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Orphan Black: Echoes’ Review: A Middling Sci-Fi Mystery

Set nearly 40 years after the end of the original series, “Orphan Black: Echoes” opens as a woman named Lucy (Krysten Ritter) awakens in an unfamiliar environment. Though the scientist (Keeley Hawes) who rouses her tries to calm her down, Lucy is agitated and eventually flees. When the audience meets Lucy again two years later, she seems content with the quiet life she’s built on a farm in the Massachusetts countryside with her lover, Jack (Avan Jogia), and Jack’s young daughter, Charlie (Zariella Langford-Haughton). Inwardly, however, she’s haunted by the fact that she has no memories from before the scientist (who has major ties to the original series) awakened her. After an incident on the farm pushes her to uncover her origin story, she’s horrified by what she learns.

“Orphan Black: Echoes” boasts an intriguing connection to the original show — John Fawcett, co-creator of “Orphan Black,” is director and executive producer on the spinoff — and a multilayered mystery at its heart. While this saga has compelling themes, its magic gets dimmed in the perplexing plot points and unnecessary exposition that perforate its 10-episode first season.

When “Orphan Black” debuted more than a decade ago — with, at its center, the wildly talented Tatiana Maslany, who’d win a drama lead actress Emmy in 2016 for her role as the series’ clones — there was nothing like it on television. Since then, shows such as Apple TV+’s “Dark Matter” and Netflix’s “1899” have tackled similar topics. As a result, “Echoes” doesn’t stand out, making it a middling spinoff. From the beginning, this new series, which oddly aired in its entirety in Australia last year, doesn’t quite possess the urgency of its predecessor. Still, Ritter’s dynamism and the fandom surrounding the original show will likely entice viewers to tune in. Yet, getting them to stay invested is a feat “Echoes” may not be able to accomplish.

After a violent encounter at their home puts Lucy, Charlie and Jack in danger, they relocate to Boston, where Lucy tries to figure out the truth behind her identity. With only a worn photograph of a baby to guide her, Lucy encounters a stubborn teen named Jules (Amanda Fix), whom she recognizes but can’t seem to place. Jules also has a murky past. Having lost her birth parents and her own memories in a car accident some years prior, she lives with her wealthy adoptive parents in the city. Like Lucy, Jules has never quite felt at ease.

Clones and the ramifications of using science to manipulate the human experience was a major theme of “Orphan Black,” but “Echoes” asks its own questions. These queries concern grief, aging, companionship, eugenics and the human capacity to love and let go. While Ritter and the cast surrounding her are solid, the first half of the season lacks momentum. In fact, the core story doesn’t come into focus until Episode 6, “Unless You Trusted Someone.” Here, the viewer becomes privy to the work Hawes’ scientist — whose name has been deemed a spoiler — has been doing at the Darros Foundation, run by conniving billionaire Paul Darros (James Hiroyuki Liao). Also, a revelation during this segment puts the primary narrative on an entirely new path.

As Darros and the scientist’s motivations become evident, Lucy’s and Jules’ backstories are unveiled. However, the bulkiness of the first few episodes, which are cluttered with unneeded storylines and characters who add nothing to the overall narrative, results in a less astonishing reveal when the story finally picks up steam. Still, Ritter and Fix infuse enough charm in their characters for the audience to remain mostly engaged until the end. Although some revelations are gasp-worthy, other plot points — including Darros’ secret plan — feel rather uninspired for the “Orphan Black” universe.

 “Orphan Black Echoes” premieres June 23 on AMC with new episodes dropping weekly on Sundays.

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