Warning: This review contains mild spoilers for “Orange is the New Black.”
Netflix originals used to turn me away. I always assumed the company would have a hard time producing anything of worth since they’re “just” a streaming service. I’ll be the first to admit I was terribly mistaken. “Stranger Things,” “The Kissing Booth,” “Making a Murderer” and “Orange is the New Black” are four of the company’s fantastic projects which have tallied subscribers by storm. The comedy-drama series “Orange is the New Black” has been especially popular, garnering the attention of audiences across the world.
Based on the memoir by Piper Kerman, “Orange is the New Black” follows Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) in a minimum-security prison for her participation in a money laundering scheme 10 years prior. Chapman (as the correctional officers call her) leaves her fiance Larry Bloom (Jason Biggs), brother Cal (Michael Chernus) and parents in the free world as she starts her journey as an inmate at Litchfield prison. Piper has a rude awakening when she accidentally offends a Russian cook and is reunited with her ex-girlfriend Alex Vause (Laura Prepon). “Reunite” is probably not the best choice of word, especially since Piper hasn’t spoken to Alex for nearly a decade and she’s entirely unhappy to see her. On the bright side, she’s not in maximum security (yet) and her counselor Sam Healy (Michael Harney) is surprisingly nice to her.
The show isn’t all about Piper, although her character has been in every single episode. The series documents most Litchfield personalities, including inmates, correctional officers, counselors and the prison warden. Unsurprisingly, several close-knit families are created who help each other out in dark times and are ultimately always there. They are in a prison, after all.
To Binge or Not to Binge?
“Orange is the New Black” is a series too loaded to answer the binging question with a simple yes or no. The show is binge-worthy, but for a multitude of reasons.
“Orange is the New Black” is a female-driven powerhouse which gives women the prominent platform we deserve. Not only is the cast majorly female-led, but the show is incredibly original and absolutely interesting. Every single character is given a unique personality which complements the others in ways you wouldn’t suspect. Red (Kate Mulgrew), Crazy Eyes (Uzo Aduba), Tastee (Daniel Brookes), Gloria Mendoza (Selenis Leyva) and Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning) are a few of my favorites. Plus, every episode is different. Place your bets, because what’s going to happen in the next episode is a complete gamble.
Associations to the real-world are increasingly important in the modern era, and “Orange is the New Black” is all about the connections. People of color face unwarranted death, unnecessary frisking and a whole lot of racism. This show bravely tackles some of these issues in its six seasons. Season five and season six specifically allow the characters to rise up and force a change out of the corrupt system after a horrifying act of violence. Beyond race, the show also tackles other extremely pertinent topics, including treatment of women and the LGBT+ community.
It seems binging is not a question, but a requirement. There is no way you can watch one episode without needing to know what happens in the next. There’s always something going on which will leave you desiring more and more, until you’ve finished the series entirely in the span of a week. Trust me, this show will become your new addiction.
Unfortunately, season seven of “Orange is the New Black” will end the series in summer 2019. Luckily, you have an entire semester and then some to catch up on our friends from Litchfield.
Best Episode: Season 5, episode 13: “Storm-y Weather”
This is the episode where the characters stand up and demand a difference out of the system. The episode is incredibly monumental to the prison dynamic and requires you to experience a wide range of emotions. This was an excellent end to a season and a perfect transition into another.
Similar Shows: “Glow,” “Weeds,” “Wentworth,” “Oz,” “Nurse Jackie” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”
Trigger Warnings: “Orange is the New Black” is rated TV-MA for good reason. The show features nudity, profanity, substance abuse, depression, sexual assault, violence, murder, blood and death. Mental health triggers, including rape and suicide, are also present.
Rating: 5 out of 5
“Orange is the New Black”
Available to stream on Netflix
78 episodes, approximately 77 hours