Is Orange is the new Breaking Bad?

Last updated 15:37 25/06/2014

Although this is, technically, a television blog the way in which we consumer our shows these days opens up many more opportunities than sitting in front of an actual television.

The latest to be offered in New Zealand is Telecom's Lightbox which will be available very soon. I'll be reviewing that closer to the time, but it's to its biggest competitor - Netflix - that I turn first.

One of the reasons Netflix is so popular in New Zealand (despite the requirement to employ methods of circumventing it's region locking) is the cost and the sheer amount of content available. 

Complete series of old shows can be watched at your own pace and the content updates regularly.

But soon, if it's not already happening, Netflix's own content will be more than enough to justify the cost.

Hemlock Grove and Lilyhammer weren't my cup of tea, but House of Cards and season four of Arrested Development would have been enough for me to part with my subscription fee.

Of course, that's ignoring the very best of them all - Orange Is The New Black.

I've just finished watching season two of OITNB - I had to invent reasons to be away from the house so I wouldn't binge watch it all in a day.

And while I'm not one for bold predictions, I'm comfortable saying that this season is the best thing I've watched on television this year - and is unlikely to be topped.

Season one of the show was good. No, actually it was great. But it was solidly focussed on Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) and her coming to terms with being a middle-class white woman in prison.

Orange Is The New Black

We met many characters, some lovable (like Natasha Lyonne's Nicky or Yael Stone's Morello) and some who you wanted to be 'sorted out' (like Taryn Mannings' Pennsatucky or Pablo Schreiber's Pornstache).

But all of them played very much second fiddle to Chapman's story - her in-prison affair with her ex-lover Alex (Laura Prepon) and the knock-on effect it had on her relationship with Larry (Jason Biggs).

Season two offered a much wider look at prison life and the woman who share a home with Chapman - and that's a great thing.

Compared to some online I'm not a hater of the main character - there are many who believe the show would be even better without her in it.

I disagree, I think Schilling's portrayal of a character so far out of her comfort zone is well worth having. However I am happy (MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD) that it appears her storyline with Larry doesn't need to play any further part in the story.

But allowing us much more backstory on some of the other characters opened up the opportunity for others to step up to the mark.

In particular I found Stone's portrayal of Morello to be captivating - the episode in which she steals the prison van to go and visit her 'fiancé' was brilliant and heartbreaking.

And the arrival of Vee Parker (Lorraine Troussaint) as a former inmate returning to take control once more gave this season some real tension.

That was largely left to inmates versus prison staff in the first season, but having a menacing, dominating character take control and then lose it was a profound and moving experience in season two.

I won't spoil her character arc, but I think I'm safe to say it's one of the most satisfying ends to a season of television I can ever remember.

Add to that the imperious Kate Mulgrew as Red (I can't even picture her as Captain Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager after watching her in this) and Samira Wiley as the conflicted Poussey and you've got a show that's ripe for major awards over the next few years.

Special mention, however, must be made of Uzo Aduba, who plays Crazy Eyes. Her performance, particularly when she seems ready to take the blame for a brutal beating while not being able to remember it, was heartbreaking. It brought tears to my eyes and I'm hoping we see much more from her in season three.

Yes, I know there are a lot of superlatives in this review, but I honestly believe they are justified. As a cast, as a story, as an emotional roller coaster, I think OITNB has been the highlight of a relatively disappointing television year so far.

Let's just hope it gets the praise it deserves when it comes to gong time.

So what did you think of season two? Who are your favourite characters? And would you be happy if Piper's character wasn't in season three?

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