Beth: ... become "us"?
Orphan Black is a Canadian Science Fiction thriller TV series created by screenwriter Graeme Manson, director John Fawcett and actress Tatiana Maslany. Distributed internationally by BBC America, and airing in Canada on Space Channel, the series premiered in March 2013 and ran for all five of its planned seasons through August 2017.
Sarah Manning (Maslany), a Street Smart English orphan fostered in Canada, is heading home when she witnesses a woman throw herself in front of a train. Reeling as the woman looked exactly like her, Sarah takes advantage of the resulting panic and takes the woman's discarded handbag. Examining the purse's contents, Sarah identifies the woman as Beth Childs (also Maslany) and due to their eerie resemblance, decides to assume her identity in order to rob her home and clean out her huge savings account with her foster brother, Felix (Jordan Gavaris).
Not long into her plot, however, Sarah suddenly finds herself in too deep. Not only was the late Ms. Childs a troubled police detective with a boyfriend and plenty of secrets, but Sarah soon uncovers a huge conspiracy that changes everything: she is one in a series of clones living across the world (all of which are played by Maslany). Meeting with two of her "genetic identicals", soccer mom Alison Hendrix (also Maslany) and biology student Cosima Niehaus (also Maslany), Sarah learns that she and her clones are being killed off — turning what looked like an easy con into an investigation to unravel top-secret conspiracies.
Between February and August 2015, a tie-in Comic Book ran from IDW Publishing. This was followed between November 2015 and May 2016 with another limited series, "Orphan Black: Helsinki." In 2017 another series, "Orphan Black: Deviations," gave an Alternate Continuity where Sarah is able to save Beth from her suicide (short version: nowhere near as happy an outcome as you'd think).
Only a few months after the show's Grand Finale, Japan announced a remake which premiered on December 2.
In 2019, an audio book continuation was announced for Serial Box, narrated by Tatiana Maslany. Later that year, the first season of Orphan Black: The Next Chapter was released.
In April 2022, a spin-off titled Orphan Black: Echoes was announced, set to premiere in 2023 on AMC.
Episode recaps here. (The Recap page needs some love.) Also check out the entries on the Awesome, Funny, Heartwarming, Nightmare Fuel, Oh Crap, and Tearjerker subpages.
Orphan Black provides examples of:
- Accidental Murder:
- Beth was suspended from active duty because of a line-of-duty shooting of a civilian. This seemed to be subverted, as evidence mounted suggesting the shooting wasn't accidental after all as the victim had been working for the Proletheans. It turned out to be a double subversion, as a flashback episode in Season 4 finally confirmed it had been an accident the entire time.
- Donnie accidentally shoots Leekie in the head.
- Action Mom: Alison can hold her own against any potential attackers. Mrs S. also keeps a shotgun. Sarah develops into this in season two. Bonnie Johanssen is also really tough.
- Alas, Poor Villain:
- Fans took Helena's death in season one particularly hard. Subverted in that she's not really dead, but just watching Sarah shoot her is still painful.
- While she's more of a nuisance than a villain, it's hard not to feel bad for Aynsley, especially since she was an innocent bystander.
- You can't help but feel a little sorry for Vic, even if he brings most of the crap that happens to him on himself.
- Probably more than a few fans were upset to see Dr. Leekie go, although that might be as much a testament to the acting skill of Matt Frewer as to people's actual opinions of the character.
- Rachel's devastating situation in Season 3: suffering from brain damage and aphasia to the point of barely being able to form words, and being at the complete mercy of her former colleagues as she has become just one more lab rat to them has earned her sympathy from many fans.
- All Love Is Unrequited:
- Beth was in love with Paul, who only stayed in the relationship to spy on her. Meanwhile, Art was in love with Beth, but never told her how he felt, though they did end up getting together before her death. Also, Paul falls for Sarah, who despite returning some level of affection for him isn't able to trust him enough to love him back and eventually chooses Cal over him. Her abusive ex Vic also professes to love her; she, of course, couldn't care less what he thinks.
- Eventually averted by Donnie and Alison, after spending the first season and a half going though what could only be described as the world's worst rough patch.
- All Periods Are PMS: Invoked by Donnie when Alison's got him tied up and is threatening to torture him to find out whether he's her monitor or not. While she may be justifiably angered by the suggestion, her reactionnote does nothing to suggest otherwise.
- All That Glitters: Sarah quickly discovers this about Beth's life.
- Alternate Techline: Most technology is the same as today; however, human cloning is successful in the 1980s. As of the season 4 finale, it seems that there was life-extension technology as early as the Victorian era, except it turns out to be a ruse.
- And Starring: Maria Doyle Kennedy (Siobhan Sadler) in the OBB.
- Animal Motifs: It's subtle, but fish are often associated with Helena or people close to her. Mrs. S is also connected to various birds. M.K. has a habit of wearing a sheep mask (a reference to Dolly, the first cloned animal), while Rachel's plot in season four begins employing swan symbolism that ultimately foreshadows multiple plot developments.
- Annoying Arrows: Inverted in 4.09, where Helena one-shots first a deer and then a Neolutionist with a homemade bow, both of whom drop dead the second the arrow hits them.
- Arc Symbol:
- Mirrors and windows appear frequently in the cinematography. By their very nature, mirrors reflect one's own image and windows provide glimpses into the truth. Fitting for a show about identity and secrets.
- Sarah looks into or is reflected by mirrors three times in the premier, each of which has to deal with her taking on a new persona: in the restroom after she steals Beth's purse, during her transformation into Beth, and in the precinct bathroom when she realizes being Beth will take a lot more commitment than she expected.
- When Katja is murdered the bullet shatters the car windshield, representing how Sarah's "normal" life had been irreversibly changed.
- Rachel is often shown in front of windows and she is the only clone that was raised self-aware and knew (part of) the truth about her origins from the start.
- When The Reveal regarding the Castor clones is made, Rudy is introduced to the audience as Sarah watches him at the other side of a containment room.
- A winged fish. The symbol of the Proletheans, it appears on characters aligned with them. So far, it has been seen on Helena (carved onto her knife), Tomas (engraved on his ring), Maggie Chen (branded onto the back of her neck), and Mark (on his belt buckle). One of their communes also bears it on a signpost.
- Mirrors and windows appear frequently in the cinematography. By their very nature, mirrors reflect one's own image and windows provide glimpses into the truth. Fitting for a show about identity and secrets.
- Arc Words:
- "Eskimo Pie" for Cosima and Delphine.
- In Season 1, a post-coitus Cosima runs out to fetch some for Delphine, promising they'll turn her into a "craven addict."
- At the end of Season 2, Delphine emails Rachel's schedule to Cosima with the email handle "Eskimo Pie."
- And in Season 3, Felix finds Cosima pining for Delphine amidst a pile of Eskimo Pie wrappers.
- "Family" in Season 2.
- At first this refers to Helena being sheltered by the Johanssens and their branch of the Proletheans, then to her being impregnated by Henrik, and ultimately to finally being included into the clone club with her sisters.
- Major relatives of the clones are introduced this season, namely; Cal Morrison (Sarah's ex and Kira's biological father), Ethan Duncan (Rachel's adoptive father and the clones' creator), Tony, Charlotte (both Leda clones), and the Castor clones (the brothers of the Ledas).
- Alison and Donnie's marriage is also their arc this season.
- "Eskimo Pie" for Cosima and Delphine.
- Asshole Victim:
- Vic, Sarah's abusive drug-dealing ex who gets his finger sliced off and a nail gun put through his hand.
- Also Tomas, who is shot through the head with a bolt gun in 2.02.
- Daniel Rosen in 2x04, who was killed by Helena moments before he's about to kill Sarah. He also held Kira hostage and uses his connections to suspend Art from duty.
- Henrik in 2x09, courtesy of Helena. Co-creator John Fawcett confirmed that Helena rescued the innocents from the Prolethean compound before burning it down, but the people involved in the cult's abusive practices presumably perished in the arson.
- Pouchy and his associates in 3x09, who learned the hard way that you do not threaten children in front of Helena.
- Delphine kills the smug Dr. Nealon in self-defense during the Season 2 finale.
- Very likely few people mourned Marty Duko when Mrs. S shot him in retribution for his murder of her mother. He claimed to have been blackmailed into it due to threats against his own family members, but that arguably makes his own blackmail of Alison even less sympathetic.
- Evie Cho in the season four finale was likely similarly mourned by very few, even though, as with Tomas's death in season two, it came across as a case of Kick The Son Of A Bitch rather than Pay Evil unto Evil.
- Attending Your Own Funeral: Sarah watches her own funeral through binoculars, and Vic tells Felix off for taking a phone call from her during it.
- Auto Erotica: Alison screws Aynsley's husband Chad in the back of their van.
- Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other:
- Sarah and Mrs. S. have a lot of issues between them, but they do occasionally have moments like this.
- In late season 2, it becomes clearer why Alison and Donnie got married.
- A more tragic example occurs in the season 2 finale. Rachel acts coolly toward her father, even calling him "Professor" instead of "Dad". But as he commits suicide, she tearfully begs him not to leave her while he laments their lack of a relationship.
- Badass Boast: Donnie, of all people.Donnie: Safety's on.
Allison: ... You weren't going to shoot him?
Donnie: Not accidentally.
- Badass Bystander: The Second Season premiere has three of them.
- First the diner chef, killed by Mark but manages to fire off a shot killing Mark's partner.
- Then there are the two "couriers" used by Sarah, the first who extorts $20 from Paul for use of a burner phone, and the second who distracts the Neolutionists with Sarah's phone to allow Sarah to slip away unnoticed, even telling off the Neolutionists with "Up Yours".
- Bad "Bad Acting": Alison in her theater group. Tatiana Maslany manages to portray her as a fairly stiff amateur (not to mention one who is drunk/high to combat her stress and anxiety) on the stage without making it over the top.
- Barefoot Suicide: In the opening scene, Beth Childs takes off her shoes and blazer before walking into the path of a moving train.
- Beauty, Brains, and Brawn: Several.
- The main three clones.
- Beauty - Alison, a neat and uptight soccer mom.
- Brains - Cosima, a nerdy science student.
- Brawn - Sarah, a tough, abrasive former hustler.
- The three main prominent additional Clone Club members.
- Beauty - Krystal, a fashionable Valley Girl.
- Brains - M.K., a brilliant but elusive hacker.
- Brawn - Helena, Tyke-Bomb Action Girl.
- It could be argued that the original three main male characters as Rare Male Examples.
- Beauty - Felix, cultured and artistic Camp Gay (bordering on Brains for being a con-artist).
- Brains - Art, a brilliant and Genre Savvy detective (bordering on Brawn for theoretically also being combat proficient, being a veteran cop and all).
- Brawn - Paul, supposedly ex-military and has the most action scenes (bordering on Beauty for being the show's resident Mr. Fanservice).
- The main three clones.
- Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted. Sarah and Helena come out of fights injured or bloody. Alison looked quite disheveled after her Cat Fight with Aynsley and the morning after her drunken face plant off a stage.
- Becoming the Mask: Two monitors fall In Love with the Mark, becoming their legitimate romantic partners.
- Berserk Button: Helena: "Did you threaten babies? You should not threaten babies."
- Big Damn Heroes: In 2x04, Helena comes to Sarah's rescue when she's tied up and about to be killed by Daniel. She does this again in 4x09 when she saves Alison from a Neolutionist henchman with a well-placed arrow shot to the neck.
- Biodata: In 1x10, Cosima decodes the clones' DNA using binary and ASCII, to find that Leekie encoded a patent into their genes.
