June 15, 2014
Orange Is The New Black Review Roundup: Empathy, Intensity, Delivery, And A Host Of Other Compliments

In the nine days since Orange is the New Black's second season premiered on Netflix, the reviews have been coming hard and fast. Some critics are choosing to mainline the show in one sitting in order to give us their impressions of the season as a whole, and others are pacing themselves, writing episode recaps that help fans process the information from the previous episode by giving them a forum for comment. Either way, though, the reviews almost all seem to agree: Orange is the New Black is a show that has exceeded expectations, delivering an exceptionally strong follow-up to last summer's hit.

It's not just the professionals who love the show, either. Orange is the New Black has a 94% positive audience score on Rottentomatoes.com, with over 300 user reviews. This is on top of its 97% positive critics' score.

The Sioux City Journalgoes into detail about the drama in this season's opening, noting the difference in prison cultures between Litchfield and the new facility where Piper waits to testify as part of her plea deal. They have less details about the later episodes, but reviewer Bruce Miller does warn us about binging on future episodes:

"[K]now it'll be another year before you get another handful of episodes.

"Consider how well-crafted they are, you might want to pace yourself and savor every precious moment."

The New York Observer applauds the show's commitment to being a true ensemble presentation, citing the way that Orange is the New Black has moved away from Piper's story in the first half of season 2. The review then turns into a deeper look at the way that the large cast and diverse story lines allow them to explore family structures and the way they play into the show's ideas about prison life.

Mike Hoffman at The Escapist does a solid job of summarizing the more sensational plot lines started in the first half of the season while also giving a bad review to the Piper story line. His points about the relative strength of her story, compared to the stories of the other women, are worth thinking about. The review does nothing to explore whether or not every plot line should be turned up to 11, though.

Jace Lacob at Buzzfeed fills in those cracks. In a review titled "The Whole Of [Orange Is The New Black] Season 2 Is Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts," he carefully traces the way that the physical disintegration of Litchfield's facilities mirrors the various relationships that we watch disintegrating in front of us. It's a long post for a review, but it is meticulous in its attention to the various threads running through the plot.

A.V. Club, true to their usual form, provides a similarly complex look at the show that notes the cracks in its execution before concluding that:

"Whatever flaws Orange Is The New Black possesses are ultimately minor and pale in comparison to the series' epic, novelistic sweep. Put simply, this is one of the most empathetic shows in the history of television, and in the second season, its ambition and audacity in storytelling grew to match its already present but quietly revolutionary insistence on treating every character in its universe like a human being with oceans of stories to tell."

The review then goes on to compare the series to HBO's mid-2000s hit Deadwood, a show with a similarly large ensemble cast (which featured Justified's Timothy Olyphant).

While none of the reviews tries to pretend that this show can be all things to all people, they do all agree: Orange is the New Black delivered on its promise while pushing the genre into new and occasionally uncomfortable places. You can see more Inquisitr coverage of the show here (cast addition) and here (season 3 confirmed).

[Image credit: Netflix.]