July 19, 2013
Orange Is The New Black Tops Netflix
Oh… my… Now that Netflix is putting on the big boy trunks and has effectively dived into the corporate dominated waters of television production, it’s time to review the scores of their efforts that for the most part have been a major hit or miss. Starting with House of Cards, which hit the nail on the head and gave anyone with doubts about the legitimacy to the United States Government a swift validation of all their fears, the judge that is the Internet gave it a general consensus of quite good. Then there was Hemlock Grove, which missed the target so much it can be argued they were attempting to shoot string cheese with a nail gun from a helicopter. We all know Twilight is popular, but trying to mimic Twilight hasn’t ended well for anyone, guys! Even Jenna Haze lost big time when they made a porno parody after it and that was years before Hemlock Grove.
Some here comes Orange is the New Black, a drama depicting the lives of a handful of inmates dealing with the day to day lives inside of a prison. Really? You’re asleep already? Fine, we’ll make it about a female prison, and we’ll even get Donna from That 70’s Show to come in on it. And that’s what it seemed like on the outside, just another generic excuse for frat boys to jerk off to lesbians, but oh how wrong I was! The show does what Spec Ops: The Line does in the sense that it sets you up for a “heart-warming” story of how the lead character Piper fights her way through oppression and escapes the clutches of the evil jail to return to her former life; but just as soon as you’re enjoying it, it rips the rug out from under you and watches you bust your ass on the wet floor.
One of the ways it pulls the rug out from under you is it creates this frustrating sense of despair that it always can, and usually will, get worse. It’s a proven concept that works well, and has even appeared in shows like Breaking Bad. But what sets this apart is that it constantly contrasts to show times when the cast was outside of prison, and that the mistakes that landed them in prison are often repeated inside of prison; instead of taking the easy way, they try to deal with it the opposite way they did on the outside, which normally ends badly.
Another part that I couldn’t help but find intriguing was the sense of connectivity. As the show description says, Piper is in jail for being a drug mule for an international cartel, along with her ex-girlfriend Alex. Where everything starts connecting is the role the drug cartel has in everyone’s sentencing. While Piper and Alex’s roles are obvious, the prison chef Red’s arrest is heavily implied to be result of the cartel, and even the prison guard “Pornstache” Mendez is in with the cartels, by distributing it to inmates.
Finally, it’s the skewered sense of right and wrong that does it for me. If you can’t say anything else about the show, just say that it blurs the lines and creates this shade of grey that even E. L. James would get a woody over. Enough back story is given to each character that you can sympathize with most of them, because at the end of the day they were simply doing it because it had to be done, not for malice. Topple that with oppressive guards, a female “financial advisory” who siphons off $3,000,000 of prison money into her own personal accounts and a sexually frustrated counselor who takes rejection from Piper as a cue to throw her into the wild and uses every chance to put her in danger because she wouldn’t sleep with him and it brilliantly re-enforces the survival aspect.
So, in short, watch it. It’s got more twists than M. Night Shyamalan directing a movie about a pretzel shop. But it’s still a fun ride.
Image Credit: Netflix