Review by T
Orange Is The New Black makes several promises in its pilot. It promises to be different and funny. Granted, the pilot doesn’t have Schilling firing on all cylinders. There’s way more heavy drama than comedy, but what little humorous bits we get are bursting with potential. The premise is different, the cast predominantly female, and the plot alarmingly realistic. Of course people do stupid things when they’re twenty-two. There should be a law that protects them against hormone-fueled decisions (and a better way to get rid of unwanted tattoos). The episode is mostly expositional, and for the first fifteen minutes, I was still fiddling with my phone, only half-listening to Schilling’s numerous breakdowns as she faces her impending prison sentence. Midway through the episode, Healy sits Piper down and hooks me in with this truism that comes at an eerily appropriate time.
Healy: You know I’ve been here for twenty-two years, and I still can’t figure out how the system works. I got a crack dealer who’s doing nine months, and then I have a lady who accidentally backed into a mailman who’s doing four years.
In light of the George Zimmerman/Marissa Alexander debacle, this exposé is all too relevant. Then as characters from the prison are introduced, it starts to get surprisingly engaging. Morello’s first appearance annoys me. She continues to annoy me until she makes this sassy declaration to a stunned Piper (henceforth known as Chapman).
Morello: Don’t go all PC on me. It’s tribal, not racist.
It feels like that’s the skeleton of the season. We get introduced to Chapman’s “tribe”, and it’s quite a delightful feat. From Jones the hippy yoga master, to Red the cook, to Nicky the junky, and the incarcerated nun, they’re all eccentric individuals that look like they might have issues with personal hygiene. They’re also strangely likable. I find myself looking forward to getting to know their stories and watching the unlikely bonds between Chapman and her entourage develop.
What I didn’t like was Netflix’s decision to embrace HBO’s policy on the excessive use of nudity and obscene sex scenes that serve absolutely no purpose. I’m not opposed to sex scenes that further the plot, but gratuitousness is unbecoming and transparent (pardon the pun) as a device to reel in viewers. I could definitely live without seeing the prisoners’ lady parts and what exactly happens in these fungus-ridden shower stalls. I also need Chapman to cry less – unless she’s faking it. And let’s not talk about what the guard did after Chapman finished her phone call. Also, I’m sure Jason Biggs will eventually come to play a bigger role than that of the self-effacing, supportive fiancé. He’s up to something. Nobody is that nice.
Orange Is The New Black may push some boundaries too far, but overall it might just be the next best thing.