Orphan Black: Season One
Debuting quietly as part of BBC America's Saturday night sci-fi line-up between Doctor Who and a Nerdist talk show, the Canadian-made clone saga Orphan Black very quickly established itself as not only the network's best series, but also one of the best series on TV period. Certainly, it features the best lead performance around in Tatiana Maslany's dazzling tour-de-force as not just one, but six women who share the same face, but drastically different personalities, among them bad-ass outlaw Sarah (the de facto main character), high-strung soccer mom Alison and German killer Helena. But Orphan Black also boasts terrific writing that's packed with plenty of twists and turns and merrily straddles genres, from cop drama to medical thriller to pure farce. (If the show has a flaw, it's in the inconsistent supporting cast surrounding Maslany; some -- particularly Sarah's flamboyant buddy Felix (Jordan Gavaris) -- are fun to spend time with. Others not so much.) And for those who jumped aboard the Orphan Black train in the beginning, it's gratifying to see the show's buzz factor take off as others discover it via repeats or this DVD set. And if Maslany gets that Emmy nomination she so richly deserves, look for a big ratings jump when Season 2 returns in 2014. Personally, we're counting the days.
Extras: A making-of featurette, tour of the set and profiles of each clone.
Click here to see the best clone moments from Season 1
Alphas: Season Two
Damages: The Complete Fifth Season
After an inconsistent first season, Syfy's version of Marvel's venerable X-Men comic line found steadier ground in its sophomore year. But the creative improvements didn't lead to a ratings uptick, so Alphas' team of mutants called it a day after 13 episodes, during which time they tangled with Magneto-like human-hater Stanton Parish and dealt with the fallout of their existence having been revealed to the general population. The season then ends on a cliffhanger that, barring the possibility of a follow-up comic, will never be resolved. Also wrapping up its run -- albeit on a far more definitive note, mainly because the writers knew the end was nigh -- was the Glenn Close legal eagle series Damages, which launched on FX before moving to DirecTV for its final few years. Continuing its tradition of bringing aboard special guest stars for season-long arcs as the designated heavy, Ryan Phillippe joins the show as a hacker whose case forces Close's Patty Hewes to square off against her one-time assistant, Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne), in court. If you've stuck with the series this long, you'll be happy to hear it ends on a mostly satisfying note that (shades of The Shield finale) doesn't let monster-in-heels Patty off the hook for her questionable behavior over the years. So farewell Damages… at least you can boast about having a longer life than Terriers and Lights Out.
Extras: Unlike its mutant-powered heroes, the Alphas set comes with no frills. Damages, meanwhile, offers a modest collection of deleted scenes and outtakes.
Hell on Wheels: The Complete Second Season
One of the many problems with the recent big-screen version of The Lone Ranger is that it seemed to borrow a big portion of its plotline -- one involving Tom Wilkinson's villainous railway baron -- from AMC's semi-popular Western series about the construction of America's first transcontinental railway service, with Colm Meaney as a far more intimidating train tycoon. And while it may not feature Johnny Depp clowning around Jack Sparrow style, Hell on Wheels is a lot more entertaining, though not quite up to the standards of the network's premiere shows, Mad Men and… um The Walking Dead. Season 2's ongoing storylines included the outbreak of war between Meaney's company and the Sioux Nation, whose land he's laying track through, and the ongoing attempts of Civil War veteran Cullan Bohannon (Anson Mount) to find his wife's actual killer after offing the wrong guy at the end of Season 1. Season 3 of Hell on Wheels commences this August, by which time The Lone Ranger will be preparing for an afterlife in the DVD dustbin.
Extras: Ten featurettes, a set tour guided by Mount, and additional making-of material.
Also on DVD:
Cinemax's soft-core anthology series Femme Fatales: The Complete Second Season offers another batch of badly-written, ridiculously-acted crime scenarios redeemed only by plenty of nudity. Enjoy the antics of Cartoon Network's popular Regular Show: Season 1 & Season 2 in high-def. The cult British sci-fi serial Misfits: Season Three releases another batch of episodes on disc. Finally, travel back to the early 21st century courtesy of George Lopez: The Complete Third Season, which collects the ABC sitcom's 2003-2004 season.
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