What can I say about this critically acclaimed show that hasn’t already been said? Orange Is The New Black is the latest comedy/drama from Weeds creator Jenji Kohan. The first season was released on Netflix in its entirety – just like House of Cards and season 4 of Arrested Development. What I can say for sure is that Netflix has been on a role with their exclusive shows.
The story follows Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), a 32-year-old woman with a boyfriend named Larry Bloom (Jason Biggs). She surrenders herself to prison due to events that took place ten years earlier involving the transport of drug money for her ex-lesbian lover, Alex Vause (Laura Prepon).
The story is told in a Lost-like structure. It follows the character’s lives in prison with flashbacks thrown in to show their pasts. The great thing about these stories is that they are all interesting and as I said before, well written. These reasons behind why these women are in prison are always interesting and I was always excited to find out more about their past lives.
One of the factors that interested me in this show was the fact that it deals with something not commonly seen in television. We’ve seen prison from the perspective of men countless times, but it’s not often you see a show about a woman’s prison. This makes the series feel extremely fresh and new. Another thing that’s not common is a cast made up of almost entirely female characters. There are a couple of male characters, but this is mainly a show about the females that inhabit the prison.
The cast is extremely diverse. It consists of latina, white, black, transgender, and lesbian women (there are a lot more, but that’s just a few). It also comprises of many archetypes – the ex-junkie, the nun, the Jesus freak and many more. Each performance is great and has a unique quality to it which gives these characters life. As for Taylor Schilling, she does an extremely great job playing the lead role. Each episode has Piper learning how life works in the prison and as she adjusts, you adjust to. When she first arrives at the prison, I felt like her. She was scared and had a hard time adjusting to the other women. The other characters were shown as frightening from Piper’s perspective. As the season continues, you learn more about the women and learn that they aren’t as scary as you initially thought. Some of them are even in there by pure misfortune and bad mistakes that could have been avoided.
Going into this show, I didn’t have huge expectations. I loved the first couple seasons of Weeds, which then spiraled into downright hatred in later seasons (I kept watching because I was too invested in the characters at that point). With her new show, Kohan shows that she hasn’t lost her chops. The final scene of the final episode has me very excited for season 2. The show placed Piper on a dark path in its final moments and that only piqued my interest in the show. My only hope is that the next season doesn’t spiral downhill like Weeds did in their post Agrestic days. Overall, Orange Is The New Black is well written, well-acted, consists of an incredible cast full of talent, and is a home run for Jenji Kohan.