Binge Guide: ‘Orange is the New Black’

By Nicole Fiorica

At a glance:

Genre: Dramedy

Seasons/Episodes: 2/26

Avg Episode Length: 55 min

Available on: Netflix

What it’s about: 

Based on Piper Kerman’s memoir of the same name, Orange is the New Black, is the story of Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling, “The Lucky One”), a well-off thirty-something who is sentenced to 15 months in a women’s prison for a crime (smuggling drugs) that she committed 10 years ago with ex-girlfriend Alex Vause. Piper leaves behind supportive fiancé Larry as she adjusts to prison life and is reunited with Alex, who was also sentenced. As much as this is Piper’s story about surviving prison, it is also the story of her fellow inmates and their own nuanced backstories.

Why it’s so good:

The characters on this show make it a success. Piper’s fellow inmates are complicated, interesting and for the most part, sympathetic. Hearing their stories and watching the way they interact with one another adds levels of depth, diversity and perspective to the show that most television programs lack. While the show follows a grim plotline, it also comes with a lot of dark humor that will keep you smiling during all but the bleakest of scenes. Also, it is just different. You may have watched a lot of crime shows in your day, but very few take place behind bars.

Why you should binge it:

Released one season at a time on Netflix, “Orange is the New Black” was made to be watched quickly. And, while it does not necessarily come with cliffhanger episodes, the lives of these women are irresistible. This show comes with a large supporting cast, and while you will get all of their names straight eventually, it will be easier to remember who is who if you watch the whole thing at once.

Standouts: 

Taylor Schilling navigates Piper’s likeable but sometimes irritating character with an incredible amount of skill. In season two’s first episode, “Thirsty Bird,” she is so good it is almost scary. In addition to Schilling’s strong performance, a large portion of the supporting cast was also nominated for Emmys this year, and for good reason. Laverne Cox and Kate Mulgrew excel as a transgender beautician and a mob-wife-turned-prison-chef, respectively. The real show-stealers, however, are Uzo Aduba as the mentally unstable “Crazy Eyes” who tries to make Piper her prison wife and Taryn Manning as “Pennsatucky,” a drug user turned religious fanatic who targets Piper and Alex for their sexual relationship.

Potential Pitfalls 

“Orange is the New Black” is still a relatively new show and has remained consistently good so far. By walking the line between comedy and drama, however, the tone of the show can turn on a dime, such as in “Bora Bora Bora,” “A Whole Other Hole” and Season 1 finale “Can’t Fix Crazy.” While intending to expose the realities of prison life, the show ends up rather ironically glamourizing some of the relationships and daily occurrences of imprisonment, and take many liberties for the sake of drama when telling Piper’s story.

__________

Nicole Fiorica is a Staff Writer for The Fordham Ram.