I still get loads of hits on my Weeds season reviews and was totally jazzed when I heard that Jenji Kohan had a new series out. I won’t spoil for those that will go off and discover this series for themselves but it is a great show. The premise is that a seemingly harmless blond yuppie named Piper Chapman (played by Taylor Schilling) gets fingered in a drug scam as a mule ten years past and she has to serve a one-year sentence. The thing is that she was fingered by her ex-lesbian lover Alex Vause (played by Laura Prepon) and that she is recently engaged to a struggling journalist in Brooklyn. In other words, not everything is as clear as it may seem and things will unravel over the course of her imprisonment that constantly change our perceptions. We learn about the backstory of most of the principle co-detenees that Piper shares her sentence with – including the ex-lover that is at the core of the crime – through flashbacks and the day-to-day prison dramas that play out. I have no idea how realistic it is, but knowing how Jenji is a stickler for these kinds of things, I’d guess that it must be pretty close. Each character is drawn with care and tenderness and there are only tragedies here. As always in Jenji’s work, there is no right and wrong, just shades of grey. It was interesting seeing Michael Harney again (he played the drunk cop on Weeds all the way to the end of the show) as yet another morally challenged person in law enforcement. What I especially appreciated in OITHB was how I was drawn into the stories and definitely felt how seemingly unimportant dramas take on so much more weight when in a confided space – I could totally understand the fiancé Larry Bloom’s (played by Jason Biggs) issue of trying to maintain empathy with Piper’s ‘crises’ and finding it hard to adequately understand how small events on the outside are really huge events on the inside. Suffice it to say that although a few things that happen here are predictable, I did NOT see the end coming at all. The quality is relatively consistent throughout but I think I preferred – besides the Pilot episode – the Moscow Mule and Tall Men with Feelings episodes as well as the final episode Can’t Fix Crazy. I highly recommend this series as both entertaining and moving and one which constantly makes you question good and evil just like Weeds did.
- 3 Reasons Why Literary People will Enjoy Netflix’s Orange is the New Black (thepoeticsproject.com)
- ‘Orange’ Creator Jenji Kohan: ‘Piper Was My Trojan Horse’ (wnyc.org)
- Q&A: Jenji Kohan on nudity, racism and homosexuality in Orange is the New Black (o.canada.com)