While technically not a TV series, ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK (ORANGE, for short) has quickly raised to popularity and gathered good praises from critics and TV show fans alike. The recipe of the success for ORANGE is no other than originality and authenticity. After all, we understand that life is much more complex than its stereotyped depiction we have seen so much in shows. Luckily for us, Jenji Kohan, the creator of the series (also the creator of Emmy award winning series, WEEDS) is the master of complexity. Needless to say, the show which is produced direct-to-streaming for Netflix, was just perfect. It is truly understandably if you found yourself binge-ing the series once you start watching.
The show, adapted from a memoir of Piper Kerman with the same title, tells the story of Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), a woman in her 30s who seem to have figured out everything; an amazing fiance, Larry (Jason Biggs), a business with her best friend and supportive family. Her life was turned upside down after she was convicted of money laundering for a drug cartel, a crime she committed 10 years earlier while she was in a relationship with an international drug trafficker named Alex Vause (Laura Prepon). She was forced to serve time in a federal correctional facility in upstate New York. In the beginning, she found difficulty adjusting to prison life as she is very different than typical inmates whom usually have little to no education. The normal “rules” which applied in daily life was replaced with prison wisdom and politics. Between running away from a lesbian stalker, sleeping with an eye open beside a-rumoured-to-be-murderer cell-mate and surviving starvation because you accidentally insult the prison cook, Piper seemed to be maneuvering around landmines every time. This became more complicated after she realised that Alex was also serving her sentence in the same prison.
While the show does not give us bombastic surprises and twists like those in REVENGE or SCANDAL, the best comes from the layer of emotion of the characters and the nuance of their interactions. Each character is very strong and complex and at every episode we are served with a piece of the past of some characters to understand them better. Furthermore, the quasi-dark comedy suits the cheerful prison drama and ensure that every episode is fresh and entertaining.
In first few episodes, we see Piper as a very controlled woman, who may be struggling with her new life there,but was very self-assured and kept together. But soon enough we see her unraveling more of herself. It was not that she evolved or anything but she showed more of her emotional volatility side which is surprising and intriguing at the same time. Just like what she concluded for her self, the prison life does force one to step back and deal face to face with one real person. By then we realised that our female lead is not really a protagonist after all.
Also at first, Alex was seen (mostly from Piper’s POV) as the manipulative seductive ex-girlfriend who ruined Piper’s life. But very quickly we were shown the draw towards Alex. She’s beautiful, smart, funny, exciting and very understanding. In fact, she was the stable one in the relationship they had before. True that she was also flawed, but her occasional show of vulnerability in between her cold smile and snarky comments conveying her sincere feelings might just be enough to sway Piper. The truth was she was the person who knew Piper the best, even better then Piper herself.
The first season is available to be streamed and we all are looking forward for the second season. While there was rumours that Laura Prepon might not be the series regular for season to (translation, there’ll be much less time of Alex) but we do hope it’s not the case as her storyline was the most exciting of all.