I have always loved TV shows that make us think about how we treat society and our actions, and confront us to take a deeper glance within ourselves, seeing if our actions align with our words and our beliefs. It’s these type of shows that can transcend the test for time because of their enduring and universal messages applicable to every person around the world, regardless of culture, religion, morals and other values.
So now I would like to delve into the primary concept of identity- who are we? This fundamental and necessary notion, explored in shows like Orphan Black, Continuum,and Person of Interest, requires us to examine our shortcomings and flaws, our strengths, our hopes and dreams, our desires, our relationships with others, and what we want our legacy to be. And at times when we ask ourselves ‘Is this it? Is there more?’, I am certain that these TV shows’ messages will bring us a clearer understanding and picture of who we are, who we can be, and who we are meant to be.
Orphan Black, an action-packed sci-fi show debuting on BBC America last year, was one of the most popular and critically acclaimed shows that has probably ever been made, and that is predominately due to the exemplary and flawless performance of Tatiana Maslany, who plays a total of around 10 characters, and has been nominated in various prestigious award shows. All of them clones; each character that Tatiana plays grapples with the truth that they are someone’s failed experiment, also figuring out why they were cloned in the first place, who they are individually, and how to take their lives back, from shady organisations and their monitors.
The series shows us many deaths, shocking secrets, new clones, and plenty of parallel stories that interweave together and overlap as the show progresses. However, despite the busyness and frenzied pace of the episodes, the main concept of identity remains. As these clones try to understand where they come from, and if they’ll be anything more than a copy of the original, rather than their own person; we are presented with that question of identity as well. Are we more than our choices, our mistakes, and the words spoken over us; and are we more than the environment we live in, and more than our genes?
Continuum, debuting on Showcase, a Canadian TV channel, in 2012, is another exciting and challenging identity-confronting TV show, with the main character Keira Cameron, played skilfully and professionally by Rachel Nichols, thrown back in time from the year 2077 to 2012, and forced to adjust to ‘modern’ day life. Thrust into the police force, she has to solve crimes without changing anything too drastic that could alter her existence, while also trying to get home to the future that she knows and remembers.
Despite the fact that we know that time travel isn’t possible right now, or maybe ever; Continuum deftly shows us time travel that is as simple to understand as any other show, and also focuses on the identity of Keira outside of her familiar environment, and away from her family. The idea that Keira may never get home and may have to resign to the fact that her life is never the same; the question is posed to us about our identity, and if we are who we are without the presence of our loved ones, and in the presence of total strangers.
The final identity themed show that is one of my favourites is the procedural show Person Of Interest, starring Jim Caviezel and Michael Emerson, as a an ex-special military agent and a computer hacker respectively. These friends, who are both presumed to be dead, help people in sticky situations before the perpetrator harms the victim, with the help of an all knowing machine that can analyse raw data in the form of social security numbers.
However therein lies my ‘issue’ with the show, as identity is simplified shown into a bunch of numbers, and obviously we as humans are more than that. We can feel, we are complex, we love, we hate, we feel betrayed, we feel popular, we feel successful or like a failure because of our choices and sometimes we can hold grudges; so to say that we are just numbers on a screen is really reducing us to the lowest of the low. And how can anyone label us as a victim or a criminal when the world today isn’t so black and white? Despite the limitations of this eye-opening series, it does get me thinking and that is a good thing indeed.
(Note- the video below recaps season 3; the season 1 trailer is available but not uploaded by the official youtube account, which is why it isn’t embedded on this site! IF you haven’t seen the show, don’t watch this trailer and instead watch a promo of season 1!)
So now that I’ve spoken about identity in light of nature v nurture (Orphan Black), in light of being apart from ones family (Continuum) and in light of the sum of our choices and decisions (Person of Interest), I’m going to finish up by asking a question? Who do you say you are? As a Christian I know my identity is in Jesus Christ, and no matter where I am in life I know that He is right beside me guiding me through life’s ups and downs. But for everyone else, their own opinion on identity could be different, and I’d like to hear your thoughts. So comment away. Which of the three TV shows in this article resonates with you the most?