By Lily Doe
I am eagerly awaiting the second season of the original Netflix series Orange Is the New Black. I haven’t been this captivated by a show since Heroes or Weeds. Based on the best-selling book of the same name, author Piper Kerman tells of her experiences spending thirteen months in a woman’s prison after pleading guilty to drug trafficking and money laundering. I have not read the book, but plan to. I have no idea how closely the series follows the book or if it includes the same characters.
Piper Chapman, played by Taylor Schilling, is white, privileged, and engaged to wanna-be writer Larry Bloom (Jason Biggs). She and her best friend, Polly (Maria Drizzia) have just begun to sell their line of bath products when her life is drastically interrupted for carrying drug money ten years prior. Two more years and she would have passed the statute of limitations. Tough luck for Piper, but it makes for a great show.
It begins as Piper bids her farewells and is introduced to the realities of prison life; strip searches, carrying toilet paper, showering at 5 a.m. and coping with an unwanted crush from a prisoner whose nickname is Crazy Eyes. Struggling to adjust, Piper freaks and must deal with the realization that her former heroin-transporting girlfriend, Alex Vause, is serving time in the same prison. I was a surprised to realize that Alex was being played by Laura Prepron, who I only know as Donna from That 70s Show. I’m impressed with her acting, and I didn’t recognize her as a brunette, gay, former heroin addict, drug smuggler.
Awaiting a permanent room assignment, Piper is told by fellow inmate Nicky Nichols (Natasha Lyonne, loved her in The Slums of Beverly Hills) that she will be put in the suburbs with the other white people, but she finds herself assigned to the ghetto. While race plays a role, it is aptly described by prisoner Lorna Morello (Yael Stone) as being more tribal than racist.
As the series progresses, individual pasts are revealed to us in flashbacks. Each of the women’s stories is intriguing and leaves you wanting to know more. There is Red, who is in charge of the kitchen and was involved with Russian mafia. She is “mother” to several women whom she protects and cares for under her tight rules. They must toe the line if they want to remain part of her family. Miss Claudette, whose crime involved harboring illegal girls, is a severe, quiet woman and Piper’s room-mate. Kudos go to Laverne Cox for believably portraying Sophia, a transsexual ex-fire fighter, who is in prison for how she came up with the money to pay for her surgery. She runs the beauty salon. There’s no lack of drama between newbie inmate, Dayanara (Dashcha Polanco) and her mother, Aleida (Elizabeth Rodriguez) who is also imprisoned. I am anticipating Big Boo’s (Lea DeLaria) history. Butch, tough, and sometimes surprisingly sweet, Boo seems to have a lot of time ahead of her.
Those are just a few, there are more that keep the plot lines going and your eyes riveted to the screen. In command of them is Sam Healy (Michael Harney). Mr. Healy seems kind enough but has a weird hang-up about lesbians. I think being in charge of women prisoners probably wasn’t his first career choice. One character that can be done away with is Piper’s brother, Cal (Michael Chernus). Cal is a non-conforming, woods-living, pot-smoking kind of guy. His scenes are boring and his main purpose seems to be one just to bounce dialog off.
This raw and edgy show probably isn’t for everyone, but I liked it and I want more! Season 2 is not scheduled for release until 2014. Hurry Netflix! I feel like someone ripped a book away from me right as I was reading the best part.
Lily Doe has written for ImperfectWomen.com since 2009. She has never been shy about sharing her opinion and enjoys writing on a variety of topics. Her life’s focus is sharing good times with family and friends.