One of the most fascinating aspects of Orphan Black is when the clones cosplay as each other, which usually happens when they're trying to avoid some great threat.

Alison might jump into Sarah's clothes, or Cosima could try to be Alison. The weird thing is that you're watching one actress, the brilliant Tatiana Maslany, play one character who is playing another character, and embodying the physicality and facial expressions of each with enough conviction to make you think you're actually watching three different people. It's fascinating, and a central part of two stories: how the clone relationships developed, and how each one acts out their femininity.

In the season three premiere of Orphan Black, devious Delphine enlists the help of Alison and Sarah to trick a safety reviewer into thinking everything is on the up and up at Dyad. Alison is going to pretend to be Sarah, and Sarah is going to pretend to be Rachel, currently laid up in the hospital having her eye taken out thanks to the pencil Sarah shot through it last season. Why didn't Alison pretend to be Rachel and Sarah just play herself? It's not enough drama, maybe. Plus, Alison has tried that before and can't quite get the accent right. It's cool that they can jump into each other's skin so easily while still maintaining such distinct personalities; they didn't grow up together, so their emotional connection isn't a given, and they had to work really hard to find each other and have a relationship at all.


This time around, Felix had to give Sarah a "Rachel" makeover, which they did at Rachel's house. Sarah lacks the cold confidence of Rachel, but easily gets into the character when she's having makeup applied and a wig placed on her head. What she lacks in confidence she makes up for in effecting a look; it's a strange examination of femininity, because Rachel, while well coiffed, is stunningly austere. Sarah is a little bit more wild, and it's fun to watch the generally rigid Alison become slightly more feral. Again, these are all the same actress, so we're seeing these drastic personality switches take place in one person.


This is why fans complained about Tatiana Maslany being left out of the Emmy Award nominations last year. What she does with one character is remarkable, but the vulnerability and talent she has to possess in order to embody all of these iterations of clones is off the charts. I can't think of another actress who can even come close. She's more and more believable as the series goes on, too — perpetually sick Cosima has a twinkle in her eye that replaces Sarah's frown lines, and Alison's rigidity is slightly more tamped down than Rachel's, even if they are in the same vein. It's a treat to watch Maslany embody all of these women at once.

Danielle Henderson is a lapsed academic, heavy metal karaoke machine, and culture editor at Fusion. She enjoys thinking about how race, gender, and sexuality shape our cultural narratives, but not in a boring way.