If we’re really lucky Netflix original prison drama Orange Is the New Black will be half as devastating an indictment of the female penitentiary system as Stacey Dooley‘s fearless and excoriating Girls Behind Bars. If someone was going to adapt Piper Kerman‘s startling memoir than it should be Jenji Kohan. She always has had a thing for good girls gone bad. Weeds took widowed soccer mom Nancy Botwin and turned her into marijuana’s Ma Baker. Always intriguing and occasionally brilliant Weeds laid the groundwork for Walter White in Breaking Bad. The bourgeois values of enterprise, networking and family turned out to be perfect for large-scale criminal conspiracy and TV showed us how. And how.
Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) is our nice girl dating a nice Jewish boy when her criminal past catches up with her. It’s not much of a past but it’s enough. 10 years previously she was running around with lesbian drug trafficker Alex Vause (Laura Prepon, a Scientologist for those of you who follow such things). Ears deep in the pum-pum she was and so cuntstruck she agreed to do a one-off money run, carrying a suitcase full of cash to Belgium. And she would have gotten away with it too if Alex hadn’t grassed her up after 10 years. The statute of limitations on hoofing drug money around is 12 years. That’s rough on Piper but you know what they say: criminal conspiracy is criminal conspiracy (no one ever says that).
If we’re really lucky Netflix original prison drama Orange Is the New Black will be half as devastating an indictment of the female penitentiary system as Stacey Dooley’s fearless and excoriating Girls Behind Bars
Oh you know she’s not so bad she’s just easily led. That’s exactly the kind of thing some scumbag drug lawyer would probably say to a judge if it weren’t for the huge mandatory sentences for drug offences so Piper is as fucked as Joey Barton in an Understanding Nietzsche contest. She has to plea-bargain out to 15 months inside and although the nice Jewish boy Larry Bloom (Jason Biggs) is sticking by her no way is she cut out for this. The routine humiliation, the cavity searches, the unflattering jumpsuits – frankly your time is just not your own in prison. Let me tell you this it’s a real eye-opener. White folk stick together as do blacks and Hispanics. This Morello (Yael Stone) girl seems friendly though. In fact everyone seems friendly but you know that that shit won’t last.
The statute of limitations on hoofing drug money around is 12 years. That’s rough on Piper but you know what they say: criminal conspiracy is criminal conspiracy (no one ever says that).
While she lacks the searing insight of an auteur like Stacey Dooley you have to give it to Jenji Kohan. It’s another engaging fish-out-of-water tale from her told with wit and honesty. It’s not Shawshank and it’s not Scum. It’s more concerning than harrowing. If you want a regular Joe gone off the rails and thrown into the ninth circle of hell then you’ve always got Tobias Beecher on Oz. But this, one episode in? Rikee.
The verdict: Prison works.
Marks out of 10: 7.5