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Orange is the New Black Review

Updated on August 30, 2014

The Cast

Critics have welcomed Netflix's new offering with rave reviews. The Los Angeles Times heralds Orange is the New Black with the epic opinion that no series has ever seen this brilliant of a mainly female cast. The inmates, the guards, the prison officials and Piper's friends and family on the outside all work together to tell a story from a unique perspective. Viewers are left shifting loyalties at the drop of a hat as more and more information becomes available.

You learn the ins and outs of prison life from the perspective of someone who never expected to be there, and you learn that "hardened criminals" are truly anything but. You gain empathy from the characters that initially seemed cold and heartless. You root for them to succeed. You feel a loss at their failures. You throw things at the unfair judicial system, and you learn that things are not always exactly as they seem. This series challenges set beliefs and stereotypes at a fundamental level, and it forces viewers to recalculate their previously held beliefs in each and every episode. From Red, the kitchen Nazi, serving tampons on a breakfast sandwich for inmates that insult the food to "crazy eyes" who decides that Piper is her "prison wife" within the first few episodes, you learn more about these women than you wanted to - but as you learn, you gain sympathy, understanding and develop support.

Netflix hits it out of the Yard

Who new that Netflix offered cutting-edge series on their web/TV based programs? Everyone knows Netflix for streaming video, movies and series that have either gone off of the air or are continuing with new seasons. But Netflix also offers original series productions now, that take cutting-edge to new heights. Orange is the New Black is one of their new offerings, and the web is alive with reviews, commentary and more. Facebook has exploded, with most viewers watching the entire series from start to finish in a single weekend and wanting more when it abruptly ends.

The series is based on a single woman's journey. Piper gets the news that she is under federal indictment for drug running - a mistake she made ten year previously with a girlfriend. She is plead out and agrees to self-surrender herself to the prison for a fifteen month sentence. The series begins in the present, as she arrives at the prison hand in hand with her new fiancée, full of trepidation but bolstered with the support of her family and friends. Once inside, time seems relative and flashbacks are common. You meet her fellow inmates, and gradually learn tidbits of their stories as the series continues.


Not for Everybody

Orange is the New Black is not for everyday viewing with the family. It's certainly not for everybody. It's racy. It pushes the boundaries. Everything stereotypical about female prisoners is brought to life in epic fashion, and it's certainly not for the faint of heart.

Prison life is segregated by race - and then that segregation is challenged. There are lesbians, much to the dismay of Piper's "counselor". There is a barter system, and nothing comes cheap - or easy. This series breaks down boundaries with every line and every cast member. You learn to see things differently - whether you want to or not. If you're looking for a series that is bound to have a happy ending, this series is not the series for you. Piper learns more about herself within the boundaries of the show than she ever imagined - and as she re-develops feelings for her former lesbian lover (who is, consequentially, in prison with her) she distances herself from her fiancée. Things reach a critical stage when he outs her on a radio podcast - spilling her secrets and turning former friends into rivals - and even enemies.

While the story is mostly Pipers, it does not linger on her to the exclusion of all other inmates. You learn the back-story of each character as it applies to the current situation, and it's a learning experience that will challenge stereotypes and bring things to a whole new level. By designing a series that is not on Network Cable, Netflix is able to push even more boundaries aside, and it can get away with a lot more than your standard cable programing. Because of this, things can be a lot more graphic - and viewing this show is certainly not for the faint of heart - or those who wish to remain on the "moral high ground". This show is guaranteed to upset some viewers. If you can put aside judgement, however, you can learn a lot more about human nature, your own biases and your own preconceived ideas. It's worth pushing through those boundaries in order to learn more than you ever thought possible, and as I watched, I learned more about myself as well as connecting on various levels with many of the characters depicted.


Official Trailer, Season 1

Trailer, Season 2

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Collection of Characters

Taylor Shilling plays the main character, Piper Chapman
Jason Biggs plays the long-suffering Fiancé on the outside
Laura Prepon plays the lesbian lover who got Piper into this mess in the first place
Michelle Hurst plays miss Claudette - the roommate who shows Piper the ropes - and teaches her some hard (yet valuable) lessons
Kate Mulgrew plays Red who runs the kitchen - and doesn't take insults lightly
Michael Harney plays Sam Healy - Piper's prison counselor who has a strange distaste for lesbians
Taryn Manning plays the meth-head evangelical who is out for Piper's soul - or just some good, old-fashioned revenge

Soundbite with the Star

Season Two Update

Season two of Orange is the New Black took Netflix by storm in June of 2014. Dedicated followers binge-watched the season, often in a single weekend - so much so, that for some users, the Netflix servers were unavailable for an entire day upon the release.

Season two brings more of the things that die-hard fans loved from the premier season, with more twists, more turns and more unexpected events both inside the prison and outside of it. With a new season came new faces, a competition within the prison for outside business, a brilliant and stunning revelation on characters already explored, and a whole new set of faces to see behind-the-scenes insight on. Viewers gained insight into some of the familiar characters that season one taught them to love, and a deeper appreciation and insight was gained on the relationships previously developed.


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