- Bio Punk: It comes with the cloning, artificial genes and eventually bioterrorism, with shades of Post-Cyberpunk.note
- Bizarre Human Biology: The Leda and Castor clones' original turn out to be the same person, Kendall Malone, a genetic chimera who absorbed her male twin's DNA in the womb and thus has two cell lines present in her blood. This means that the Leda and Castor clones are genetically twins.
- Black-and-Gray Morality: Sarah and Felix are morally dubious characters at best - Sarah gets involved with the clones so that she can steal Beth's money. The clones are willing to get their hands dirty to survive. On the other hand, they're up against one conspiracy that performed illegal human cloning experiments and another of religious zealots who want to kill them, and that's just to start out. They remain more sympathetic than the antagonists throughout the series, despite doing their fair share of ethically questionable actions.
- Paul works as Beth's (and, later, Sarah's) monitor to keep the Dyad Institute from releasing information about a friendly-fire incident he was involved in in Afghanistan. This is later subverted and turns out to have been a Conveniently Unverifiable Cover Story. He's actually still working for the military.
- Later, he finds out about Olivier's past, including some outstanding warrants for sex offenses, and threatens to let the police know unless Olivier helps him cover up evidence of Helena's existence.
- Black Comedy: Alison in particular is an excellent source of dark humor, combining her suburban lifestyle with the dangerous clone world in unexpected ways.
- Blood from the Mouth:
- Katja begins coughing up blood because of a mysterious respiratory infection. Cosima suffers the same symptoms by the end of Season 1, while M.K. displays them near the end of season four.
- Amelia, Sarah and Helena's birth mother, dies with blood in her mouth from wounds inflicted by Helena.
- Blood-Splattered Innocents:
- Sarah when Katja is shot. While she's not entirely innocent, the effect is still the same.
- A straighter example would be the little boy from Episode 4 whom Helena covers in her blood.
- Body Horror:
- Olivier's tail. Lampshaded by Paul and Sarah's reluctance to see it, and doubled down with Helena cutting it off.
- In the second season, Henrik wants to know what happens between Gracie and Helena. When he doesn't like her answers, he sews Gracie's mouth shut and locks her in a closet.
- The murder victim found in 4.01: a chunk of his cheek had been removed and his penis (not shown on-screen) had been modified.
- Later in season 4 we get part-maggot, part robots...things implanted in people's cheeks that could kill them.
- The dark underside of BrightBorn? Tests done on pregnant women that result in badly deformed babies.
- 5.07 is a killer - it ends with Rachel using a shattered martini glass to tear out her own prosthetic eye. Tons of blood from that one.
- Bound and Gagged: Donnie (along with a blindfold) before Alison starts torturing him.
- Bratty Half-Pint: Averted. Every single child on the show, and there's a good number of them, is well-behaved and pleasant to be around. It probably makes it a lot easier for their parents to deal with the various opposing factions.
- Burner Phones: The "clone phones" serve as burners. Sarah is surprised to see that Beth has two phones but quickly learns that the pink one is only for calling the other clones, Alison and Cosima. At the start of season 2, she's hacked by Rachel Duncan and has to take other people's phones, so Felix gets new green phones for the clone club to use. Then in season 3 he replaces those with blue phones, just in case.
- When Sarah and Helena confront each other after Helena stabs Amelia, Helena is wearing Sarah's "London Calling" shirt, and also says the phrase out loud like Sarah did with Paul in the pilot episode.
- In 2x03, among Helena's first words upon regaining consciousness is "I've already got a family", the last thing Sarah said to her before shooting her.
- In an early episode of series 1, Sarah and Cosima shout "Bitch" to each other after the end of an angry phonecall. In 4x05, the same thing happens with Sarah and Alison.
- In the premiere of season 1, Tatiana Maslany plays the clone Katja Obinger, speaking English with a pronounced German accent. In the premiere of season 2, she plays Rachel Duncan, speaking German with a pronounced English accent and referencing Katja.
- Camp Gay: Felix is so fabulous it's almost painful. Fortunately, he's not really a stereotypical example of this trope - his characterization is more rooted in his Undying Loyalty to his friends and family. At one point Donnie tries to put on a Camp Gay image while masquerading as Felix' boyfriend, and Felix is insulted.
- Canada Does Not Exist: The show is rather coy about references to being set in Toronto, Canada, apparently to make it more marketable to the United States. Specific references to Canada are rare and often fleeting:
- Alison is usually said to live in "Scarborough," a municipality of Toronto, rather than just "Toronto." There are lots of other communities in the world named Scarborough, making it sound like a generic suburb.
- The Toronto Police Service is instead called the "Metropolitan Police Service." This is based on an older version of their name, "Metropolitan Toronto Police Service," but still removes "Toronto" from the name.
- The most obvious references include Canadian driver's licences, Canadian paper money, and mentions of the Canadian-specific holiday of Family Day.
- While the car license plates are the blue letters on white of Ontario, the name of the province is covered up.
- In one scene with Felix in a taxi, some streetcars of distinctive Toronto design and livery are visible.
- No character specifically states that they live in Canada until the third-to-last episode. In the finale, there's finally a highly visible sign for "Planned Parenthood Toron—".
- Strangely, this is a Canada where it's possible to drive the almost three thousand miles from Toronto, Ontario, to Tisdale, Saskatchewan, in about an hour.
- In one episode, Rachel describes to Sarah the contract between her and Dyad as "sovereignity-association", which is a term used in Quebec politics for an arrangement in which Quebec is to be independent ("sovereign") from Canada but with some common institutions ("association") between the would-be-separate countries. In context, it means that Sarah and her family would be independent from Dyad (e.g. no secret check-ups) although she would have to be available from time to time.
- A subtle one when Felix states that cloning is illegal. Canadian law has actually banned human cloning whereas the United States as a whole has not (though fifteen states have passed such laws).
- Averted hard in the audio sequal, Orphan Black: The Next Chapter, in which surveillance at the Canada-US border is a big plot point, along with plenty of (fictionalized) Canadian politics
- Cane Fu: In the Season Four finale, Rachel delivers a savage beating to Sarah with her walking cane.
- Cat Fight: Alison and Aynsley in the street between their houses, outside the former's minivan, after she has her fling with Aynsley's husband Chad.
- Celebrity Paradox:
- Alison mentions Breaking Bad in Season 3, despite the fact that Michael Mando (Vic Schmidt) is a main character on its canonical Spin-Off, Better Call Saul.
- Alison also mentions Dexter and seems to have forgotten that Mrs. S was Dexter's nanny, Sonya.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- The security footage of Beth's suicide. Fired in 1x09, when Art uses it to figure out that Sarah took over Beth's identity.
- Sarah's voice message to Art telling him she's not Beth, in case she dies fighting Helena. Art finds it on Sarah's phone when she's arrested in 1x10 and becomes part of the evidence the police have against Sarah. It almost leads to Sarah revealing the Clone Club to them.
- The AI (Artificial Insemination) gun that makes an appearance in 2x02 is later revealed to be used on Helena to extract her eggs on 2x04. Becomes a Chekhov's Boomerang when it is used yet again in 2x09 by Helena, this time against a strapped-down Henrik.
- Kira getting hit by a car in the first season gets referenced again in the next when Delphine mentions the use of cells in her tooth to treat Cosima.
- Helena is the only clone who is left-handed. This becomes a major plot point when she gets shot in the chest, and survives because her heart is on the opposite side of nearly everyone else's. This is an actual medical condition that sometimes occurs in identical twins, and pushes this beyond Fridge Brilliance into Fridge How the Hell Did They Even Pull This Off territory, in addition to providing pretty clear proof that Helena's shooting and survival had been planned from the very beginning.
- Ethan Duncan's copy of The Island of Doctor Moreau, which he leaves with Kira when he's taken into custody by the Dyad. It is implied to have the key to his cipher that could save Cosima's life. Cosima finds out about it when Kira shows her the book in the second season finale.
- The fact that the Leda and Castor clones are genetic twins ends up being important in synthesising a cure for their genetic illnesses... as well as potentially being able to restart the cloning process.
- Chekhov's Gunman:
- An odd example in that it's with an actress instead of her character. Throughout season 2 we see several videos of Rachel from her childhood, letting us know what she (and by extension all of the other clones) looked like as children. It prepares us for meeting Charlotte in the season finale and knowing immediately that she's a clone as well, since she looks just like young Rachel.
- Paul mentions a friend named Cody early in Season 1. It's "Coady" actually, and she would be the villain of Season 3 and The Dragon in season 5.
- Also from Season 1 is Pouchy, Vic's drug lord boss who only appeared once. He will be the villain of Alison and Donnie's Story Arc in Season 3.
- The Chosen Many: The clones, as Sarah discovers she's one.
- Church Militant: The Proletheans in general.
- *Click* Hello: Inverted. Donnie greets Vic this way when he catches him spying on him and Allison (while the two are trying to hide a body, though Vic hasn't seen that yet). In the end it turns out the click was Donnie turning the safety on, since he has no intention of shooting anybody accidentally.
- Clones Are People, Too: The entire basis of the series.
- Cloning Blues: Alison seems to be particularly afflicted by this and it is implied to be what pushed Beth over the edge into suicide. Subverted by the series itself, however, because the clones are entirely individual persons who are the product of a realistic cloning process.
- Cluster F-Bomb: S-bombs rather, bordering FX Network-levels. Sarah and Felix, being English, tend to use "shite" more than the four-letter variation.
- "Shite" is more of an Irish thing, but since Siobhán (Mrs. S) taught them to swear, it still makes sense.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The clones' hair is the key way the series helps to distinguish and characterize them for the viewer. Beth has it pulled back tight. Katja has dyed bright red hair. Sarah has straight black hair that is usually somewhat ill-kept. Alison has smoother-looking hair, pulled into a ponytail with bangs in front. Cosima has dreadlocks. Helena has curly, ratty blonde hair. Rachel has straight blond hair in a Sci-Fi Bob Haircut.
- The Conspiracy: Two of them, in fact. The first is the Neolutionists, who created the clones and monitor their lives, while the second is the Proletheans, a group of religious fanatics opposed to their existence, who use Helena as an assassin. Later, Mrs. S. implies there's a third one, Project LEDA, which is specifically centered on Sarah, and presumably why she and her twin Helena are the only fertile clones, as not even the Neolutionists know why this is.
- 2x06 elaborates a bit on the history behind the clones and the conspiracies surrounding them. The Duncans' experiments on cloning began as a purely scientific endeavor, until the military took over midway through the development of the clones, the Dyad Institute being one of their contractors. Apparently, the Neolutionists were a splinter group that infiltrated Dyad, headed by Aldous Leekie. Eventually, he stole Rachel from her parents and allegedly killed Susan, after which Ethan went into hiding. The season finale reveals that he didn't kill Susan either.
- In the season two finale, we learn of a fourth conspiracy: Project Castor, a subdivision of Project Leda except it's male clones being monitored by the military. Whatever agenda they have is currently a mystery left for the next season.
- And then the third season finale reveals that all the other conspiracies have been taken over by Neolution.
- Through season four, we learn that there are a number of internal factions vying for control within Neolution itself. It's not even clear how many there are yet, but many of them could individually qualify as conspiracies.
- Conspiracy Thriller: A textbook example. With clones!
- Contemplative Boss: Rachel, when we first see her on the phone with Dr. Leekie. Which helps hide her face so we don't know she's a clone as well until we see it an episode or so later.
- Continuity Snarl: The number of twists and reveals builds to the point where if you look back and try to create a consistent timeline of what happened when throughout the in-world history, who was "really" in charge of events, and more importantly, WHY any of the people involved made the choices that they did considering what they would have been aware of at that time based on the "final" story... nothing really adds up. Just roll with it from episode to episode, don't try to gain insights by comparing what's happening 'now' to what's been said in previous seasons.
