14 July 2024

DVD Review – Orange Is The New Black, Season 1

Orange is the New Black -Season-one

A Netflix original series which you can binge watch all episodes at once as soon as it’s live, this Comedy/Drama series created by Jenji Kohan (Weeds) is based on the autobiographical book of the same name, OITNB focuses on Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) a naïve and privileged socialite, who is being sent to jail for a year for drug trafficking 10 years ago.

This isn’t the typical prison style show filled with her ongoing struggle and beat downs and raging against the machine, it isn’t just focussed on Schilling either, it’s as much about the cast’s journeys and stories as it is hers, though schilling’s self delusion and perception of “life” are entangled in her self discovery, and we as viewers get to watch all episodes at once which has faced mixed reviews but, is it the future of TV? Or is it a bad idea to watch all episodes at once? One could argue some people just record TV to watch all at once anyway, alas I digress.

The genius of this show is it’s work on archetypes, they introduce you to characters and you form an opinion or a generalisation of who these characters are, or who you think they are, but as the episodes unfold it turns out you were completely wrong and the “realness” of the characters emerges, though we do get the amusing stereotype of the lead being “out of her comfort zone” yes she’s in prison but things aren’t how she expected, and she shows her naivety, not only in prison but in life, she became what was expected of her “the nice blond lady”, who has the doting fiancé Larry (American Pie’s Jason Biggs) but without her comfy life and doting fiancé who is she and what does she have? Is a question she uncovers about herself.

Not only does she have to contend with being in prison, questioning her identity but then her ex-drug smuggling ex-girlfriend Alex (Laura Prepon That 70’s show) ends up in jail with her, which adds more confusion to the viewers perception of Schilling, a happily engaged, well-to-do, privileged straight girl shouldn’t have the kind of past filled with drugs and lesbian loves.

Back to the archetypes, when Schilling enters the prison we are introduced to the other inmates who seem terrifying and scary, they appear that way to Schilling so that’s the way we see them, however once she gets to know them we also get to know them and their stories unfold to reveal that there is more than meets the eye about almost everyone this allows for graceful storytelling, though it may sound slightly farfetched, it’s not over done, too tiresome it’s done in a way that is justified and not just after a few tears.

For example one character has managed to become somewhat of an urban myth for her viciousness and anger, but her actual story reveals someone completely different, it’s not about morals it’s about telling the truth and revealing that there is more writing on the page, another intriguing element is the political landscape of the show, guards wrestling inmates and themselves for power, ethnic battles for supremacy, the show does have occasional sex scenes and while can be slightly graphic it is rarely gratuitous, it is a guilty pleasure, or a stolen luxury, or an exhibition of power, it is perhaps sex that ultimately, unites these women wherever they sit on the spectrum.
The show does have a slight failure in that it likes to hand hold quite frequently, especially in flashbacks of Schilling’s life with fiancé Larry, we already know they have their nice “privileged” life, and the character portraits of some minor characters are seemingly vague.

Overall I feel this show had a stunning first season, and I am eagerly anticipating season 2, Schilling is fantastic as Piper, who knows who and what she is when she comes into prison but soon realises it’s all a lie, or is it? She’s a self centred train wreck but still manages to keep us engaged, and retain our empathy, it is the entire ensemble that makes this show intriguing and unique, the blossoming character archetypes enthral the viewer to adapt and even change their opinion on characters whom are portrayed brilliantly, characters such as Nicky, Crazy eyes and Red, there is so much variety be it ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender, you’ll feel yourself engrossed and invested in the pay off, of these women who’s stories we rarely if ever see on TV, and they’re all here locked up together for our enjoyment, and the show definitely has set itself well and has longevity.

****1/2 Stars
Gavin Tones

Drama, Netflix Original
Netflix, Lionsgate
DVD Release Date:
19th May 2014 (UK)
Rating: 15
Jenji Kohan
Taylor Schilling, Danielle Brooks, Taryn Manning
Buy:Orange Is The New Black [DVD] / [Blu-ray]

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