It is the mark of any good show that a new viewer can start watching after three seasons and get involved in characters that are recapped in a prologue of previous episodes. “Orange Is the New Black” managed to pull this new viewer in rather quickly. Season four, episode one started with what seems to be a pun, “Work That Body For Me.”
The show is based on the memoirs of Piper Kerman (played by Taylor Shilling) who spent a year in a minimal security women’s correctional facility. Her year has stretched into four, with an additional three years just approved. OItNB is popular and has become a cult hit. Watching the first episode of season four it is easy to see why.
Season three ended with a “break out” where the female inmates rushed to the lake to have a splash and a swim. In this opener it is discovered that the water is polluted and many suffer itching and discomfort.
Lolly (Lori Petty) finds the hitman strangling Alex (Laura Prepon) in the greenhouse and “kills” the man. Warden Caputo asks for more COs (Correction Officers) to help as his trained regular staff have walked off the site.
Kerman, not realizing that a prison break is underway believes her new reputation has turned her into a “Gangsta.” Meanwhile Lolly and Alex stage a death picture to convince the killer’s boss that she is dead.
The new staff are on their way to reclaiming the prisoners when the professional staff arrive in proper riot gear to take control. On top of the hole in the fence problem, there is a wave of new inmates to process and find room for. There is also celebrity inmate Judy King (Blair Brown) who arrived at the facility at the end of last season.
“Orange Is the New Black” then follows Lolly and Alex’s attempt to hide the body, after Alex gets a rather nasty surprise, and another inmate lends a hand. This dramedy is full of dark humor and offers a jaundiced look at the prison system on America.
Some things ring very true; the head count after the incident, the role checks and the fact that a “profit prison,” aka private versus state or a federal run facility is staffed by underpaid and undertrained personnel. The female prisoners are also pretty true to form. All struggling for favors, power, control and attempting to condition their COs to push for what they want.
It has taken some time for me to check this women’s prison show out. It was all too easy to dismiss it as an American “Prisoner in Cell Block H” just set in a minimal security prison vs the Aussie show’s maximum security facility. The show down under ran from 1979 to 1986 and can still be seen in syndication somewhere in the world.
In truth, OItNB has more in common with the Brit prison comedy “Porridge” than the drama from down under. And while the show has obviously surpassed its source material, it manages to keep things entertaining.
The inclusion of the “Martha Stewart” type celebrity prisoner Judy King is a nice touch and it will interesting to see where they take this storyline. While working as a Prison Officer for Her Majesty’s Prison Service (HMPS) we had our own celebrity prisoner in the form of Lord Jeffery Archer the bestselling author and former member of Parliament.
It made things interesting.
He was our librarian at the Open Prison (minimal security facility) and his time behind bars did little to change his demeanor. Will Judy King manage to maintain her attitude while incarcerated? It will be interesting to see.
The end of the episode has Piper being pointed out as the “leader” of “the game” to the new inmates. This new business should shake things up a bit.
It is easy to see why this program is a hit. The dialogue is funny and the actors all really make this an enjoyable experience. This episode had a highlight of Prepon’s character having to finish the job that Lolly started. It was grim and a little heart breaking and took the episode up a level.
(Sidenote: Being a devout fan of “That ’70s Show” meant that initially each time Prepon came onscreen there was an urge to look for Topher Grace. After that second scene in the hot house though “Donna” disappeared and Prepon became Alex full stop.)
Being on Netflix “Orange Is the New Black” is available to watch in one sitting. Fans will already be binge watching this season four offering. New viewers may want to savor this brilliant award-winning series while catching up on the previous three seasons. Tune in and enjoy.