“Orange Is The New Black” — mixed feelings

OITNB

 

This morning I finished watching season one of Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black, a 13-episode dramedy released for streaming earlier this month. When I first saw previews on Netflix about the show, I wasn’t interested, but after seeing that so many people I know were enjoying the show, I decided to jump in. In March I made an attempt with House of Cards, another Netflix original, but I gave up on that show after three episodes. Overall, I have very mixed feelings about OITNB, so here’s my opinion on what worked and what didn’t.

  1. I must say, if Taylor Schilling as lead Piper Chapman had given a less compelling performance, I probably wouldn’t have been as motivated to complete the series. Schilling is probably best known for her leading role in 2012’s The Lucky One opposite Zac Efron, but she definitely proved her acting ability in this role. Schilling’s performance allows Piper to be funny, compelling, sweet, and frustrating all at the same time. She’s definitely a heroine you want to root for, even when it’s sometimes difficult to decide if she’s making the right decisions.
  2. I totally loved Officer Bennett and Daya’s relationship, though I do wish it would have progressed a bit differently. To me, it seems like their relationship progressed too quickly when it deserved a better build-up. I also really enjoyed each of these characters individually, so I wish they had each been given bigger story lines. Maybe in season two?
  3. On that same note, one thing I had seen from several people was that all the supporting characters were great, which I didn’t really agree with. In comparing the minor characters from this show to some of my other favorites like Parks and Recreation, Homeland, or Bates Motel, I didn’t see the OITNB characters as having nearly as much intrigue as some from other shows. I really didn’t care at all about Red’s back story, though I did like her role as a “mother” to some of the other inmates. Nicky kind of rubbed me the wrong way from the very beginning, so it was difficult for me to be totally interested in her (though I think this opinion was more about the actress than the character. I liked Nicky’s straight-forward attitude and her genuine care for those around her). Generally, I felt like the storytelling was more effective in the situations of Yoga Jones or Lorna whose characters didn’t receive huge story arcs or flashbacks, but you still felt like you knew who they were. To me, it seemed like there were certain instances (mostly in the earlier episodes) when the character flashbacks weren’t integrated very well into the general plot, but this may have just been a first season problem that will go away as the show continues.
  4. Okay, this is a really dumb thing to be bothered by, but I’ve also seen it mentioned by others, so here goes: Laura Prepon, it’s time for you to do something about those eyebrows. It may have been excessively emphasized because of her black hair, but seriously, they don’t look good.
  5. One thing that I saw as an issue on this show (though I think there are many other shows where this is also a problem) was the issue of religion. On one hand, I loved the nun who was an inmate, because she struck me as a very real character. I also thought that Pennsatucky’s religious nature was believable, especially when it was elaborated in her back story. However, I really didn’t like Piper’s monologue when she essentially denounced any religious belief, stating that she believed in evolution and science, among other things. Personally, I’m a practicing Catholic, and I also have no problem believing in evolution in science. I know that the more Evangelical group to which Piper spoke is more likely to be a group who only believes in creationism, but I have gotten kind of sick of the media acting like anyone who’s religious apparently doesn’t believe in anything else. To me, the nun on OITNB was a very realistic religious person, because she had her beliefs, kept fairly quiet about them, and never really seemed to judge the people around her. I don’t really know why it’s necessary for religion in TV to be the “uncool” thing. Earlier this summer I finished watching “Six Feet Under,” which I felt was a show that dealt with religion in a very realistic way. The Fischer family members were all at various points on the religious spectrum, but generally, it was a non-issue. Why can’t more TV shows do that? (Okay, I’m stepping off my soap box now. Rant over.)
  6. Probably my favorite Piper moment was when she lost her cool with Officer Healy, a character who I hated from the beginning. My original problem with Healy was that he seemed like some ridiculous caricature with all his “you don’t have to become a lesbian” advice. It was annoying. Thankfully, Piper was annoyed by it too, and I felt like her monologue when she finally let loose was spot-on. So thank you for that, writers.

Overall, I’m not really sure what I think about the show. I’ll probably keep watching when they release season two, but it’s definitely not at the top of my list. Any others out there who share similar opinions?

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