Orange is The New Black–Season One, Episode One (Review Part 1 of 2)

We open with voice-over narration of Piper telling us about how for her, getting clean was always her happy place. We’re shown her in the bathtub as a kid, and in the shower as an adult–with another woman.

Woah, okay. 30 seconds in and we’re acknowledging gay people exist. Off to a good start. We’ll see where this goes.

Well, getting clean used to be her happy place, before she got sent to prison. We flashforward to Piper being impatiently told to hurry in the shower by Taystee, a young black woman and fellow inmate. When Piper steps out of the shower, Taystee yanks piper’s towel off and tells her she’s “got them TV titties” (because apparently they stay perky).

First two scenes, and we’ve already got gay people and female frontal nudity portrayed in a non-sexual way. Going good so far.

Now we’re in the present, with Piper and her friends having a party. Her female friend, Polly, is heavily pregnant. Cue a few jokes about how Larry, Piper’s fiancé, is not going to get laid for a year, just as Polly’s husband isn’t. Polly’s hubby gets a baby out of the whole ordeal, where as Larry gets nothing. Interesting start–these sorts of jokes really set the mood for the whole show.

Cut to Piper and Larry getting hot and heavy on their last night together before she has to go to prison. Just as they’re about to start having sex, Piper says she needs to pee. She goes into the bathroom, sits down…and starts crying.

Turns out this whole time, she’s been holding everything in–she hasn’t even been allowing her friends so cry for her. I thought the whole thing was well-acted and nicely done. At the party scene the actresses did, in my opinion, a really good job showing the relationship between Piper and Polly.

As of this scene, we don’t know what Piper is in prison for.

On Piper’s very first day, as she’s about to go surrender herself, she talks to her fiancé about how her eyes like all puffy–how she can’t look like she was crying, because all the books she’s read about prison tell her she can’t appear weak. She tearfully gives her wedding ring to Larry for safekeeping. Another beautifully written, well-acted scene.

Flashback to Piper talking to her family. She says, “I didn’t carry drugs, I just carried money.” The only thing her family is concerned about is that, during her participation in this drug ring, she was also a lesbian. Turns out Larry also did not know anything about either the drug ring or the lesbian lover, but he seems to be taking it in stride.

Flash forward to the lobby of the prison. Piper starts to write a blog post (her last one as a free woman, she says) and the guard tells her that phones are not allowed in a federal facility. Larry has to take her phone outside for her since she isn’t allowed to leave.

This is promptly followed by a guard being rude and callous to her. The look on Piper’s face and her indignant “Excuse me?” really say it all. From the second Larry took her iPhone from her, she was placed entirely out of her element. As a pretty, middle class young white woman, she’s obviously not very used to having her creature comforts removed from her. This will turn out to be an ongoing theme during the rest of the season.

Piper is then told to give up her personal effects for inspection and to strip down.

Flash back to Piper doing a strip tease for her lover Alex (AKA Donna from that 70s show!!). They start talking about taking a “trip” together, which would involve Piper quitting her job in order to keep Alex company (her trip, as far as I can tell, is actually a drug run). The two of them then agreeing to travel together and making out is hilariously juxtaposed against present-day Piper doing a squat-spread-cough test for the rude, irritable guard.

On the ride over to the prison she learns a bit about how prison works–everyone is called by their last name, and the prisoners run everything, because “Who else is gonna do it?”

Third appearance of a POC and second POC main character introduced so far–a black woman called  Watson who glares at the two white women in the van (Piper and the driver) and says absolutely nothing.

Although we do learn the details of Taystee’s and Watson’s backstories over the course of the season (as well as the backstories of many of the other socially and racially diverse prisoners), at the moment we have a bunch of white people, an African American C.O., and two black inmates. The first is presented as the Loud Black Woman and the second is presented as the Angry Black Woman. They’re basically walking stereotypes.

Watson does end up getting a couple of lines, but they’re mostly angry and moody–she’s complaining about how the driver (whose name I can’t remember–may or may not start with an L) talks about nothing but her impending wedding, which will take place after she finishes her thirty-four-month sentence.

When Piper (now christened “Chapmann”) tries to give her input on the conversation, Watson replies with a very prompt “Who the fuck asked you?”

 

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