Orange is the New Black Season 1 Review

24 Aug


“And so the penguin says, ‘Dude, he’s not an eggplant, he’s retarded!'”

(Spoilers Follow) No other line sums up this fantastic season of television like this one does; simultaneously silly on the outside and layered underneath. We’re not supposed to get this joke, but it originates from a deeply diverse, fascinating, and morally complex group of characters, whether it be the inmates and guards of Litchfield Prison, or their families, who have been affected in various ways due to the situation.

The main character is one Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), incarcerated for her involvement in her lesbian lover’s drug-running operation. She’s engaged to her fiancee Larry, and the pilot shows us several sweet scenes of their goodbyes. Over the next few episodes, the show’s course is fairly predictable; Piper gets herself into trouble, that “new girl” status stamped squarely on her forehead. She’s a privileged woman that was, and continues to be, self-involved. Due to these complications, many of her actions seem like two steps back for every step forward, and this can make her arc frustrating.

However. this show impressed me by completely subverting my expectations from the beginning of the season. Red, the bad-ass, intimidating Russian cook that starved Piper, becomes the sensitive, proud cook that cares for her kitchen as she would a daughter. Crazy Eyes, the crazy maniac that peed outside of Piper’s room, becomes the complex, naive woman who we grow to care about. Even Piper grows. We start to feel sympathy for her as she faces hardship after hardship, eventually culminating in that final scene outside in the snow. More on that later.

On the other side of the spectrum, there are characters who turn out to be worse than we expected. For example, Healy, the seemingly kind guard on Piper’s side, becomes a despicable misogynist whose journey is inherently tragic. Ultimately, the show excels at pulling back the layers and revealing the true humanity of the people there, whether it be through flashbacks or interactions with others.


Orange Is the New Black is a must watch new TV series, and it’s only available on Netflix. Trust me, this show is absolutely magnificent.

Season Grade: A-                   Best episode: Tall Men With Feelings

Other Thoughts:

-The final scene was strangely fitting to end the season. Piper’s been beaten down, humiliated, threatened, and pushed away by Alex and Larry, and she absolutely erupts on Pennsatucky. She’s trapped, and it evokes similarities to the final scene of “The Chickening.” It makes sense for her, and it’ll be interesting to see how they resolve this. The scene is also a nice juxtaposition between the tranquility of the snow and the pageant and the brutal, violent act taking place amidst all of it.

-On Pennsatucky: I thought Manning owned her role. Pennsa is over the top, but that doesn’t mean the writing of her character is flawed. She’s a person that focuses solely on what’s right in front of her, and prison (especially the psych ward) can exacerbate those problems until she becomes actually crazy.

-The Larry interview sequence in Episode 11 is my favorite sequence of the series so far. It brilliantly portrays the way his words poison the fabric of the prison community and bring Piper’s world crashing down around her, and is simultaneously uplifting to some and heartbreaking to others (Uzo Aduba is wonderful there).

-Pornstache’s character, like Healy, is also inherently tragic. He wants to be accepted, and all that pent up rage manifests itself in the way he treats the inmates. His love for Daya is pure desperation.

-Larry’s character is problematic, but ultimately, he needs to be here. The show has to reflect the effects on the outside world. A prison show is as much about perspective as it is about community.

-Finally, Taystee, my favorite character. She’s hilarious, and her friendship with Poussey is so genuine and heartwarming. The disparity between the harsh reality of the outside world and the sense of community in the prison is most evident for her character, as she decides to return. The bonds we make are sometimes the strongest when we’re sharing hardship.

Credit to Netflix and Orange is the New Black for all pictures. I own nothing.


5 Responses to “Orange is the New Black Season 1 Review”

  1. Jackson Atterson August 24, 2013 at 9:25 pm #

    Wonderful review. I love the show so much as well. My favorite character is Poussey.

    • polarbears16 August 24, 2013 at 9:38 pm #

      Thanks so much. Glad you enjoyed reading; I’ll have much more to come.

  2. ironhawk22 September 9, 2013 at 3:26 am #

    Great review. Finished the first season on Friday and it was absolutely amazing. Taystee’s my favorite character as well, but Poussey is great too.

  3. Brandy & Coke March 4, 2014 at 11:44 am #

    I literally cannot wait until Season 2… My fave show of the year

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