Well, after finishing the fourth season of Orange Is The New Black, and sitting on my thoughts for a bit, I think I’ve finally realized why I was so conflicted in my feelings regarding this show. What tries to be an endearing, yet gritty tale of what prison life is really like for women ends up being an extremely mixed bag, to say the least. From the cast to the plot lines, I walked away from four seasons of this show strongly debating whether I would return for a fifth, as the show drew to a close. From the cast, to the plots, to the ever changing prison culture, this show really struck me the wrong way. I do want to caution that there are some minor spoilers ahead. If you do want to stay absolutely spoiler free, I’d go watch the show and come back.
To start, I do have to touch on some of the positives. The show does a moderately good job of balancing out showing the realism of prison life, while also throwing in plot points that are needed so everything isn’t so focused on how miserable prison is. OITNB addresses a lot of the concerns of prison life right from the get-go. Touching on gang culture, rape culture, life as a woman, and even life as an inmate, the show balances out all things well. I felt myself often being quite thankful that I wasn’t in prison myself, and gripping my loved ones and my possessions tightly. Some characters do strike a chord, and I found myself rooting for SOME of the inmates here, as they’re generally diverse. The actors and actresses do a great job of portraying their characters.
Now, I want to explore the points of the show that hit the wrong nerves with me, and boy there are a few. First and foremost, we’ll have to discuss the plot itself. Piper Chapman is sentenced to a year in prison for some crimes she committed in the past with her ex girlfriend and drug dealer, Alex Voss. The story picks up the day before Piper goes to prison. Notice how I said PIPER CHAPMAN? Well, the show would disagree that she’s the protagonist. By the fourth season, they’ve introduced so many pointless characters that Piper basically gets about maybe ten minutes of screen time per episode. They essentially shelved their protagonist, and I can understand why. Piper Chapman is…annoying. That’s putting it mildly. She’s one dimensional, flat, and a very confusing individual. She’s confusing because it seems that the writers are conflicted on whether she’s supposed to be a terrible person, or just plain old comic relief.
Speaking of comic relief, WOW, this show does not know timing. At all. In season four, right after the unexpected death of a beloved character, the show saw fit to constantly make light of the death, in what could have been a truly emotional, and dramatic turn of events. This is a constant throughout the show, and moments that are spiked with endearment and drama are often ruined by a poop in the showers plot line, or a terribly timed joke that just feels tasteless. The seasons feel messy, extremely. Once the show had come to a close, I thought about the cast, and after four seasons, I really understood that there were maybe four or five characters I didn’t completely despise. Actually, I’m not even sure of quite a few of the character’s names, as they end up coming off as so unimportant, so underdeveloped, that there’s honestly not even a point of giving them lines.
To sum up, this show is…messy. Disappointing character development has characters never truly gaining any traction, and you can’t feel bad for them because they’re written so that basically every bad situation is their own faults. Shelving their protagonist leaves too much focus on every single side character, which is truly disorienting to say the least. Lackluster plot lines also leave a less than savory taste in my mouth, as some plots like the poop in the shower plot line are just flat out unnecessary. The show has become less of a prison memoir, and more of a sketch show, outlining the ridiculous antics of prison guards and prisoners that break you from the immersion the show desperately wants to believe that it creates. Skip this one folks, it’s not worth your time.
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