Orange is the New Black Review

Orange is the New Black is a 2010 comedy drama web television series created by Jenji Kohan, starring Taylor Schilling, Laura Prepon, Selenis Leyva, Kate Mulgrew, Samira Wiley, Uzo Aduba, Danielle Brooks, and Taryn Manning.  Based on the memoir Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison (2010) written by Piper Kerman, the series centers around a privileged New Yorker named Piper Chapman ends up in a women’s prison when a past crime catches up with her.


Positives:

  • Great characters
  • Great cast and performances
  • Awesome intro theme
  • High budget look
  • Complex story with numerous side stories
  • Intelligent writing
  • Touches on societal issues

Negatives:

  • Some subplots feel like filler

Plot:  The series begins with Piper Chapman’s view and slowly begins giving the other characters the spotlight with their episodes with their backstories and various subplots that keep the story complex, each episode revealing more about the characters. The focus of all these individuals attempting to live their lives despite their mistakes and bad decisions.  Some episodes can be pretty intense, while others can be incredibly ridiculous.  As the series progresses, the main story can be a bit more serious with season two focusing on inmate Vee coming to power within the prison, season three focusing on the prison security strike, season four focusing on the problems of corporate run prisons, and season five focuses on the prison riot. (4 out of 5)

Characters:   The characters are well-written and three dimensional, rich with personality and their relationships with other inmates which make their lives and backstories. Piper can be annoying at times, especially when she has the holier-than-thou train of thought.  Taystee and Gloria are my favorite characters.  Taystee’s fun, thoughtful, and a surprisingly deep character especially when it comes to characters Vee, Crazy Eyes, and Poussey. Gloria is smart, levelheaded, and deeply cares for her friends. One good character is Joe Caputo, whose job has him overseeing the women’s prison but he’s put in so many position where his job is compromising his ideals. Flaca and Maritza are just great, providing a lot of humor together. Love their sisterly bond.  There are the obvious stereotypes however they are well-rounded and with so many characters it’s hard not to like some of them. (5 out of 5)

Cast:  Fantastic cast who give great performances.  The main cast includes Taylor Schilling (Piper), Natasha Lyonne (Nicky), Uzo Aduba (Crazy Eyes), Danielle Brooks (Taystee), Jackie Cruz (Flaca), Lea DeLaria (Big Boo), Selenis Leyva (Gloria), Dascha Polanco (Daya), Elizabeth Rodriguez (Aleida), Nick Sandow (Caputo), Yael Stone (Morello), Samira Wiley (Poussey), Taryn Manning (Pennsatucky), Kate Mulgrew (Red), Adrienne C. Moore (Black Cindy), Jessica Pimentel (Ruiz), Diane Guerrero (Maritza), and Laura Prepon (Alex) just to name a few. (5 out of 5)

Visuals:  The camera work is done really well making for a high budget look.  The moments where characters are injured or hurt are handled pretty well.  When things get violent, it can be very intense. But the series does have a great look to it, and the shots of the prison make it feel just as important as the characters.  (3 out of 5)

Score:  Love the intro “You’ve Got Time” performed by Regina Spektor.  The music is handled really well, thanks to Scott Doherty, Brandon Jay, and Gwendolyn Sanford. (4 out of 5)

Writing:  The writing is done well and the dialogue feels brilliantly styled especially with the witty back-and-forth.  The writing can be meaningful among all the goofiness but its the humor and emotion, often touching on some pretty important themes: rape, discrimination, human rights, politics, ideology, and homophobia. There is a lot of nudity and some moments where it focuses on sex a little too much.  But perhaps the best of the writing is how the series focuses on social issues.  It is written in as brilliantly as the stories themselves and it’s interesting seeing how the characters have to deal.  Admittedly, there are some moments where the characters kind of make dumb decisions.  Take a look at season five.  In the season, there is a riot at the prison.  Most of the inmates are running around doing stupid stuff while some decide not to be apart of the riot and others are actually utilizing the riot to tell their message.  Also, there are the different racial and social factions that exist and how they relate to others as individuals and as a whole. (4 out of 5)


The Verdict:  In the end, Orange is the New Black is a pretty interesting and diverse show.  Some of the stories do feel like filler or just plain silly.  However, the stories feel grounded, characters deep, performances great, intelligent writing, and an awesome intro.  Orange is the New Black gets 4 out of 5.

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