- Contrived Coincidence: Happens a lot in this series. To name a few:
- Several clones from the Leda Project, from differents parts of the world, end up in Toronto.
- The series begins on one when Sarah witnesses Beth's suicide.
- In the season 1, is implied that Beth shot Maggie Chen, a prolethean, to protect the other clones and faked it as an accident. But, season 4 reveals that it was indeed an accidental shot, which happened when she was running way from Evie Cho mooks. That is, Beth just shot an unknown passer-by who happened to be a prolethean.
- Subverted when season 3 reveals that the original genome of the Leda Clones is from Kendall Malone, Siobhan's mother. The fact that Sarah is biologically related to her foster mother initially seems like a massive coincidence, but then Kendall reveals that she was the one who made sure Sarah ended up with Siobhan.
- Coolest Club Ever: The Neolution nightclub.
- The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much:
- Invoked by Rachel after Leekie is killed. Although she had nothing to do with the death, she announces that he died of a heart attack, knowing that this will sound suspicious and make Delphine and the Clone Club think she ordered his murder.
- When one of the witnesses in 4x09 turns up dead, no one is even remotely surprised that the police's declaration of "suicide" turns out to be part of a coverup.
- Corporate Conspiracy: The Dyad Institute is revealed to have conducted many extremely unethical experiments, the most important being a human cloning conspiracy that created the protagonists, as part of a complex eugenicist plot to alter the path of human evolution as they see fit.
- Creator Cameo:
- Showrunners John Fawcett and Graeme Manson pop up at the Dyad Institute reception in the Season 2 premiere, as (respectively) an event photographer and a guest posing for a snap with Dr. Leekie. (Doubles as a Stealth Pun since Fawcett was also "behind the camera" as the episode's director.)
- Trevor Yuile, the composer of the show's soundtrack, briefly appears as the piano player in 3.04.
- Criminal Doppelgänger: Gordian Knot variety. You have Sarah (who is a criminal) impersonating Beth (a cop) and trying to hide forensic evidence lifted from Katja that would flag Sarah's criminal records. And that's before Serial Killer Helena shows up...
- Cross-Referenced Titles: The last two episodes of season 2 are "Things Which Have Never Yet Been Done" and "By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried". They come from the same Francis Bacon quote (allowing them to fit in with the season's Idiosyncratic Episode Naming) but narrowly avert Compound Title by the second phrase not directly following the first in the original text.
- Cruel and Unusual Death:
- In the Season 1 finale, Aynsley dies in a manner worthy of Final Destination. Her scarf gets caught in the garbage disposal, causing it to strangle her as it's sucked in. Alison just stands there and watches her die.
- Whatever Helena did to Henrik with that tool, it could not have been pleasant.
- We don't see what she did to Pouchy and his associates, either, but it involved the paper cutter he used to threaten and maim people with and it also can't have been pleasant.
- Crying After Sex: Delphine quietly sheds tears after having sex with Cosima. It is her first sexual encounter with another woman and she reassures Cosima: "it's okay, I cry after sex with boys too."
- Cult: The Proletheans. It remains to be seen how large they are, but thus far they fit several of the most important criteria, including communal living, social isolation, authoritarian yet charismatic leaders, lack of bodily autonomy for members, siege by police, arranged marriages, and implied paedophilia.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Most of Helena's fights go this way. Offscreen, it takes her less than ten seconds to deal Daniel a lethal wound and he's not exactly a wilting flower. She also single-handedly took out a group of drug dealers who'd made the mistake of threatening Alison's children. On screen, she effortlessly defeats a glitching Rudy.
- Damsel in Distress: Kira is kidnapped or endangered so often, you wonder if she's going to grow up to become Princess Toadstool.
- Dance Party Ending: The season 2 finale features a scene where four of the clones, Felix and Kira all dance to some music provided by Cosima.
- Danger Takes A Back Seat: Katja contacts Sarah/Beth in this way. It doesn't end well for Katja.
- Dead Person Impersonation: Sarah impersonates Beth after finding out about her sizable savings account. She also impersonates Katja to retrieve the briefcase from her hotel suite.
- Death Faked for You: Sarah uses Beth's suicide to fake her own death to start a new life for herself.
- Designer Babies: What Evie Cho wants to create.
- Diegetic Soundtrack Usage: Helena's ringtone is a countermelody of the theme song.
- Disappeared Dad:
- Adopted father or no, Ethan Duncan's "death" and later reappearance did a number on Rachel and Dyad just made it worse.
- Kira's father. Because Sarah never told him she was pregnant. We meet him in season 2 and he quickly proves to be a pretty good dad to Kira.
- Disposing of a Body:
- Sarah buries Katja in a gravel pit.
- Alison helps Donnie bury Leekie under their garbage floor after the former accidentally killed the latter near the end of the second season.
- Does This Remind You of Anything? / Symbolism: In season 4, when Alison his being attacked by Frank, one of the Evie Cho's mooks, she start to pray to God for her life. Happens that, in this exact moment, Helena (who was described early in season 1 as "an angry angel") appears to save her.
- Don't Come A-Knockin': When Alison and Chad are going at it in her minivan, leading Meera to hurriedly lead her own children away.
- Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Averted. Sarah and Felix are shocked when they find out that Alison had been torturing Donnie for information. Later Donnie brings it up at the intervention and the priest encourages him not to hold back when calling her out on it.
- Double Standard Rape: Female on Male:
- Sarah commits rape by fraud on Paul, since he thinks she's Beth. While not portrayed as a good thing, it's not played as particularly heinous, either. Alison and Cosima both seem pretty shocked (and Alison somewhat horrified) when they find out about it, probably because Sarah did it primarily to keep Paul from finding out, not out of genuine sexual desire. However, the shaky morality of Sarah sleeping with Paul becomes moot when it's revealed that Paul was basically pulling the same trick on what he thought was Beth, and is further mooted when Paul implies that he suspected all along that she wasn't Beth anyway.
- Averted in 2x05. Paul is clearly being coerced by Rachel and the scene is very creepy and Fan Disservice-y because of it.
- The Dragon: The Dyad Institute's chain of command is rather long. Olivier Duval works for Aldous Leekie, who works for Rachel Duncan, who works for Marian Bowles.
- Dramatic Irony: Gracie doesn't like Helena on first meeting her because she's a clone. Well, it turns out that in 2.10, her husband is also a clone, unbeknownst to her.
- Driven to Suicide:
- Beth. Sarah later throws this in Paul's face by telling him that he drove her to it by betraying her trust. Season four eventually reveals that she was blackmailed into it with threats against her fellow clones.
- Ethan Duncan in Season 2, though it toes the line between this and Suicide Is Painless.
- Driving Question: Why were the clones created? Who was the original? Why was Sarah, alone among them apart from Helena, fertile? And why is that important enough that the Dyad Institute is so interested in Kira? Is the respiratory disease that Katja and Cosima show symptoms of, and which killed Jennifer, something that all the clones risk getting? Some of these questions get answered as the show progresses.
- Drowning My Sorrows:
- Alison, trying to deal with the guilt she feels over having let Aynsley die.
- Rachel, after learning her prosthetic eye is a camera, which means Westmoreland has been using her (not unlike every other father figure she's ever known).
- Dr Feel Good: Beth's appointed therapist.
- Easy Impersonation: Subverted. Sarah initially manages to fake her way through her impersonation of Beth pretty well, largely due to the fact that everyone believes Beth was traumatized by a recent civilian shooting and Paul knowing Beth has emotional problems. The deeper she gets the more the facade starts to crack, to the point where she has to have "Beth" quit her job. By the end of Season 1, the cops finally catch on and arrest Sarah and Felix.
- Kira isn't fooled by Alison's impersonation of Sarah for even a moment. Alison has to tell her the truth.
- Electronic Eyes: Rachel gets one after her accident, and for awhile it seems to be glitching, though it's later suggested to be a broadcast from an unknown source.
- Emergency Impersonation: The clones frequently need to impersonate each other.
- The Empath: In "Human Raw Material" Kira reveals to Sarah that she has at least partial awareness of Ledas' emotional states, including ones she's never met before. This probably factors into her apparent ability to inherently recognize each clone.
- Entitled to Have You: Vic's entire storyline in the first season revolves around Sarah. When he finds out that she's still alive, he keeps demanding that she get back together with him and tries to punish her for leaving. As of season 2, he's still not over her.
- Establishing Character Moment: Sarah's street smarts and levelheadedness are clear in how she decides to assume Beth's identity just seconds after the latter's suicide. Her love for her daughter is also made evident when she freaks out over Mrs. S and Kira attending her fake funeral.
- Everybody Has Lots of Sex: Well, everyone but religious nut Helena and Alison before her marriage falls apart. Alison finally gets in on the action in 2x09, while Helena apparently joins the action sometime between seasons three and four, though it's not shown onscreen.
- Everyone Is Related: The Leda clones and the Castor clones are genetic siblings to each other, on the account of the Leda and Castor original being the same person: Kendall Malone, a genetic chimera, who absorbed her fraternal twin brother in the womb. She's also Siobhan Sadler's biological mother.
- Everything Sounds Sexier in French: Delphine. In Cosima's first real interaction with her, Delphine says that she's pleased to meet her in French and Cosima repeats the phrase with a lovestruck smile.
- Evil, Inc.: The Dyad Institute, the corporation that created the clones and apparently the backers of the Neolution movement. BrightBorn, a fertility clinic connected to Dyad revealed in season four, also fits this trope.
- Evilutionary Biologist: Dr. Leekie. His Neolution movement is all about "self-directed evolution" and he sees no problem in creating human clones or experimenting on them to advance this goal. Evie Cho and several of the other Neolutionist higher-ups also count, although Susan Duncan ultimately seems to be a subversion; while she certainly has For Science! motivations that might be a tad too zealous, she also genuinely cares about all of the clones she's been created and wants to protect them as best she can.
- Evil Twin: Helena to Sarah, literally. Subverted; Helena turns out to have been Brainwashed and Crazy, and when she's de-brainwashed turns out to be more an example of Beware the Nice Ones.
- Evil Versus Evil:
- The Neolutionists versus the Proletheans. The Neolutionists are into ethically dodgy scientific research and want to own the clones, and are opposed by the Proletheans, who are violent religious extremists. The Neolutionists tend to come across as A Lighter Shade of Black since their methods are less coercive and they tend to be more personally pleasant.
- Then there's Dyad, who may now be just as evil as the Proletheans with the revelation in season 3 that Rachel had been secretly killing clones, though admittedly it's not yet clear whether her superiors knew about it. There's also Project Castor, revealed in the season 2 finale, but it's not really clear whether they're actually evil or just Well-Intentioned Extremists yet, and in the same Ambiguously Evil category there's Topside, a shadow cabal that seems to control elements of Dyad and other companies/projects, possibly including Castor. It all comes back around to Neolution running everything behind the scenes by the season 3 finale.
- Season four gives us several Neolution factions against each other, none of whom are ultimately suggested to be particularly heroic but some of whom are undoubtedly more sinister than others. However, by the season finale, while a number of other long-running mysteries of the show have been resolved, Neolution's internal politics have proven to be more complex and inscrutable than ever, and it's difficult to know even where anyone's loyalties lie.
- Evolving Credits: The opening credits for the third season are different in nearly every episode, as Kevin Hanchard and Évelyne Brochu are now only credited when they appear and Dylan Bruce is only credited until his character's death. This means that Ari Millen and Kristian Bruun are credited on the same card if more than one of those other three appears in an episode because there's not quite enough space for everyone (incidentally, there is no episode in which all three are credited, and no episode in which none of them are credited).
- Excessive Mourning: In the early episodes, Sarah fakes her death with the help of her foster brother Felix. Sarah's abusive ex, Vic, is utterly devastated, spending days, if not weeks, at a time drinking in Felix's loft, much to his annoyance. When Vic says he now wants to get to know Sarah's daughter, Felix decides he's had enough and kicks him out.
