Orange is the New Black Season 1 Review

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Another great series from creator Jenji Kohan.

Netflix has been doing wonderfully with their original series, and Orange is the New Black definitely is a welcomed additional.  Created by Weeds creator Jenji Kohan, and based on the autobiographical book of the same name, Orange is the New Black is a great comedy/drama series that has you fall in love with the characters right away.

The series is about a naive Brooklyn woman named Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) who’s sentenced to a year in prison due to holding a drug-related money ten years ago.  While in prison, she ran into her lesbian ex-girlfriend Alex Vause (Laura Prepon) who’s also responsible for her incarceration.  There are also various of typical, but at the same time unique inmates she ran into as well.  While the series is mainly about how Piper is going to survive prison, it is also about the other inmates and their stories.

No joke, the reason this series is such a success are the characters.  While most of the characters can fit into the general prison archetypes, (racist, psycho, religious, gangs…etc.) there’s always an additional information about them that drives them away from the stereotypes.  For example, Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” might appear to be one of those psychotic character that falls in love and overprotects their lovers.  However, it turns out that she is deep with Shakespeare knowledge, and she appears to be adopted by a white couple.  I mean, how can you not want to find out more about this character after knowing all these about her?

How can you NOT trust her?
How can you NOT trust her?

Another question you will ask when watching the show is how these characters end up in jail.  The show does a wonderful job following footsteps of LOST where each episode focuses an inmate and her backstory.  I always love LOST and its decision to focus on a character each episode.  This way the show is more organized and focused, and we can care about the characters and stories more.  Also similar to LOST, where we are curious why the characters are in the plan at the first place, we’re also curious why these girls are in prison.  While it’s not fair to compare this show to LOST at all, I really think it’s great that the show follows a similar format of a successful show.

Other than the dramas in prison, there are plenty of drama outside of prison as well, and it’s mainly between Piper and her fiance Larry Bloom (Jason Biggs).  While most of the characters step away from traditional stereotypes, Larry is a typical “bad boyfriend” waiting for girlfriend leaving the prison.  The entire season his journey is to become more and more of a douchebag.  It starts with him watching Mad Men without Piper (monster!), and ends with him writing about everything Piper told him about the prison.  While it creates great drama, I found the things this character does too predictable.  Also, Biggs’ performance can be kind of absent from time to time as well- it’s almost like his mind is somewhere else, maybe his other job as Leonard of the new TMNT cartoon?  By the way, did you guys catch the season finale yet?

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Alright, l’m getting side-tracked.  The show mixes drama, comedy and other elements really well.  The jokes are never over the top, and the story is honest.  We can really feel from the character without it being too much.  For example, Piper’s cellmate Miss Claudette has an urban legend where she’s believed to be a mean, merciless killer.  However, her backstory reveled her to be anything but mean.  Later when Larry’s story is published, she’s the one that’s hurt the most.  She looks at Piper and wonders how Piper can think she’s mean especially after everything she done for her (hiding the screwdriver and such).  The writing is so wonderful, and you can really feel for the character.

There are some characters that really stood out in the show that I want to point out.  I really like the character Lorna Morello portrays by Yael Stone.  The character has a great, innocent vibe that really has you rooting for her.  The entire season has her preparing for a wedding, and I really hope a happy ending for her.

I know it’s obvious by now, but the characters are really what make this series wonderful.  The situation where a seemingly innocent person got thrown into prison has been told over and over already, but the reason this one is so great really is because the characters are that great.  The season ends at a big cliffhanger, and I’m glad that Netflix renews the show for a second season already.  Can’t wait for the show to return, whenever that is.

8.8/10