Netflix didn’t invent binge-watching, but with the prison drama “Orange Is the New Black” it did give us something to make the bingeing worth it.
Not just because it was so good, which it was, but because making 13 episodes available at once allowed “Orange” to transform itself from a show about the incarceration of one formerly privileged white woman named Piper (Taylor Schilling) to a searing, funny, tragic look at the lives of a dizzying variety of people who share Piper’s present circumstances but not her history.
Transformation is possible for any show, but in the appointment-TV model, viewers who might appreciate the changes might have been gone weeks earlier.
As “OITNB” returns on Friday, June 6, with 13 more episodes, it’s past needing to explain itself.
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Once again, nothing is as it first seems (especially in the first episode), but it’s not because creator Jenji Kohan is writing the women-in-prison version of “The Blacklist.”
Lack of access to information is one of the things that separates these women from the data-driven world outside. Sentenced to an environment where cellphones are contraband and everything’s not a Google search away, they’re forced to deal with what’s in front of them, even as we fill in some of the blanks with flashbacks.
Lorraine Toussaint joins the cast as a disruptive figure with a connection to Taystee (Danielle Brooks), and we learn more about a number of characters, including Poussey (Samira Wiley).
Uzo Aduba continues to do dazzling work as Suzanne, the character initially known as “Crazy Eyes,” who became one of the show’s breakout characters not because she changed but because, with Kohan’s help, we did.
TV — or whatever it is we’re calling Netflix — doesn’t get much better than that.