- Expendable Clone: Averted, because every clone is established as a unique individual and no death is treated casually. However, this doesn't stop numerous Leda and Castor clones showing up just long enough to die: Beth Childs and Katja Obinger in Season 1, Jennifer Fitzsimmons in Season 2, Seth and Parsons in Season 3. Krystal Goderitch was initially planned to be another example of this trope, but the creators liked Maslany's performance enough that they expanded her role substantially.
- Extremely Short Time Span: The entire series is implied to take place over the course of a single year based from the following events.
- The Pilot is set on late November 2012, but two episodes before the inaugural Season Finale mentions that only two weeks have passed.
- Donnie's Accidental Murder of Dr. Leekie happened in Season 2, but was said to have happened a few months ago in Season 4.
- Helena was impregnated late into Season 2. She gave birth in the Grand Finale.
- Eye Scream:
- Helena is a master of fighting dirty via eye-attacks.
- In season 1, she recalls an abusive nun at the Orphanage of Fear in which she was raised: “Sister Olga locked me in cellar. She gave me darkness. So,I gave her darkness." (Helena then wiggles her thumbs and makes a popping noise to indicate her meaning). In season 2 she uses it on a man who picks a Bar Brawl with her, and again when escaping from the Prolethian compound. In season 3, she teaches Gemma how to win fights using it, too, to Gemma's apparent disgust.
- (Gracie: "We don't do things like that anymore, remember?" Gemma: "I don't think I'm allowed." Helena: "No, of course not. I am a mother now, I walk a different path.")
- Rachel in 2x10, who gets a sharp pencil in the eye fired by Sarah using a device constructed by Cosima and Scott to help Sarah escape.
- Exaggerated in Season 3, when medical treatment for Rachel involves an extreme close-up of them pulling the pencil out!
- And then again in Season 5, Rachel discovers a camera has been implanted in her mechanical replacement eye and she gouges it out herself.
- Helena is a master of fighting dirty via eye-attacks.
- Fake Identity Baggage: Sarah witnesses the suicide of a woman named Beth who looks exactly like her, and decides to impersonate her so she can steal Beth's money. Unfortunately, she soon learns that Beth was a police officer being investigated for shooting a civilian and now has to avoid a murder conviction. Things get even worse when someone tries to assassinate her thinking she is Beth. It's revealed that Beth was investigating a secret human cloning project, which drags Sarah into the world of international conspiracies, amoral experiments, and religious fundamentalism. As the show continues, this becomes one of its favorite tropes. One highlight is Sarah impersonating the villain Rachel and being forced to interrogate Allison, who is impersonating Sarah.
- Familiar Soundtrack, Foreign Lyrics: Sarah's impersonation of Katja is set to a German-language cover of "These Boots Were Made For Walkin'".
- Family Title: Sarah's status as an orphan and her relationship with her foster and biological families are the defining traits of her character.
- Fanservice: There's plenty here for all genders and orientations, although there's a fair amount of Fan Disservice as well.
- Fatal Family Photo: Inverted with Siobhan, who asks to be given a picture of her children as she's dying as a distraction to pull out a gun and shoot her murderer.
- Faux Yay: Delphine tells Cosima she's never been with a woman before, and her conversations with Leekie leading up to that suggest she is not only faking the attraction to Cosima specifically but to women in general, in order to effectively serve as her monitor. Subverted, apparently, when she seems afterwards to stay with Cosima willingly, and deliberately withholds information from Dyad in order to protect Cosima and the other clones (as well as Kira).
- Feminist Fantasy: Along with having a main cast consisting almost entirely of complex female characters, the series explores the following themes: identity, motherhood, female autonomy, and reproductive rights. The series also seems to take particular glee in subverting traditional gender associations with tropes; for example, in this series it's a female who is sympathetically treated as a borderline Ax-Crazy Anti-Hero, while the male characters are frequently deliberately deprived of agency by being subjected to Blackmail and other obstacles.
- The Final Temptation: Each of the main three clones is offered a choice: Sarah and Alison will get a safe, "normal" life with their kids, while Cosima gets a job at the Dyad Institute and a chance to study the clones - as long as they agree to submit to routine, bi-annual testing. It seems like a good enough deal, however, and Alison nabs it. Sarah nearly does as well...until Cosima reveals that Dyad put a patent on their genetic code, making them the institute's properly and the contract pure lipservice.
- Fingore: Vic, when he is unable to produce the cocaine for his mob bosses.
- Fire-Forged Friends: Sarah, Cosima, and Alison. Also Alison and Felix. Also, and especially, Sarah and Helena. Helena and Gracie also count.
- First-Episode Twist: It's virtually impossible to even discuss the series without mentioning that Maslany's characters are clones, which isn't technically revealed until the third episode (although it is heavily hinted at the end of the first one).
- Foreign Remake: The show was remade in Japan which premiered barely four months after the series' Grand Finale.
- When she first learns about Beth, Sarah wonders if she might have a twin sister. She does - Helena.
- Cosima's science lesson to Kira foreshadows Rachel losing an eye.
- When Felix first brings up Tony, Sarah initially thought he was talking about a different set of clones who happened to be male rather than a trans man clone. In the second season finale, it's revealed that there is in fact a different set of male clones.
- Any mention of the military leads back to Project Castor.
- Alison's musical involves a group of people bonding over disposing a corpse. In addition to playing on her guilt over what happened with Aynsley, it pretty well mirrors her storyline with Donnie in the final episodes of the season.
- Mark introduces himself to Helena as "family"; that is to say, the Proletheans are a family. He had no idea how right he was — they're both clones and the originals were brother and sister. Or more accurately, taken from each half of a chimera's DNA.
- In the first few episodes, Paul is out of the house because he's been staying with a friend named Cody. In season three we learn that he's been working with a scientist named Virginia Coady, possibly from the very beginning.
- Rachel's vision of a swan, which is inextricably linked with the mythological Leda, foreshadows her apparently temporary alliance with the Leda clones. Then she gets a vision of the swan being decapitated, foreshadowing her apparent betrayal of them. Since it's still not clear either what her motives are or who or what exactly is behind the vision, at this point in the show viewers will find it unclear how any of this will play out. Ultimately, this may be an Invoked Trope, as it's revealed in the final season that Westmoreland has access to the visions in Rachel's prosthetic eye, which implies that he may be able to plant visions there as well.
- Evie Cho is a little too confident that Delphine is dead. Cosima is taken in by it at first, but Genre Savvy viewers won't be; rarely have there been more Blatant Lies in the history of the show. Thus, it doesn't come as much of a surprise in the next episode when Krystal reveals evidence that Delphine may have survived her shooting, nor when the penultimate episode of the season proves it by depicting her alive and well in its closing shot.
- Foster Kid: Sarah, Kira, and Felix were all fostered by Mrs. S.
- Four Lines, All Waiting: The show spends a lot of time establishing the inner lives of its characters, enough so that the plot itself is advancing somewhat slowly. You have Sarah's life, Sarah-as-Beth's life, Alison's life, Cosima's life, Helena's life, around the fringes the lives of the supporting characters and the actual events of the plot itself.
- Four-Philosophy Ensemble: The main Leda clones
- Sarah (The Optimist) - a relentless daredevil who'll do what she believes is right
- Alison (The Conflicted) - always torn between helping her clone sisters and keeping her own family away from the conspiracy (and from falling apart) so they can live normally
- Cosima (The Realist) - calm, collected and generally the Only Sane Man
- Helena (The Apathetic) - very unpredictable and doesn't really involve herself in the overall plot other than to protect her "sestras"
- Rachel (The Cynic) - prioritizes survival, all else be damned
- Four-Temperament Ensemble: The main Leda clones
- Sarah (Choleric) - has a more balanced temperament but can be very relentless and unpredictable
- Alison (Leukine) - emotional and impeccable
- Cosima (Phlegmatic) - the most modest and thoughtful
- Helena (Sanguine) - a Psychopathic Man Child who's very clueless when off the job
- Rachel (Melancholic) - very egotistical and Control Freak
- Friend in the Black Market: When Sarah needs a gun, Alison refuses to lend her one of her own and thus goes to visit her friend, "Ramon", a friendly employee at the local big box store and Alison's supplier of pills and firearms. Alison eventually takes over his business, a decision that ultimately has far-reaching consequences.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: Cal draws up a chart detailing the people and groups connected to the Dyad. With a lot of squinting, you can find a few interesting Easter eggs. It says Delphine is connected to L’Institut de Maria Sibylla Merian. No such institution exists, but its namesake was a German artist and scientist from the 17th century.
- Freudian Trio: Sarah is Id, Cosima is Ego, Alison is Superego.
- Functional Addict: Alison, drinking and popping pills while being a suburban soccer mom, until she gets sent to rehab. To be fair, by this point she had pretty much ceased to fall under the "functional" part (she had collapsed onstage during a performance). Beth also seems to have been this at one point, being functional enough that her colleagues failed to notice anything was wrong, but by the time of the Maggie Chen shooting this seems to have evaporated, as her behaviour had become increasingly erratic.
- Gender-Equal Ensemble: Including the multiple clones of both LEDA and CASTOR and the Posthumous Characters, there's a total of thirteen characters per gender whose actor is/has been credited in the series OBB alone as of Season 4note . Including the major characters whose actors weren't Promoted to Opening Titles, the females slightly outnumber the males.
- Genre Savvy:
- Sarah, when she first meets corporate "ProClone" Rachel Duncan and quips "Is this the part when 20 more of you robot bitches walk in for effect?"
- Alison in response to Donnie: "Have you ever seen Dexter? I mean, random scuba divers are finding everything!"
- In general, this seems to be a staple of the show; part of the reason the Gambit Pileups reach the levels they do is that the characters are usually so genre savvy. Krystal is slightly Wrong Genre Savvy, but it's played with; she correctly understands that she's in a conspiracy thriller, but she misunderstands what kind of conspiracies are involved.
- Girl on Girl Is Hot: Cosima's geeky colleague starts stammering when Delphine kisses her in his presence.
- Given Name Reveal: In the hospital, Paul tells Olivier he has learned his real name—and the outstanding warrants that come with it—in order to blackmail him into helping cover up Sarah's existence. We also learn M.K.'s in season four. It's Veera Suominen, making her the only survivor of the clone purge in Helsinki. This explains a lot about her.
- Good Hair, Evil Hair: In earlier seasons, Delphine wears her hair in soft ringlets. As she becomes more ensconced in the nefarious happenings at Dyad, she's seen with her hair worn straight and sleek. When she is reunited with Cosima at the end of season four, her hair is wavy again
- Government Conspiracy: Project LEDA was originally a government conspiracy before being taken over by Dyad, and in the Season 2 finale it is revealed that they never stopped trying to make clones... And then, of course, there's Project Castor, which was taken over by the military.
- Gratuitous Foreign Language: Helena's speech is peppered with Ukrainian words and phrases. Justified, since she was raised in a Ukrainian convent, and her English isn't that great. Eventually, members of the Clone Club start calling one another sestra ("sestra" is Ukrainian for "sister", although the second syllable is supposed to be stressed instead of the first).
- Greater-Scope Villain: The season 3 finale reveals that the group pulling all the strings, for Dyad, Topside, Castor, Leda and everybody is Neolution. Leekie's movement was only the tip of the iceberg and he was only a public face. The movement is far larger and more influential than anybody knows.
