up on a couch. She doesn’t know her name. She’s confused and scared and has short-term memory but no long-term memory. A doctor (Keeley Hawes) sits with her, trying to calm her down, to help her remember. The woman asks, “Do I know you?” and the doctor answers, “I thought you might,” with tears stuck in her eyes. The woman starts to freak out and is sedated, and when she wakes up…she escapes. We cut to two years later, where the woman has named herself Lucy and has made a new life for herself. But, of course, her past catches up with her, and she is thrust into a journey of trying to figure out who she is, and why she doesn’t remember.

Lucy looks distraught

The doctor in question, we learn, is Dr. Kira Manning, Sarah’s daughter, all grown up. She’s a scientist now, the director of a company that 3D prints organs for transplant, saving thousands of lives every year.

Orphan Black: Echoes, Dr. Kira Manning

And this isn’t the only nod to the original we get in this show. It’s undoubtedly a sequel series, with references to Kira’s past and childhood brought up a decent amount — it seems the fact that her mother was part of an illegal human cloning experiment isn’t exactly a secret anymore. I knew the show was scored by the same person who scored the original (Trevor Yuile) before I even looked it up to confirm, the original theme song plays during the end credits, and there’s even a familiar face or two that pop up throughout the season.

Like its predecessor, Echoes also touches on themes of identity, humanity, ethics, grief, and whether doing something for the sake of love or science is good enough reason to do it. It deals with mysteries, danger, never knowing who to trust, and having other people claim authority over your own body and personhood.

Orphan Black Echoes, Lucy looks at a UV tattoo on her arm

It also stands out as different than the first in a lot of ways, for better or worse. In Echoes, Lucy comes face to face with Jules (Amanda Fix), a 16-year-old version of herself who also doesn’t have any memories of her past. It’s a fun new take on the original; it’s different from the the Leda clones’ relationship to Charlotte. With the Ledas, we got to see a little of them looking at an entirely different person who looked like them. Something is different with Lucy and Jules, though. They don’t just look identical the way Charlotte looked like the home videos of Rachel when she was the same age. They are identical down to the scar on their forearm and the recurring nightmare that plagues them. They aren’t just genetic identicals, they are copies of the same person.

Jules meets Lucy

So the question ‘what makes you you?’ is exactly what Lucy and Jules have to grapple with, as they realize they’re the same but different. Just a year or two of different experiences has already veered their paths away from each other, but they share similarities, like their penchant for skittles and their queerness. Orphan Black never really answered the question of whether queerness was nature or nurture — because how could they; most of the Leda clones were born of different wombs, in different places, raised by different people — even though we know of at least three clones on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. There wasn’t really time, what with all the murders going on, to explore whether Allison ever experimented with girls in college or if Rachel had a bicurious phase. Echoes, however, is different; Lucy and Jules might be different people, but they are copies of the same person, and that person is queer, so they are, too. It’s a little brain-bendy, but it makes sense. Lucy has an ex-girlfriend, Jules has a non-monogamous situationship with a girl in her class and at least one other person. Also, Kira Manning takes after her Auntie Cosima (a lesbian…supporter) and her mother (who is bisexual, according to that one episode Peaches was in), and she’s queer, too. We love to see it.

Also, as an added queer bonus, the new theme song is written and performed by lesbian artist Julien Baker and recording engineer Calvin Lauber.

I might be biased because Orphan Black is one of my top three all-time favorite shows, and I just rewatched the whole thing in all its glory, but as much as I’m enjoying Echoes so far, I do find it missing one key factor: sisterhood. The Leda clones, through all their squabbles and through all the chaos, developed real love for each other and became sestras along the way. It’s missing what Felix called a galaxy of women. I know it was a technical feat of excellence to have so many Tatiana Maslanys running around, and probably not feasible (or fair to Krysten Ritter) to try and repeat, and I do enjoy the different existential questions that come from having an adult and teen version of the same person getting to know each other, but I sort of wish there were more of them? Or more of a group to root for, I guess. So far it just sort of feels like a bunch of individuals. It’s Lucy and it’s Jules and it’s Kira, and sometimes their stories intersect. Instead of the Leda clones and their allies vs. Neolution, or the Castors, or Dyad. But it did take some time for Sarah, Cosima, and Allison to become a team, so I’m holding out hope that these stars will become a constellation.

Overall, I’m genuinely enjoying the show. It’s so fascinating seeing Kira be on the other side of the science, and there are some really great characters beyond just Lucy and Jules. Lucy has a boyfriend named Jack (Avan Jogia) and together they are raising Jack’s daughter Charlie (Zariella Langford-Haughton), who is deaf. And nonbinary actor August Winter plays a younger version of Kira in a flashback episode. The whole cast is great, and I am especially excited to have Krysten Ritter back on my screen doing her thing.

Orphan Black: Echoes is similar enough to Orphan Black to give me nostalgic feelings, and different enough to be engaging and interesting. Like Lucy and Jules, it’s not an exact copy of the original.


Dearest Australian friends, this is your reminder that only one episode has aired in the US so far, so no spoilers in the comments please! There will be another review at the end of the season where we can break down the specifics of the series!

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Valerie Anne

Just a TV-loving, Twitter-addicted nerd who loves reading, watching, and writing about stories. One part Kara Danvers, two parts Waverly Earp, a dash of Cosima and an extra helping of my own brand of weirdo.

Valerie has written 573 articles for us.

12 Comments

  1. I’m so excited to have a version of OB back on our screens! And even though I knew it was coming, hearing Dr. Kira say “Auntie Cosima” gave me butterflies in the best way. Can’t wait to yell more about this show with you!

  2. I don’t know if you’re going to be doing a week-by-week on “Boobs on Your Tube”, so I’ll put my favorite moment here in this article.

    *Spoilers for the season*

  3. Unforch I thought this spinoff sucked, found it really hard to watch. Watched the whole thing just in case but it never delivered for me. Huge fan of the original! This one just felt really implausible and forced idk.

  4. I have mixed feelings about this show. I did enjoy it but writing leave much to be desired. Yes, the original was full of plotholes as well but Tatiana Maslany was there every second and it didn’t bother me that much, in this show it was glaring.

    So I guess events happened in Orphan Black: The Next Chapter is canon. The clones are public knowledge now. How on earth Kira lives free without an army after her? Yes, Neolution is gone but she’s a child of clone and her biology doesn’t interest anyone?

    Speaking of Kira’s biology, when I heard Kira Manning is one of the main characters I thought we’d finally get some answers about her unique biology but no, there wasn’t even a mention.

    Why do Eleanor and Kira need a donor? Cosima and Delphine published their work in Next Chapter which I would assume after so many years they would’t need a donor.

    And I hate the ending. It works more like a mid season finale and I have no interest in Rachel Duncan Jules.

  5. omg, so glad you are covering this. i watched it months ago and was obsessed with how gay it was. no real spoilers, but the whole backstory in e5 and kira’s main motivating factor for what she did felt soooooo hilariously gay that it made me enjoy the whole show. i cried so hard during that episode!!!!! i agree with others that it has issues and i hated the ending, but i just miss orphan black so much that i feel happy that the new show is creating more discussion of it and content about it because it reminds me of how much i love OB. there were some heartwarming nostalgic mentions of the original. was also so happy to discover that julien baker did the theme song, a crossover of two things/people that mean so much to me.

  6. This format of airing one at a time a year after the whole has been aired somewhere else is so weird!

    It’s difficult when the most fun part of the internet age is discussing the show with other fans on social media. I can’t search or comment on any normal places I would for fear of spoilers

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