Is there anything that Tatiana Maslany cannot do? That seems to be one of the resounding themes of Orphan Black, a perfectly sci-fi drama series that challenges the 30-year-old actress by putting her in numerous roles as several identical clones created under Project Leda. This year marks Maslany’s second nomination for Best Actress in a Television Drama and, hopefully, her first big Emmy win.
The show’s perfect lighting and CGI deserves an Emmy of their own, but it’s truly Maslany’s performances that make these characters so different from one another: When one is in conflict with the other, it never seems like Maslany is fighting with herself. One of the show’s greatest gags, in fact, was on full display during the action-packed season finale, when Maslany portrayed Sarah, who was disguised as manicurist clone Krystal.
Beyond the phenomenon is a roster of complex characters, and, while some fans prefer certain clones over others, one thing is for certain: It’s really hard to choose. So, while some may disagree with this ranking, please know that it was made as painstakingly as a fictional character ranking can be.
12. Janika, Aryanna, and Danielle
Let’s get this one out of the way quick, since it’s at the top of every list, anyway. While these ladies were probably very cool, none of them have really been fleshed out yet. At least, not in the story. But by Helena? Yes, probably.
11. Jennifer Fitzsimmons
A cautionary tale to the ailing Cosima, Jennifer’s progressive illness worsened and warned the brilliant scientist about what was about to happen. Though Maslany’s performance as Jennifer can only be seen through old tapes, watching her downfall was like enduring a slow heartbreak. As soon as one realized it was too late for Jennifer, she was gone, just as her last words had predicted.
10. Krystal Goderich
Krystal saw more action this past season, and her perfectly off-center personality shined as she served as a vital informant to her sestras. Sure, she doesn’t quite understand what’s going on; and sure, she’s pretty vain; and sure, she called Sarah a 7…but Krystal is a breath of fresh air, sometimes, when the show dips into grim territory.
9. Katja Obinger
Katja may have been strange, but she was also quick, cunning and ready to fight for her life. While her death came swift and early, Katja’s sacrifice helped to connect vital dots about Project Leda right at the show’s beginning. Katja’s sitting at Number 9 for her keen senses, her will to survive, and her killer style.
8. Tony Sawicki
Tony is only really ranked this low because of the lack of time we’ve spent with him. There’s been a lot of important discussion about Maslany’s controversial role as a transgender man, but Tony’s expressive charm and comfortable nature have been unforgettable since we last saw him in Season 2. Tony has seemingly decided not to deal with the problems of Project Leda, which is probably for the best, given that things have only gotten progressively worse for the rest of the Leda clones. .
7. Rachel Duncan
She was bad, she was good, now she’s bad again, and goodness, do I love her that way. Rachel’s villainy is now back in top form with Evie Cho out of the way, and all bets are off for alliances — to a degree. Rachel is an interesting character because of the way she seems to subvert the tropes of struggling between light and dark. Rachel has her moments, but she is likely not on her way to becoming the Vegeta to Sarah’s Goku anytime soon.
6. Beth Childs
The linchpin behind it all, Beth’s actual appearances are short — and one of them is a hallucination. Beth’s suicide at the beginning of the show set off a chain reaction, and while we’ve gotten to spend little time with the character, her legacy lived on (until Sarah kind of screwed it up). Beth’s brief appearance during a hallucination-slash-vision was an emotional, strange trip into the character’s few words.
New to this past season, M.K. (or, Veera Suominen) is a major link to the events that occurred before the night of Beth’s suicide. M.K. was close to Beth, and most of her early life, as Veera, can be seen in the Orphan Black: Helsinki comic. While her relationship with other clones, including Sarah, is still forming, M.K. is an interesting new character whose sense of survivor’s remorse is worn on her sleeve.
4. Alison Hendrix
Alison may be purposefully drawn back from as much Clone Drama as she can be, but let’s face it: she’s the source of a lot of the less lethal drama, most of the time. Alison’s bouts of paranoia and battles with anxiety seemed a little played up when she first appeared, but her character has eased into a far less selfish, far more open person over the past few seasons. Alison may not be at her best state of mental health at all times, but for what it’s worth, that sense of helplessness within the anxiety she feels (however dramaticized) is perfectly executed on screen by Maslany.
3. Sarah Manning
The primary protagonist among the clone sisterhood has come so far over the past few years, and is still one of the best among all of the clones for her presentation of a complicated woman trying to do her best as a mother. Rarely do we see moms spotlighted in such unapologetic ways, especially during a rekindling familial relationship like the one between Sarah and her daughter, Kira. Tenderness edges along Sarah’s gruff exterior, and somehow, Sarah stands out during moments where she has to impersonate another clone – which happens a lot more to her than anyone else on the show.
Helena isn’t crazy just to be crazy, and she isn’t angsty for the sake of angst. Helena has been part of some of the most violent scenes in the show, and has killed several of her beloved “sestras” in the past, but is a compelling person who toes the line between good and bad. Maslany’s performances as the erratic Helena are often some of the most talked-about every time she appears. Helena’s complicated relationships with the other clones may have softened (for the most part), but even though she’s living with Allison, she’s still very unpredictable.
1. Cosima Niehaus
From start to finish, Cosima’s view of the world and the way she copes with trauma have been one of the most intriguing parts of her character. The laid back, open lesbian, scientist super-nerd charmed her way into fans’ hearts with her clever wit and unrelenting need to care for her newfound sisters. As logical as she wishes she were, Cosima’s humanity is what makes her shine, and her bold will to survive in the face of a dilapidating disease (and supreme heartbreak) are the highlights of Maslany’s performances as the character.
I personally think Krystal should be ranked closer to the top of the list. She’s so fun and fab!