- Within Neolution, Evie Cho eventually presents herself as a Greater-Scope Villain as well as The Starscream and a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing. We're initially led to believe that Susan Duncan is in charge of everything, but she eventually seems to be a case of Ambiguously Evil at worst. Furthermore, even Evie Cho isn't the one ultimately in charge. It's not actually entirely clear who is as of the season four finale, and there seem to be at least two competing factions within Neolution, in addition to Rachel and Susan, both of whom have their own agendas.
- Season 5 finally gives us a definitive example in P.T. Westmorland, who's been hidden from public view for much of the series pulling the strings and amassing a cult around himself, and all the clones, genetic horrors and kidnapping of children has been about extending his own lifespan. And Westmorland isn't even his real name!
- Grossup Closeup: From the first season the show has used this many times—Olivier's tail getting cut off, Sarah throwing up, Olivier's death, Rachel's eye injury, etc.
- Guile Hero: Sarah and, to a lesser extent, Felix. Kira seems to have shades of this as well.
- Happier Home Movie: When Sarah finds Rachel's hotel suite, she finds a tape of Rachel with her "parents" seemingly expressing love despite the present Rachel expressing little emotion.
- Healing Factor/Made of Iron: Kira and at least a few clones seem to have this. Kira basically bounces back from getting hit by a car. Helena survives and recovers from some pretty severe injuries and is implied to have endured a lifetime of torture at Tomas' hands; she is also immune to the clones' Sterility Plague. Sarah is the only known clone who has been able to conceive and bear a child and she also walks off a major car crash. It's later revealed that the reason Sarah and Helena are fertile while the other clones aren't is because their birth mother walked away from Project LEDA before its scientists induced the aforementioned Sterility Plague in them.
- Heel–Face Turn:
- A bizarre case with Ferdinand. He's all too willing to collect Kendall Malone's genetic material, until he learns that Topside had been infiltrated by Neolution, after which he mercilessly bludgeons his Neolutionist henchman and lets Sarah and Mrs. S hide Kendall Malone.
- A more normal example with Helena, who joins Leda's side permanently after she's de-brainwashed.
- By the finale, Rachel finally gets out of the Heel–Face Revolving Door for good, though she's not really forgiven by the other Leda clones - which she doesn't even protest, since she seems to understand their point of view by this point.
- Heel–Face Revolving Door: Gracie. Starts off mistreating Helena, then is shown to be abused by her parents, prompting her to elope with Mark. When she miscarries Helena's baby and is turned away by her mother, she turns to Art for help, and is taken in by Mrs. S. Later, as everybody at Clone Club is desperately searching for the mole for Castor, Gracie only reveals herself after Cosima points out Shay to Delphine by mistake.
- Rachel begins to get in on this in season four, what with allying with Leda to bring down Evie Cho then attacking Sarah and Susan in an attempt at making a power grab for herself. It remains to be seen how this will play out, though it does seem to be strongly related to the visions she's been getting in her prosthetic eye. She also appears to have dragged Ferdinand into the Heel–Face Revolving Door. Ultimately, Rachel makes a permanent Heel–Face Turn somewhere around halfway through the final season, while Ferdinand just gets worse; this had directly caused their breakup earlier in the season when his methods had proved too extreme for her, and it's later a contributing factor to his death.
- Heel Realization: When Donnie learns about Clone Club and what Dyad is doing to the clones, he only then realizes how massively he's betrayed Alison by being her monitor. He thought he was providing data for a secret sociology experiment that dated back to their college days.
- Hell Is That Noise: Helena's theme. It sounds like a car skidding before a crash. And then being disemboweled.
- Hereditary Twinhood: Helena and Sarah on Orphan Black are revealed to be identical twins in a group of identical clones—their embryo split into two. Helena then carries twin boys of her own later in the show.
- Heroic BSoD: Sarah begins to have one when Daniel is about to kill her in Rachel's apartment. It goes up to eleven when she's saved — by Helena.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Paul, already bleeding heavily from knife wounds to the gut and gunshot wounds to the chest, unpins a grenade to destroy Coady's sick, unethical research and buy Sarah enough time to escape Castor HQ.
- Hidden Depths:
- Alison is not at all how she appears with her penchant for guns and violence. Sarah also turns out to be one of the more responsible clones. Rachel secretly harbors a strong desire to be a mother. Cosima is the only clone who seems to project an image true to herself.
- Even Cosima is getting in on the act. After facing death because of imperfect cloning, she begins to talk about spiritual questions, life after death, and so on. Her budding relationship with a spiritualist lesbian seems likely to enable her to start believing in more than just hard science.
- His Name Is...: Half-averted in the season 1 finale. Amelia has told Helena, disguised as Sarah, that Mrs. S isn't who Sarah thinks she is. Before she can elaborate, Helena sheds her disguise and stabs her. Amelia lives long enough for Sarah to find her, but Amelia can only stammer out "your foster mother ..." repeatedly before dying. It's possible, given what we find out towards the end of season three, that she was going to say, "Your foster mother is your biological niece". Cloning is weird.
- His Name Really Is "Barkeep": In one episode, Donnie's awful mother-in-law/ Allison's awful mother keeps derisively referring to him as "Mr. Chubbs". At first it seems like she's being insulting to the somewhat plump Donny, but then it is revealed that Donnie's last name actually is Chubbs and that he took Allison's last-name, Hendrix, rather than vice versa- presumably a combination of getting rid of the Embarrassing Last Name and a symbol of Allison "wearing the pants" in the family.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: In a manner of speaking. Allison funds the Clone Club and Beth's investigation into Dyad. Allison takes this money from bank accounts shared with her husband Donnie, who earned it as her monitor for Dyad.
- Hollywood Genetics: An example where family members are much too similar than is genetically plausible: in the third episode, Cosima tells Sarah that clones' fingerprints may be close enough to all match, when in reality not even identical twins have the same fingerprints. Even accepting this premise leaves a Plot Hole, unfortunately. Beth's finger prints would have been put into the system when she became a police officer. If Sarah's arrest happened first, Beth would have had quite some difficulty getting into the police at all. If it happened second, the whole mess should have exploded then. Since only Sarah's fingerprints came up when Katja's were run, it must be that Beth's aren't in the system - presumably the showmakers don't know that police employees' fingerprints always go into the system. As for the "identical twins" part of things, averted entirely with Helena, who wore gloves when on the run to avoid getting fingerprinted.
- Hollywood Geography: Katja Obinger's East German birth certificate lists her city of birth as Würzburg, a West German city.
- Hollywood Healing:
- Averted several times:
- When Donnie tells Alison at her intervention that the burns from when she dripped hot glue on him some weeks earlier still hurt when he's in the shower.
- After taking a bullet to the leg, Mark gradually moves from being confined to a bed, to relying on a cane, to being able to move on his own again.
- Following his fist fight with Jason, Donnie's face remains bruised for a few more episodes.
- Delphine strips down to her undergarments and gets into bed with Cosima in the season four finale. This might seem like a blatant excuse for Fanservice, but it's actually exactly what you're supposed to do for victims of hypothermia.
- Played straight with Kira, who seems to be Made of Iron for reasons yet unknown. Helena also displays signs of this, being surprisingly resilient after being impaled by rebar, so it may be related to the clones' genetics.
- Averted several times:
- Hollywood Hacking: M.K. is able to completely drain Ferdinand's multi-million dollar bank account in a matter of seconds by simply knowing his password. Most banks, even shady ones, would call to verify such a transfer to make sure it is not fraud. Furthermore, such a transfer would take some time for the bank for complete. Ferdinand simply needs to call the bank and cancel it after M.K. leaves. This does not happen however and Ferdinand is broke.
- Honey Trap: The Project Castor clones attempt to capture Krystal Goderitch, a clone introduced in the season 3 première, this way.
- How's Your British Accent?: Sarah has to pretend to be Beth in season 1 and use a Canadian accent. Later, Allison has to fake a British accent to pretend to be Sarah to her foster mother and daughter. She manages to fool the former, but Kira immediately sees through it, partly because she can feel all the clones.
- Humiliation Conga: Poor Vic. In the second season, in rehab. Felix drugs his tea so he falls face first into a table, getting covered with glitter, glue, and feathers. Then he gets thrown to the floor to hide him from the lady running rehab. Then as Fe carries him down the hall, he smacks his head into a doorway. Then thrown to the floor again. Then he wakes up in a pile of garbage, covered in blood and glitter, with everyone from rehab and a cop staring at him in disgust.
- Iconic Outfit:
- Sarah's punk-rock outfit◊ in the series premiere and her outfit◊ for most of Season 2 are the most remembered.
- Alison's pink running shirt, white vest, and blue headband. Her white sweater in the Season 1 finale when she "kills" Aynsley is also remembered fondly.
- Cosima's bright red coat.
- Helena's green coat.
- Beth's purple dress which she wore during her suicide.
- Rachel's eye patch.
- Krystal's form-fitting red minidresses and push-up bras. Her well-manicured nails help Delphine figure out that Rachel switched with her.
- M.K.'s sheep mask.
- Identical Stranger: This is what Sarah originally believes to be the case after stealing Beth's belongings and impersonating her.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Every episode name is a Literary Allusion Title.
- First-season episodes are titled after passages in Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species.
- Second-season episodes are titled after passages from the works of Sir Francis Bacon.
- Third-season episodes are titled after quotes from Dwight D. Eisenhower's farewell address to the nation.
- Fourth-season episodes are titled after passages from the writings of Donna Haraway.
- Fifth-season episodes quote Protest, a poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox.
- I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: How Donnie kills Leekie in 2x07.
- Impersonating an Officer: Petty criminal Sarah witnesses the suicide of a woman who looks exactly like her - who ends up being a seemingly loaded police detective. Wanting the money for her daughter, Sarah impersonates her and attempts to ingratiate herself into her life - it works, for the most part, until the other cops catch on. Of course, since she and the woman were clones, not like Sarah had a particularly hard time of it.
- Improbably Female Cast: The female characters (both alive and posthumous) outnumber the males by at least 32-26. It helps that the main female lead alone is playing nine of those charactersnote .
- Improvised Bandage: Sarah uses a tampon to staunch the wound after she is stabbed in the leg by Rachel, using a string to tie it for greater pressure.
- Incurable Cough of Death: Katja's respiratory infection is treated as a possible genetic defect the clones may suffer. Cosima has caught it by the Season 1 finale. Also, MK appears to have it in season 4, episode 8. A video diary from another clone, Jennifer, shows the disease running its course; it's pretty gruesome.
- As of the season 4 finale Cosima develops a working cure. We're shown Cosima herself receiving the cure and presumably Rachel and Charlotte have as well. Who else among the clones will receive the cure is left open.
- Inelegant Blubbering: Rachel is reduced to a sobbing, screaming mess when her father commits suicide.
- In Love with the Mark: Delphine and Paul both fell for the people they were monitoring.
- Insistent Terminology:
- Alison doesn't like the "C-word" (not that one) so they're "genetic identicals."
- As of season 4 Cosima has taken to using Helena's "sestra" to refer to the Leda clones.
- Intimate Healing: In the season 4 finale, when Cosima and Delphine are reunited, Delphine strips down to her underwear and gets under the covers with a severely weakened Cosima to provide body heat. They are, after all, on a Canadian island in the middle of winter - but it's not as if the fans hated seeing a substantial amount of Evelyne Brochu's physique.
- "It" Is Dehumanizing:
- The Proletheans sometimes do this when talking about clones.
- In season 1, Tomas consistently refers to the clones as "it" rather than "she" when convincing Helena to hunt down and kill them. One sign that Helena is having doubts about her mission is that she doesn't.
- Similarly, in season 2, Grace calls Helena "it", while Henrik insists on "she".
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique:
- Dripping hot sequin glue on your husband's chest to the point of causing quite visible third-degree burns definitely counts as this trope. However, it's subverted/deconstructed as Alison doesn't learn anything useful.
