Orange is the New Black is a Netflix original series which first aired in 2013. The show mainly follows the protagonist, Piper Chapman, who must adjust to life as a prison inmate after being convicted of smuggling drug money, a crime she committed five years prior to her sentencing. The writing of the show consists of several key aspects that are central to the theme and progression of the series. In fact, the very first episode of the show, written by Jenji Kohan, helps establish the context of the show’s plot and incorporates elements that are worthy of viewer assessment. Also, Kohan’s works for shows of various genres, such as Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Friends, are evident in the style she chooses to implement for the first episode.
One component that gives Orange is the New Black its own identity is the dialogue. In the beginning of the episode, Piper delivers a voiceover as she is shown showering in two different settings, one in her residence and the other in a prison facility. Over the course of her voiceover, Piper details the differences of the two locales. Piper’s opening monologue and the two scenes complement each other reasonably well because they helped introduce the plot effectively. Additionally, the decision to couple the two gives the audience an opportunity to visualize the events Piper describes in greater detail. Furthermore, the dialogue also enhances the behaviors of some characters, which in turn makes the show more believable to the audience. For instance, the corrections officers show little to no emotion when interacting with Piper and the other inmates. This careful intention confirms the expectations of most viewers as something they’d expect from a series that primarily showcases events in a prison facility.
In addition to the dialogue used in the series, Kohan also employs other literary devices to further clarify events in the episode. In one segment, Piper phones her fiancé from prison, and during the conversation, her fiancé asks her if she has joined the Aryan Nation, an all-white prison gang. This reference to the real-life Aryan Brotherhood illustrates that Piper must overcome the obstacle of racial division during her prison stay in some fashion. Moreover, Kohan’s frequent use of flashbacks allows viewers to obtain better insights into Piper’s emotions throughout the show. In a scene where Piper meets her counselor and recounts her crime to him, the show immediately displays Piper’s attempt to smuggle the money with her accomplice. This scene highlights the difference in sentiments Piper experienced when committing the crime and relaying the occurrence to her counselor. It also gives the audience a chance to sympathize with Piper as the two scenes depict her transition from feeling confident to being ashamed.
The manner in which Kohan wrote the first episode of Orange is the New Black really makes the show engaging and realistic for viewers. The devices she consistently uses allow spectators to form meaningful connections with the show. With these attachments, audience members are able to remain entertained and suspend their disbeliefs.