by Snow Drift
Orange Is The New Black is a critically acclaimed Netflix TV series created by Jenji Kohan and based on the memoir Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman. Netflix recently made all of Season 2 available for streaming on June 6th. The show stars Taylor Schilling as Piper Chapman, Kate Mulgrew as Galina “Red” Reznikov, Uzo Aduba as Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren, Samira Wiley as Poussey Washington, while also bringing newcomers Lorraine Toussaint as Yvonne “Vee” Parker, and Kimiko Glenn as Brook Soso. This season centers on the conflicts that the new prison inmate, Vee, causes to other characters and her eventual reign of terror over the prison. Natalie “Fig” Figueroa, played by Alysia Reiner, becomes a corrupt federal prison assistant warden, which doesn't help the situation at all, leaving the other characters to try surviving in the new prison order.
The development of the characters was well done, with the series taking more time to tell the story of each one, including those who had not been in the forefront last season. It delved more in depth with characters such as Poussey, Taystee, played by Danielle Brooks, Rosa, played by Barbara Rosenblat, Sister Jane, played by Beth Fowler, and Suzanne. The season went out of its way to explore the characters’ lives, motivations, desires, perceptions, and feelings. There is an understanding that a plot can’t center on solely on the protagonist; it has a responsibility to develop each character as part of the events of the prison and not just background decoration. The characters are also portrayed as complex, each one having their own faults and demons.
Although sometimes interconnecting, everyone’s story is unique and personal. Piper’s story, as it was last season, does not directly connect with that of other prison inmates, since everyone’s lives does not revolve around hers or anyone else’s. Each character is presented as they are, without being judged through the eyes of a stranger. That way, the viewers see Piper dealing with her problems with her family, with Alex, played by Laura Prepon, and with Fig’s corruption. We also see Poussey and Red try to combat Vee’s reign. Meanwhile, Daya, played by Dascha Polanco, and prison guard John, played by Matt McGorry, continue having problems and obstacles in their secret relationship, especially over their unborn child and their false accusation of rape against Mendez (Pablo Schreiber).
Unlike last season, Season 2 has a more central conflict that most characters need to solve to survive. Vee gains control of the prison quickly and with an iron fist. When the conflict progressively getting more violent and deadly, the other prisoners end up working together to take her down. With this central plot-line, the series leads the viewers to a final, yet individual, conclusion, interlocking with the various subplots that contributed to the story.
Overall, Orange Is The New Black successfully portrays their characters with respect and with diversity of race, of sexual orientation, and of gender identity. Each story and plot-line is fascinating, exploratory, and can capture the viewers’ attention immediately.
(Warning: Orange Is The New Black portrays nudity, sexual scenes, violence, drug use, and profane language.)