- Deconstructed again in season 3. Mark tries this on Mr. Finch, an associate of Henrik, but the pain causes the old man to have a heart attack before he can reveal any useful information.
- Mrs. S. uses this in 4x08 on Duko right before killing him. This appears to be the first time the trope has been played straight in the show's history, though we still don't know if everything he said in the interrogation was true.
- Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: Convoluted conspiracies concerning clones.
- Jumped at the Call: Sarah seesaws between this and Refusal of the Call in early episodes.
- Justified Criminal: In season 3 Alison and Donnie become drug dealers to solve their financial difficulties. In season 4 Donnie gets arrested in a raid on their home stemming from drug charges, although Neolution played a hand as a means of exerting leverage on Alison.
- Killer Outfit: Aynsley is strangled when her scarf catches in a garbage disposal.
- Kiss of Distraction: Sarah pulls this on Paul in the first episode. It then becomes a Shag of Distraction.
- Leitmotif: Helena has an unnerving, screeching one, that shows up particularly often when she's very emotional. If another character has just offended her and it can be heard, it will not end well for them.
- Literary Allusion Title: Every single episode title, as detailed above under Idiosyncratic Episode Naming.
- Locked Out of the Loop: Clone Club have deliberately avoided telling some of their allies everything that is going on, justified In-Universe by the likelihood that knowing more would put them at risk. Since Beth was coerced into suicide because she knew too much, they have a point.
- The Lost Lenore: In season 3 Art confesses that he was in love with Beth. The season 4 première reveals that they were romantically involved.
- Makeup Is Evil: When she's impersonating Sarah while meeting Amelia, Helena gives herself away (to the viewer) by the light red eyeshadow she hasn't removed note . Very much inverted with Krystal, who's probably the most innocent of all the clones in a lot of ways.
- Mama Bear: Both Sarah and Alison show this towards their own kids, and all the clones are very protective of Kira, as is Mrs. S.
- In 2x09, Helena shows shades of this after seeing one of the kids in the Prolethean commune being verbally abused.
- Appears again in season 3, with a side of Berserk Button for Helena: "Did you threaten babies? You should not threaten babies."
- Mandatory Motherhood: Hank intended on forcing several women, including his own daughter Gracie, to be surrogates for his and Helena's babies.
- Inverted by Ethan Duncan, who designed his clone-daughters to be infertile so they couldn't have children even if they wanted to. Sarah and Helena's ability to conceive and carry children was a fluke, caused by their surrogate mother escaping the program before their infertility could be engineered.
- Matricide: Helena stabs her birth mother to death for giving up her and her twin sister Sarah, resulting in their lifelong separation and Helena's abuse by the church.
- Medical Rape and Impregnate: This plans a significant role in the plot.
- Season two contains an example which starts out as particularly disturbing and manages to get worse. A religious cult severely drugs Helena, who is shown to have the mentality of a child. Her eggs are extracted from her without her consent, and they evidently plan to artificially inseminate her, but she escapes before this can happen. The responsible parties proceed to cross the Moral Event Horizon further by threatening their own daughter, who is still a teenager, with being forced to carry Helena's child instead, a threat that is eventually carried out. It's revealed that the embryos were fertilized by the girl's father's sperm and he planned to force more women to be surrogates for his and Helena's children en masse.
- Season five contains a similar example involving Kira, who actually is a child. The Neolutionists plan to give her drugs that would force her body into early puberty so they could extract her eggs, fertilize them, and have the embryos implanted into surrogates. This so they could study the so-called "Fountain of Life" gene in her offspring and use it to their own benefit. Their schemes are foiled before this can happen, but its really shows how utterly depraved the Neolutionists are.
- Mega-Corp: The Dyad Institute.
- Mid-Season Twist:
- Season One: Helena makes contact with Sarah, the Neolution movement is revealed as the clone-makers, Paul is given the opportunity to sell out Sarah and chooses to remain loyal to her, Sarah leads Helena to Olivier, the cops restart their investigation from scratch and link Katja to Sarah and learn they resemble Beth.
- Season Two: Rachel reunites with her father, she and Leekie have a showdown in Dyad and Leekie loses. Alison discovers that Vic is selling her out to Angela, so Felix and Sarah help her deal with him. Donnie discovers about the cloning experiment and Alison is finally able to confront him with everything on the table. Cosima discovers that Kira's cells are the cure for the clone disease and Sarah and Kira decide to help her. And Donnie confronts Leekie and accidentally kills him.
- Season Three: Sarah has a dream vision of Beth that convinces her to seek the origin of the programs. The same genetic defect that attacks the Castor mens' brains is what causes the Sterility Plague in Ledas, only it's contagious to the women the Castor men sleep with. Sarah's immunity could be the cure for the Castors. Dr. Coady is doing research to weaponize the defect. Paul moves to shut down the research but gets double-crossed by his superiors. Felix terrorizes Rachel in an attempt to find Castor and Sarah. Paul helps Sarah escape captivity and confesses to her, "It was never Beth I loved." He then blows himself up in a Heroic Sacrifice to destroy Coady's bio-weapon research. Helena comes back for Sarah.
- Mirroring Factions: For two organizations that seem very different, the Neolutionists and Proletheans use similar methods and both think of the clones as objects rather than people.
- Misaimed Fandom: In-universe, Ethan Duncan presents The Island of Doctor Moreau to Kira as a children's story and presents the eponymous Mad Scientist/ Mad Doctor as a role model. Similarly, (showing some parallels) a few episodes later, the Prolethean leader Hank tells Frankenstein as a children's story, and while acknowledging that Victor was wrong to neglect his creation, clearly identifies with/admires Victor.
- Missing Mom:
- Sarah before the events of the show started. She disappeared for a whole year and left Kira with Mrs. S.
- Sarah and Helena's surrogate mom, until the penultimate episode of Season 1.
- Mistaken for Lesbian: Cosima, while impersonating Alison during her speech at the school-board candidates' event, improvises and talks about being a lesbian, to general confusion. It's subverted when Alison returns to the stage as herself and tells people she must have been reading from her opponents' speech.
- Mood Whiplash: The many storylines give the show the opportunity to cut quickly from lighter, more humorous scenes (usually involving Alison and her neighbors) to darker ones (usually involving Helena) without any real time for the audience to transition.
- Morality Pet: Kira serves as this for Helena. It's implied for Sarah as well.
- Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Several examples.
- Aldous Leekie wants to progress human evolution and bring the clones under Dyad control.
- Henrik Johanssen studied at MIT, helped the creation of Leda and Castor, and is the mastermind of a disgusting Medical Rape and Impregnate plot involving his own daughter.
- Virginia Coady plots to use the Leda and Castor clones' defect to create a bio-weapon and has no problem using innocent civilian women as test subjects without their knowledge.
- Murder by Inaction: Suspecting Aynsley of being her monitor (erroneously), Alison does nothing to prevent Aynsley from accidentally strangling herself with a scarf and a drain grinder, even avoiding leaving fingerprints while she watches.
- Must Not Die a Virgin: Averted when Helena breaks off from losing her virginity with Jesse as soon as she gets the message that it's time to go for her Duel to the Death with Rudy.
- My Greatest Failure: Paul is haunted and blackmailed by something he did in Afghanistan, which he reveals to be a friendly fire incident in which he killed 6 Marines. It's later revealed that the entire incident was only a cover story to allow him to infiltrate Dyad on behalf of the military.
- Naked Apron: Felix gets a few scenes of this while he's painting.
- Named After Somebody Famous: Several people and places are named after scientists known for championing evolution:
- Beth's suicide takes place in Huxley Station. Alternately, that and Leekie's first name, Aldous, could be allusions to Aldous Huxley, author of a certain book about a world of clones.
- Felix's last name is Dawkins.
- Dr. Leekie.
- Nausea Fuel: In-Universe and very literally when Sarah-as-Beth drinks the soap.
- Neat Freak: Alison. When she's out of her house and crashing at Felix's place, she cleans his entire flat.
- Never Give the Captain a Straight Answer: Mrs. S calls Sarah and tells her that she'd better come over and see ... Amelia, her birthmother.
- Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer for 2x08 has someone dropping the line "You need to find Beth Childs." However, the episode makes clear that the character who drops the line didn't know that Beth killed herself.
- Nice Mean And In Between:
- The main trio are the warm and gentle Cosima, the impeccable and paranoid Allison, and the Hero with an F in Good Sarah. They later get their respective Character Development, though it barely shakes-up the dynamic.
- The main additional trio are lovable Krystal, the aloof M.K. and the Cloudcuckoolander Woman Child Helena.
- Sarah's main Love Interests are Nice Guy Cal, entitled Stalker with a Crush Vic, and Wild Card Paul.
- Nightmare Fuel: Invoked by name by Felix in regards to items found in Helena's storage locker.
- Noodle Incident: Dyad's leverage over Paul goes unexplained until the first season finale.
- No Endor Holocaust: Many fans worried that the less evil members of Johanssen's cult and the children might have been killed when Helena set fire to the compound. John Fawcett confirmed by Word of God that she raised the alarm and made sure all of them escaped, and all the named characters who might have died were seen to be still alive in the next season.
- No Pregger Sex: Averted twice. Mark and Gracie consummate their marriage while she's pregnant with Helena and Henrik's child. Then Helena makes sure to inform Jesse that she's pregnant as she begins to have sex with him, although she's called away before anything much happens. She says that she is sexually active in a season four episode, however, so presumably they consummated their relationship at some point.
- Not Quite Dead:
- Season 2 reveals that Helena survives being shot by Sarah during the previous Season Finale.
- Both Ethan and Susan Duncan are only Faking the Dead for different reasons.
- "Not So Different" Remark: By Alison to Rachel in the fifth season when the latter states that they very much like to kill the former with their own hands.
- Odd Friendship: Felix and Alison develop their own unique bond over the course of season 1. Compare and contrast Alison's uptight suburban housewife persona with Felix's streetwise, urban, bohemian-artist style.
- Off Screen Moment Of Awesome: After Helena locks herself in with some Portuguese drug runners who threatened children, she emerges soaked in blood and carrying the blade of a paper trimmer.Donnie: [horrified] What did you do?
Helena: I got refund.
- Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Downplayed in that they mostly remain in the field of Biology, but many of the scientist characters — most notably Cosima and Scott — show proficiency in whatever topic the plot needs at the moment.
- Once a Season: Once a year, the show takes a break from the heavy Myth Arc and delivers a wacky comedic farce centered on Alison, who is in the middle of a big event (a potluck, a rehab speech and a school council campaign speech, respectively) but must step out, forcing one of the other clones (Sarah, Sarah again, Cosima) to pretend to be her, with hilarious results.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping:
- In-Universe. When the clones try to impersonate each other they don't always get it right. In particular, Alison's impersonation of Sarah in the fourth episode. Actually pretty good acting on Tatiana Maslany's part.
- For characters that are supposed to be English, Sarah and Felix's accents are all over the place. Possibly justified by having lived away from their home country for so long and the former switching accents to impersonate Beth. Also very likely deliberate in Sarah's case, as Rachel's accent is pretty much flawless.
- Amelia , Sarah and Helena's surrogate mother, is from Cape Town. Her Canadian actress makes a bold stab at some kind of South African accent, but can't really manage it.
- Folks who were born in Russia or the Ukraine have been known to clench their teeth over Helena's "Ukrainian" accent.
- Even Donnie occasionally suffers from this. During Alison's intervention, he at one point pronounces "been" the British way, with a long "e" ... a pronunciation far more common in Western Canada than Eastern.note
- Fridge Brilliance on Tatiana Maslany's part at times; when she's being Sarah being anyone Canadian, Sarah's accent slips through on certain words and sounds. Hilarious example in the scene in rehab where Sarah is being Alison being Donnie.
