Orange Is The New Black…are you addicted yet?

orange-is-the-new-black-posterI haven’t had much luck with Netflix Original Series so far. I never finished House of Cards, and Arrested Development was disappointing compared to what the show once was. But when my fiance watched a few episodes of Orange is the New Black and told me I should really, really catch up, I took his advice.

Within a few episodes, we were completed addicted. I didn’t mainline the series in one sitting or anything, but I’m pretty sure I finished it within a week. The first part of this review is relatively spoiler free, so only click through for more at the bottom if you’ve seen everything.

For those of you who don’t know, the show is (very loosely) based on a memoir about a WASPy yuppy who goes to federal prison for drug charges. In her younger, wilder days she’d had a relationship with a woman who worked for an international drug cartel, and her brief involvement finally caught up with her.

The show is darkly funny, and paints a brilliantly colorful, over-the-top world inside the prison. It can also be stressful – many times I found myself aghast at the immorality of a prison employee, declaring “That’s not fair!” to my cat, and then realizing that was the point. The pilot isn’t really enough to get people on board, so I’d recommend giving it a few episodes.

Orange-is-the-New-Black

Taylor Schilling as Piper Chapman

The main character, Piper Chapman, must serve a fifteen month sentence for her crime, and she plans to marry her fiance when she gets out of prison. At first, you wonder how the show can get more than a couple seasons out of such a short sentence. But time moves very slowly, similar to the chronology of Breaking Bad. A few episodes may take place over only a week.

I liked how each episode highlighted one of the other inmates, and told us a little of her backstory. After a few episodes, it was easy to have a few favorites. Yet, the stories are left incomplete – that’s why by the end of the series you’re dying for more.

Spoiler-free zone ends

At first, I thought I’d say that I only had a few favorite characters – Nicki, Miss Claudette, Red, Daya and Sophia. I just like Nicki and Sophia, and the actress’s performances on the show. But I’m dying to get more details about how the other three ended up in prison.

I probably have the biggest sympathy for Miss Claudette, even though she murdered a man in cold blood and was involved in some kind of slave trade. She’s older, she’s tough, she has a cool accent and she killed that man because he (I assume) raped and beat a young girl. Miss Claudette survived in prison for so long by having no visitors and no hope. But when an old friend came back into her life, she tried for an appeal and got her hopes up only for them to be dashed. Attacking a guard is sure to land you in “the shoe” for a long time, but I hope she’s back next season.

When the series begins, Piper is more of a sympathetic character. I certainly related to some of her hipster lifestyle stuff – the blog, the reusable bags at the grocery store, begging her boyfriend not to watch Mad Men without her, etc. I liked how as the season wears on, we start to see how Piper can be selfish, how she creates drama and excitement, and how she avoids taking responsibility for her actions.

* Not only do I laugh at Piper’s familiar hipster ways, but I think the funniest moment in the series comes when two black inmates (Taystee and Pouseey, I think) mock white ladies: “Let’s talk about health care, MacKenzie!”

The season culminates with Piper beating the crap out of “Pennsatucky”, a redneck, crazy born-again meth head. (Pennsatucky is played by Taryn Manning, and I like to pretend that this is where her character from Crossroads, the Britney Spears movie, ended up.) I assume Piper hasn’t actually killed her, but an assault charge is sure to lengthen her 15 month sentence. I’m not sure how I feel about this turn – it sure changes things from “Gee, isn’t it funny to watch this rich white girl survive in prison?” – but the show did a good job of building the tension and Piper’s stress in the episodes leading up to the confrontation.

Is it really a whole year until more episodes? Damn.

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About Jill

Pop culture junkie. Food lover. Feminist. Content marketer. I'm here to win and I'm also here to make friends.
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4 Responses to Orange Is The New Black…are you addicted yet?

  1. I was hooked from the opening scene and marathoned it all in a day. So I obviously loved it, especially the overall story and how relatable Piper is; the master cleanse scene cracked me up when she cheated.

    But there were a few things I must nitpick about…..the prison salon was decked out with fresh flowers and paint, one of the inmates had a dog, the whole prison theater scene…..those were just a couple of the instances that were too far-fetched for me to find believable. But I was able to give the writers a pass since it did help the story.

    Pornstache is an excellent villain for the show. I liked Red when she was more of the cat than the mouse.

    The Daya/ Bennett romance needed more meat. We never got WHY they are in love with each other.

    • Jill says:

      I agree Mikey, and I think the show glossed over the creepy power dynamics of Bennet and Daya’s romance, too. It’s probably my least favorite storyline.

      I think the dog is a service dog, if that helps. Definitely the prison is over the top – Piper and Alex would never be in the same prison – but I think the show pulls it off well.

  2. My theory is she’s giving Pennsatucky exactly what she wanted: new teeth. You see one fly out of her mouth. She’ll probably need reconstructive dental work, all on thew taxpayers dime. While it may not have been Piper’s original intention, it’ll probably,y what keeps her from getting shanked by the religious meth heads, and maybe give her some cred.

    Also I thought it was “Poussé, with an accent aïgue”, as she told Taystee in the library. Something about her father naming her after some place in France. Except it just means “Push”.

    • Jill says:

      You are totally right! That’s amazing.

      Haha you are probably right, I think I just copied the spelling of her name from another article or something.

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