Average User Score: 8.5Aug 2, 2013This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Netflix made a good move with this show. It's not quite on par with House of Cards, but infinitely better than Hemlock Grove. I enjoyed the first season, but I have mixed feelings about it and probably will not watch any subsequent season.
This show isn't a realistic depiction of women's prison. Read the book by the real Piper Kerman if you want that. There's no tampon sandwiches, no guards impregnating inmates, no staged suicides, no brutal violence, an no lesbian sex taking place in every nook and cranny of the institution. But all that stuff is what makes good TV, and keeps you hooked in. The show does a good job of conveying the surreal experience of the main character, even if it borders on absurd at times.
The reason I have mixed feelings about the show is this: this show's target audience is privileged, white liberals. And it does a FANTASTIC job of tickling all the political erogenous zones of said target audience. Not only does the show aim to confirm progressive beliefs about prison, but manages to shoehorn liberal dogma into nearly every episode. Allow me to elaborate.
There's the basic Hollywood playbook stuff: Non stop lesbian sexual encounters, the plight of the transgendered in prison, and a comedic depiction of prison racial tribalism as seen through the lens of white privilege. Actual gangs do not exist in the show. Then there's the hardcore dogma...
The prison is run by corrupt administrators who are drunk on the job, embezzle money, have sex with the inmates, deal drugs, stage suicides, and are arguably bigger criminals than the women they are in charge of. This applies to almost every guard, counselor, and administrator in the show. There is one guard who is deliberately kept "clean and pure", so that she can approach the main character and proclaim that they are only different because one of them got caught. The guard professes to have also made "bad choices" in life a euphemism frequently used in place of "committed crime" in the show.
The inmates' back stories are explored, via sob-story flashbacks, usually showing that they are victims of circumstance or committed justifiable crimes. There's one who murdered a rapist, one who accidentally shot a kid on her property, the street kid who wants to payback all the victims of her shoplifting, a host of substances abusers, and the protagonist who was busted for muleing drug money a decade earlier just barely making the statute of limitations. There are no hardened criminals who get flashbacks.
There's the obligatory scene where an inmate explains how prison is preferable to working minimum wage If that doesn't scream "privileged white liberals believe this, but very few minimum wage workers do" then you probably found it equally plausible that a bunch of inmates would spend their money on pocket radios to listen to NPR.
Then there are the "Christians" in the show. One is a nun who chained herself to a missile silo or something. She is the "good Christian". The rest of them are violent methamphetamine abusers with horrible teeth. The leader of the "Christians" is a meth-head who has had multiple abortions, but unwittingly gained the support of a "pro-life" organization after gunning down a clinic worker on the day of her fifth abortion. She even had the aforementioned "pro-lifers" literally cheering for her at trial. That's how she came to the Lord, you see.
They even wrote in a scene where the Christian meth heads tee up the protagonist for a slam-dunk monologue that made evangelical atheists everywhere climax in their pants. Piper declares herself a champion of science, explains that religion is a crutch, ponders the fate of non-Christians in foreign lands, and even manages to work in a reverent incantation of the name Neil deGrasse Tyson.
At some point during the show, almost every villain charter, from guard to meth-head, will make it clear that they are a "conservative" by complaining about liberals, Obama, or dropping some other hint. The writers probably thought they were being subtle there, but it's pretty obvious.
In spite of being full of so much liberal dogma, they actually managed to make the show funny and entertaining. And it really does hold your attention, and keep you wanting more. That's why it gets a five and not a zero.… Expand