- Orderlies are Creeps: Olivier's assassin, who is at least posing as one.
- Pet the Dog:
- When Delphine tells Leekie about the other clones Cosima is/was in touch with she doesn't tell him about Kira, even when he asks for more details about Sarah.
- Helena lures Kira away from Siobhan's house but lets her go. Unfortunately, her act of compassion does not end well.
- After Mrs. S. explains to Sarah that she's taking Kira with her to London and leaving Sarah and Felix temporarily, she later lets both Sarah and Kira leave after she learns that the people sheltering them were actually turned by the Proletheans.
- In 2.05, Leekie goes behind Rachel's back to assist Delphine and Cosima with their research.
- Rachel expresses real (if reserved) regret when she discovers Leekie's deception, given their closeness.
- In the season four finale, after stabbing Susan out of anger, Rachel then dresses her wounds and it looks like she will ultimately survive.
- Playing Sick: Sarah chugs the contents of a soap dispenser to buy herself a few more days to figure out what's going on with Beth's hearing.
- Playing with Syringes: Olivier's assassin, briefly, before doing the dirty work.
- Platonic Co-Parenting:
- Sarah raises her daughter Kira primarily with help from her mother and brother. Kira's biological father gets involved in season 2, but doesn't play as large a role in her upbringing.
- By the end of the series, Alison and her husband Donnie are helping Alison's sister Helena raise her twin sons.
- Plot-Triggering Death: Beth's suicide in front of Sarah and Maggie Chen's shooting.
- Police Are Useless: Averted. The fact that the cops are actually good at their jobs makes the whole conspiracy that much more complicated. By the end of Season 1, they begin to figure things out. The Dyad Institute pulls Sarah out of police custody before she can tell Art everything. Furthermore, Beth's competence at her job was the main reason she eventually ended up being blackmailed into suicide: she became a case of She Knows Too Much.
- Pop Culture Osmosis: Manson and Fawcett regularly re-purpose 60's pop music. Some examples:
- Sonny and Cher's "I Got You Babe" during Sarah and Helena's diner sit-down.
- The Archies' "Sugar Sugar," which Helena badly (but enthusiastically) sings along to during a road trip with Sarah.
- The Troggs' "Love Is All Around," which is used not only when Alison's kids visit her in rehab, but also after Donnie accidentally blows Leekie's head off.
- Porn Stash: In "Conditions of Existence", Alison suspects her husband of being in on The Conspiracy, so she starts going through his things. She keeps finding places where he's hiding stuff from her, but they all turn out to be porn DVDs instead of sinister conspiracy-related material. While it would look like he had already gotten rid of the incriminating files beforehand, we later find out in 2x07 that Donnie is absolutely clueless about everything conspiracy related and the stash is most likely real.
- Posthumous Character:
- Beth. We only find out about her in bits and pieces through other characters. Until the season 4 première, which is almost entirely devoted to a lengthy flashback with Beth as the main character.
- Jennifer, another clone in Season 2. Cosima watches videos of her last days while trying to come up with a cure for the Incurable Cough of Death that the clones are susceptible to.
- Rachel's adoptive parents. Subverted in both cases. They both are revealed to have survived the fire that was believed to have killed them, and both become major characters.
- Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: Pouchy's niece really should not have threatened Oscar and Gemma in front of Helena. Might have been a Pre-Mortem One-Liner but it's left uncertain.Helena: Did you threaten babies? You should not threaten babies.
- Precision S-Strike: Kendall Malone gets one during 4x06, right before Duko murders her.Kendall: No tears, Cosima. These shites aren't worth the salt.
- Prelude to Suicide: The fourth season premiere is a Whole Episode Flashback to the events that led up to Beth's suicide. Played with when it's revealed that Beth had no genuine desire to kill herself; she was blackmailed into it by Evie Cho. A lot of her outwardly strange behavior was due to her involvement in the clone conspiracy. After her death everyone misinterpreted her words and actions, assuming they were signs of suicidality when they actually weren't.
- Promotion to Opening Titles: Évelyne Brochu in Season 2, Kristian Bruun and Ari Millen in Season 3, Josh Vokey mid-way through Season 4.
- Properly Paranoid: Pretty much all of the clones. When you're being targeted by two or more conspiracies, it's probably difficult to be too suspicious. Even some of the clones who aren't aware they're clones or of any of the conspiracies targeting them, such as Krystal Goderitch, have begun to fall into this trope. Though this is hilariously played with when Krystal, upon finally learning that she is a clone, has an initial reaction of disbelief.
- Protagonist Title: Played With. Sarah is often referred to as "an orphan" and "children like you who were in the black", but the words "orphan" and "black" are never used in the same sentence until the final episode.
- Really 700 Years Old: The founder of Neolution is revealed to be alive in the season four finale. He would by necessity be well over 100 years old. The other characters lampshade the improbability of this.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: In the season four finale, Delphine strips to her undergarments and gets next to Cosima. This may seem like a blatant excuse for Fanservice, but it's actually exactly what you're supposed to do for victims of hypothermia.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
- At the end of episode 1x05, "Conditions Of Existence," Paul finds out Sarah's trickery and confronts her on it. After Sarah drops the "Beth" act, she coldly calls him out for being Beth's monitor.Sarah: You observe her. You let people into her home. Like last night. Doctors came and medically examined her in her sleep. She knew. You're a plant, and she killed herself because the man that she loved turned her whole life into a lie. She knew you didn't love her and she couldn't understand why you wouldn't leave. And now she figured it out.
- And in episode 2x07, Donnie gets an even colder one from Alison, who calls him out for working for Leekie and putting her family in danger with his spy work.
- At the end of episode 1x05, "Conditions Of Existence," Paul finds out Sarah's trickery and confronts her on it. After Sarah drops the "Beth" act, she coldly calls him out for being Beth's monitor.
- Reckless Gun Usage:
- Inverted. When Sarah-as-Beth is given Beth's service weapon back, she's too nervous to even load it. Art notices and flips out on her for riding empty.
- Let's just say Donnie didn't mean to shoot Dr. Leekie.
- Beth herself inverts the trope as well, at first, until she draws a gun on Paul without it being clear whether she actually intends to use it (she doesn't end up using it), and then not too long after freaks out and shoots Maggie Chen on reflex. She also insists on Alison inverting the trope, flat-out insisting that she not load her gun until she's been properly trained in firearm usage.
- Research, Inc.: The Dyad Institute is a Mega-Corp that specializes in making advancements in biotechnology and genetic experimentation.
- Rescue Arc: The first six episodes of Season 3 revolves around Sarah searching for ways to save Helena from Castor.
- Room Full of Crazy: Helena has one.
- Russian Guy Suffers Most: Poor Helena's life is suffering. (Although she's actually Ukrainian.)
- Sacrificial Lamb: Katja dies at the end of the first episode, about two minutes after she shows up.
- Sanity Slippage: Due to the nature of the situation each of the clones (and Felix too) show some signs of fraying around the edges to one degree or another. Rachel and Beth seem to have gotten the worst of it thus far.
- Sarcastic Confession: There are multiple times when one clone is asked if she is a twin of one of the other girls, and the response given is "we're clones." Naturally, nobody believes that. In season 3, Alison even shows Cosima to her mother, but the latter quickly rationalizes it away.
- Scare Chord: Helena's leitmotif makes heavy use of these to exceptional effect.
- Science Hero: Cosima.
- Sci-Fi Bob Haircut: Rachel Duncan and Evie Cho, befitting the genre of the show.
- Second-Hand Storytelling: We finally learn exactly what happened to Paul in Afghanistan when he tells Sarah about it in the elevator.
- Self-Harm: Helena has cuts on her back which makes it look like she has wings, and it seen cutting multiple times in season one.
- Send in the Clones: Averted by the main clone characters, who all look and act very differently from each other. Invoked when Sarah first meets Rachel Duncan (see the Genre Savvy entry). Played straight in the Season 2 finale, when we discover that Project Castor has been producing identical male clones.
- Separated at Birth: Sarah and Helena, who are twin sisters.
- Series Continuity Error: The series starts at November 2012 and the (first) Season Finale chronologically ends about two weeks later based on dialogue. In said (first) Season Finale, Alison lets Aynsley die by choking. However, Season 2 shows Aynsley's tombstone saying that she died in 2014.
Delphine: It's really nice to make a friend in the brave new world.
- The train station where Sarah sees Beth kill herself is Huxley Station, named after an author who wrote a book in which the entire population is genetically engineered.
- A character in a conspiracy thriller named Art Bell? Really?
- First rule of Clone Club.
- While pursuing the killer in episode 4, Art tells "Beth" to "follow the bloody brick road"
- Delphine in episode 6:
- Also, the man who created the clones and is apparently responsible for the experiment is named Dr. Aldous Leekie.
- There are a lot of Ginger Snaps connections — not surprising, given that John Fawcett (who directed the first film and produced the other two) is one of the creators of Orphan Black. Tatiana Maslany and Eric Johnson (Chad) were also in the second film, Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed, as Ghost and Tyler.
- Alison's neighborhood of Bailey Downs shares its name with the subdivision where Ginger and Brigitte live in the first film.
- Just like Ginger, Olivier has a tail (albeit a prosthetic one), and gets it cut off (just as Ginger tried to do to hers).
- In Episode 2.01, Sarah escapes an attacker by kicking a hole in a wall, much as Brigitte did in the climax.
- Dr. Leekie's fate in season 2 mirrors that of Trina in the first film. Leekie gets killed by accident while arguing with Donnie, and he and Alison bury his body in the garage; likewise, Trina gets killed by accident while arguing with Ginger, and she and Brigitte bury her body in the shed.
- Sarah says "I've got a bad feeling about this" in the season 3 trailer.
- Cosima drinks from a mug with "Don't Panic" written on it.
- Sickbed Slaying: Oliver, the show's first onscreen death at someone else's hands.
- Significant Name Overlap: Alison's fellow clone, Sarah Manning, and close friend, Sarah Stubbs, have the same first name. She uses this fact as part of a Feed the Mole trick to test if her husband Donnie has been spying on her for the Dyad Institute; he knows Sarah Stubbs but if he's innocent, he shouldn't know who Sarah Manning is. Donnie easily falls for it, confirming that he is in fact a spy.
- Staging an Intervention: Alison's husband and friends try to stage one about her recent odd behavior (due to her clone Sarah filling in for her), her increasing alcoholism, and torturing her husband when she suspected that he was her secret monitor/handler.
- Starts with a Suicide: Beth jumps in front of a subway car in the early moments of the pilot.
- Stepford Smiler: Alison tries for this when her life starts to fall apart. It goes off the rails pretty rapidly.
- Stepford Suburbia: Where Alison lives. She cheats on her husband with Aynsley's husband, but it turns out they've both had affairs before. Later we learn that many of her neighbors are secretly on drugs.
- Sterility Plague:
- Alison asks early on if Kira is Sarah's biological daughter (Alison's children are adopted) and we later learn that Beth was infertile.
- Again referenced when Helena asks Kira how she could possibly be Sarah's daughter. Helena is visibly distraught by this.
- Tomas immediately declares that Kira shouldn't exist upon learning of her existence, and decides to hunt her down. Delphine deliberately hides her existence from Dr. Leekie.
- Possibly averted in that the encoded patent in the clones' DNA covers "this organism and derivative genetic material", implying that their creators may have accounted for the possibility of children... or further cloning. It's later revealed that Sarah is the only fertile clone they're aware of.
- As of 2.03 it appears that the clones are subject to an auto-immune disorder that targets the uterus, rendering them sterile. Sarah is presumably immune, possibly a result of sharing the Healing Factor that Kira and Helena seem to possess. Events later in the season suggest that Helena is immune as well. Project LEDA is also implied to be related to this.
- In 2.08 Ethan reveals that Sarah (and presumably also Helena) were mistakes and the clones were barren by design.
- In 3.06, Paul and Sarah find out that the Castor defect sterilizes the women the clones have sex with. Coady wants to turn the defect that the clones have into some sort of bio-weapon.
- Strapped to an Operating Table: Several examples.
- Olivier before his death, due to his injury. Also because of it, he is strapped face down.
- Helena does this to Henrik in season two, as revenge for what he's done to her and Gracie.
- Sarah gets this treatment from Dyad in the second season finale.
- String Theory: Art and Angie put one of these together. It lacks the string (so far) but has all the other elements.
- Super Strength: Although it's played for laughs, there's strong evidence that Alison is physically stronger than Donnie. In late season 2 she easily handles a jackhammer that's giving him a hard time and in season 3 she carries crates full of soap that he's struggling with. Helena also displays superior physical strength, easily beating up much larger men frequently. In a scene showing Krystal training in self-defense, her large, well-built male instructor is shocked at her ability to easily throw him around.
- Surprise Incest: The Castor and Leda originals are siblings, meaning the Castor and Leda clones are biologically related. Rudy and Krystal made out, and possibly had sex, before this revelation.
- Surprisingly Happy Ending: Prior to the finale, there was a heavy Tonight, Someone Dies tone to the advertising. Turns out that the only people that die are both evil. Furthermore, Helena gives birth to her twins without issue and everyone gets a happy ending.
- The Troubles: Mrs. S states that she ran an orphanage for children lost in part due to this.
- Three Plus Two: Clone Club. Sarah, Alison and Cosima make the Power Trio while the late Beth and Katja round out the Five-Man Band. Felix counts as a Sixth Ranger. Over the course of the show additional characters have become inducted to a certain extent.
- Title Drop:
- Sarah asks her foster mother Mrs. S. where she came from. Turns out she was an orphan brought in from the underground...or, as Mrs. S. describes it, "from the black."
- In the final episode, the title is directly referenced — Orphan Black is the name of Helena's autobiography about herself and her sisters.
- Those Two Guys: Art and Angie seem to be turning into this, with Art only slightly more invested in the truth behind Sarah.
- Tomato in the Mirror: When Sarah first learns that she's a clone.
- Too Dumb to Live: Anyone who threatens or abuses children in front of Helena qualifies as this, especially if she's related to them, either by blood or by adoption.
- Took a Level in Badass: Somewhere between finding out his wife is a clone and shooting Doctor Leekie, Donnie apparently grew a pair.
- Torture Always Works:
- Averted. Despite being severely burned by the dripping glue, Donnie does not confess to being Alison's monitor.
- Also averted when Mark tries this on Willard Finch. Finch has a heart attack and dies, leaving Mark empty-handed.
- Played straight with Siobhan and Duko.
- Torture Cellar: Alison's craft room, when she has Donnie tied up in there.
- Town Girls:
- The original Clone Club trio has Femme Fatale Con Artist Sarah (butch), cultured Suburban Soccer mom Alison (femme) and scientist Cosima (neither).
- The official Clone Club additional trio are Tyke-Bomb Psychopathic Man Child Helena (butch), fashionable Valley Girl Krystal (femme) and elusive hacker M.K. (neither).
- Trailers Always Spoil:
- The ad campaign spoiled the main plot, in addition to Beth and Katja's deaths.
- And now that the show's initial run has ended, Space's ads for the show include the final episode's Wham Line. Hope you don't get into this show during its rerun season!
- And if you haven't gotten into this show by now, you've very likely had the existence of Rachel spoiled by BBC America's ads congratulating Tatiana Maslany on an award nomination.
- Twin Switch:
- Constantly. In the first season we get to see Sarah as Beth, Sarah as Katja, Alison as Sarah, Sarah as Alison, Helena as Sarah and Helena as Sarah as Beth.
- Over the course of season 2, we also see Sarah as Cosima, Sarah as Rachelnote and Rachel posing as Sarah to kidnap Kira from the hospital.
- Hilariously invoked in the second season premiere when Sarah leaks Alison's location, and the make of Alison's van to Daniel. When Daniel captures Alison, he is forced to let her go when he realizes he has been had.
- The season 3 premiere gives us Sarah as Rachel in person this time, and also Alison as Sarah once again.
- Over the course of season 3, we see Cosima as Alison, Helena as Alison, Rachel having Krystal kidnapped in her place so she could secretly escape Dyad, and in a first for the Castor clones, Mark as Rudy.
- Season 4 has Helena as Alison, Sarah as Krystal, Sarah as Beth.
- T-Word Euphemism: Alison, Sarah, and Felix have all used the letter "F" as a stand-in for "fuck".
- Un-Confession: Under interrogation by Art after she's arrested for impersonating Beth, Sarah is just about to reveal the secret of the clones to him when a lawyer retained for her by Dyad walks in and tells her to say nothing more as the interrogation is over.
- Undying Loyalty:
- Sarah and Felix are very loyal to one another, mostly to Felix's detriment.
- Art's loyalty to Beth even extends beyond her death and is extended to Clone Club when he is inducted into it.
- Helena develops a loyalty to Sarah and Kira that survives even beyond her being shot by the former.
- Villains Never Lie: When Evie tells Cosima that Delphine is dead, Cosima doesn't even consider the possibility that Evie might be lying until Felix reveals that Krystal saw Delphine get carried away, still alive, after being shot. Sure enough, Delphine is confirmed to be alive in episode 4x09, and she and Cosima finally reunite in the season finale.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Deconstructed with Alison and Aynsley. Their friendship rapidly deteriorates into mutual animosity.
- Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Sarah-as-Beth, all over the table at the hearing as a result of drinking the soap. And then Beth herself, in a flashback, after shooting Maggie Chen.
- Vomiting Cop: Subverted by not taking place at a crime scene but at a disciplinary hearing, by having it be self-induced and the character doing it being someone pretending to be a cop. Played straight by Beth in a flashback after she shot Maggie Chen.
- Waif Prophet: Kira, who wakes up sensing that "something bad is about to happen" minutes before the police burst in and arrest Sarah and Felix.
- Walking Spoiler:
- It's virtually impossible to talk about Helena without spoiling large elements of the plot, most notably the fact that she and Sarah are sisters.
- Looking up information on Mark or his actor will spoil the existence of the male Project Castor clones.
- Susan and Ethan Duncan are additional examples, as the mere fact that they're alive is a huge spoiler, and the extent of their involvement in the plot is more so.
- Evie Cho is yet another example as a Hidden Villain until episode 4x06.
- Finally, there's Westmoreland; probably about half of his character page is blanked out.
- Was It All a Lie?: Whenever one of the clones learns that their lover was their monitor. In Paul's case, yes, it was a lie; but he did come to care about Beth, even if he didn't love her. (He does fall in love with Sarah.) In Delphine and Donnie's cases, no, they really did love the clones they were monitoring.
- We Hardly Knew Ye: Katja and Beth don't survive the scenes that introduce them. Subverted with Beth when we get a Whole Episode Flashback with her as the main character.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Coady wants to end war, which is admirable. She plans to do this by creating a biological weapon from the Castor pathogen using unwilling/uninformed women as lab rats, which isn't.
- Wham Episode:
- 1x08. Helena discovers where Sarah lives and attempted to kidnap Kira. After she lets the kid go, Kira is hit by a van. The episode also features Art and Angie finally connecting the dots on Beth and Katja's deaths, and Alison snapping and sleeping with Aynsley's husband out of spite, resulting in her being banished and staying with Sarah leading to them revealing their clone status to Mrs. S.
- 1x09. Art finally discovers what really happened with Beth and proceeds to arrest Sarah, Cosima finally confirms that Delphine is indeed her monitor, and Sarah and Helena are revealed to be twin sisters.
- 3x09, "Insolvent Phantom of Tomorrow" has Sarah and Siobhan discover that the Castor and Leda originals are the same woman, who has genetic chimerism due to absorbing a male twin in the womb. She's Siobhan's mother. And Ferdinand is hot on their trail. Also, Pouchy's crew wants Donnie to return the drugs he and Alison are dealing after his confrontation with Kellerman. They take Helena's embryos as collateral. When Donnie and Helena go to get them back, Helena deals with Pouchy's crew in a bloody and violent fashion. Also, Delphine confronts Shay thinking she's The Mole who helped Castor steal Duncan's book. She's not. It was Gracie, who did it so she could reunite with Mark.
- 4x06. It reveals that Beth committed suicide purely to spare the other clones after being blackmailed; Kendall Malone is killed and her genetic material apparently destroyed, as is Cosima's research. It also reveals that Delphine was apparently killed at the end of the third season. Major Downer Ending, to say the least. On the plus side, Susan Duncan comes out seeming way, way less villainous, and it looks like she may end up being a major ally to Clone Club from here on out, if only due to Enemy Mine.
- Wham Line:
- "Sarah, I'm your birth mother," followed by "I had twins," then "I left one at the state, and one at the church."
- Episode 10 gives two in a row, when Sarah meets with Amelia, her birth mother. First, Amelia tells Sarah that Mrs. S is not who she says she is. This is immediately followed by Sarah asking Amelia "how did scientists put baby inside you?" in Helena's accent.
- Also from Episode 10: "This organism and derivative genetic material are restricted intellectual property."
- From the season 2 finale: "While Dyad carried female clones to term, the military faction carried the males."
- Wham Shot:
- Towards the end of the 1x08: after Helena lets go of Kira, the latter is ran over by a van.
- Towards the end of the season 2 premiere: A shot and bloody Helena staggering into an ER, alive.
- The final moments of the season 2 finale which show that the Project Castor male clones are played by Ari Millen, meaning that Mark is a clone.
- Paul lets the rag covering his wound fall, revealing a live grenade.
- The final moment of 4.09 shows Delphine to be alive and well.
- What Happened to the Mouse?:
- A few early scenes indicate that Delphine and Leekie are in an intimate relationship. When she hooks up with Cosima, this is never mentioned or dealt with again.
- The first time we see little Charlotte, she's with Marian Bowles. The next time, she's now with Susan Duncan, and is handing her over to Rachel. It's not shown where Marian Bowles went off to in between. M.K. suggests that Marian is dead in season four, but it's still not clear what happened to her.
- In the Season 3 finale, Delphine tells Shay to talk to Cosima and gives her information on the clone conspiracy. We never see Shay again, and there is no indication that she and Cosima ever spoke after this.
- Helena's boyfriend Jesse returns at the end of season three, but before they can have sex they are interrupted by more pressing matters. Despite promising to continue later, Jesse doesn't appear during the celebratory dinner at the end of the episode. In fact, he never appears at all after this. Helena does mention that she is sexually active during a later episode, which could suggest that she and Jesse are still in an off-screen relationship.
- Wig, Dress, Accent: Basically how Sarah impersonates Beth, Katja, and Cosima. With Alison it's basically hairband, blouse and accent. Justified in that they're all clones and look exactly the same, so that's pretty much all she needs.
- Withholding the Cure: Rachel obstructs Cosima's medical treatment on at least two occasions; mostly to force Sarah to bend but partly out of spite.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Helena, so much.
- World of Badass: Plenty. Badassery seems to be one of the clones genetic traits, and half the rest of the cast have military/paramilitary backgrounds.
- You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious: Sarah and Felix usually call Siobhan "Mrs. S" or just "S", but when things get very serious or emotional they switch to "Mum".
- You Have Failed Me: Dr. Leekie has Olivier killed in the hospital for letting Helena get away and lying to him about it, although it is slightly subverted by his decision to promote Paul to replace Olivier even though he at least suspects (correctly) that Paul was complicit in the deception.