English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Tag: voiceover

Jessica Jones’ Suspenseful Writing

Dana Baratta wrote most of Jessica Jones season 1, but today I am going to analyze just episode 5. Baratta is known for writing several other shows such as The Secret Circle and Red Widow, but Jessica Jones is definitely what she is most famous for. She is responsible for most of the dialogue in Jessica Jones which is one of the most important aspects of the show.

The dialogue in Jessica Jones helps define the show and make it the great show that it is. Whether it be dramatic pauses or heated arguments, the dialogue helps add to the characters and plot to make the show amazing. Everything each character says fits in perfectly with their persona which helps make every conversation impacting and meaningful.

Most of the dialogue this episode is between different characters, but there are several points in the episode where there is no dialogue at all for a few minutes over a scene. Silence is used in this episode to make certain scenes more intense or scary for the viewers. These scenes are usually when Jessica is spying on someone or if there is a fight or chase. There is usually music or background noise during these scenes. This leaves the viewers to react in their own way to this scene and add to its suspense.

Jessica Jones Scene

During this scene, Jessica follows her neighbor Malcolm while he meets with her enemy Kilgrave. This is all done without dialogue, which makes certain parts awkward and others intense.

There are several flashbacks in this episode which gives certain characters more character development and lets the viewers know why some things are happening. Flashbacks this episode are primarily used to give viewers more context on Jessica’s past and add to her character.

Overall, the dialogue in this episode of Jessica Jones is mainly just people talking to each other with several flashbacks to give context. There are no voiceovers this episode, and there is rarely ever one in other episodes. Jessica Jones relies a lot on silence and the show wouldn’t be what it is today without it. This show relies solely on conversation dialogue and silence to keep it going and its viewers engaged.

Keeping It Interesting: The Writing in Fresh off the Boat

I chose to  talk about the writing in episode three (of Fresh off the Boat), “The Shunning”. Since the show is based on a memoir, Eddie Huang gets some credit for writing. He has also written for Bitch, Please!. The main person credited with this episode is Nahnatchka Khan, who also wrote episodes for American Dad, Malcolm in the Middle, and Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 13.

It is sometimes easy to forget while watching TV how much time and effort goes into creating each and every show

The most unique component of the writing in this episode (& the thing that sticks out most to me) is the voiceover by future Eddie. Not only does it provide recaps and background information, it represents the inner dialogue of young Eddie. When Eddies gets an idea, like how he thinks getting a woman  will gain him respects with the neighborhood boys, the idea is explained in the voiceover from Eddie’s perspective.  This is  not super typical in shows, but I always prefer shows with narration like Jane the Virgin also has. It is very well done in FOTB, which is important because a memoir is personal thoughts and that can be hard to display through external dialogue, but a nice balance of voice overs and character dialogue makes for a well-done TV series. In the show you never have to worry about NOT knowing Eddie’s opinion about something or someone because the voiceover clearly states his opinions. Specifically in this episode, at then end his attraction to Nichole (neighbor) is VERY evident even though there is not external dialogue to prove so, it is all narrated by future Eddies.


The external dialogue of the episode is also unique because it is composed of mostly quick comments rather than long conversations. For example, when Emery is introducing his TWO girlfriends, they immediately both comment how they are okay with it (very funny scene). Also, what is becoming a common theme is Jessica (the mom) firing away quick comments to control her boys like “go to your room” or “go do *insert random task*”. This technique keeps the show fast-paced and interesting, which is what it takes in the modern television era to keep viewers.


The episode doesn’t use silence as  a major component because often instead of silence a couple beats of music play to bring it back to the idea that Eddies LOVES rap music. Speaking of rap, this is a major external reference in the episode. Eddies looks to rap music as his guide because it is his anthem (especially when it comes to his love life). The episode also alludes to NASCAR because that is the event that draws the whole neighborhood together for a block party and it serves as a major plot element. Eddie’s struggle for love, Jessica’s fight for her friendship with Honey, and Louis’s promotion of his restaurant in the episode all occur at the block party for NASCAR viewing (which is very stereotypically American).

Piper? Oh you mean Chapman…

Orange is the New Black starts off the show by introducing newly prison inmate Piper Chapman after charged with smuggling drug money internationally with her previous lesbian love affair. She committed the crime five years before the time of her sentence, of which she surrendered to the prison officials. Now, she is struggling to adjust to prison life.

I am focusing on discussing the writing of “I Wasn’t Ready”, the first episode of Orange is the New Black, which was written by Liz Friedman and Jenji Kohan, and directed by Michael Trim. Liz Friedman has in the past written known shows such as Conviction, Law & Order, Notorious, and even produced House M.D. Jenji Kohan has also written other shows such as Weeds and The Stones, a pair of older shows that were produced before the 2000s.

The main writer for the first episode, Jenji Kehan.

Throughout this first episode, Kehan and Friedman do a superb job of setting the tone of the show. During Piper’s first several minutes in prison, it is evident that the writers created many different personalities to accompany the characters in the show. For example, Piper’s dialogue I’ve noticed is on the straightforward side. She likes to get her point across but is rather hesitant in voicing her opinion against people of higher power, such as the security guards in the prison. With Red, it is seen in the first episode that she acts along with her will and power in the system, being the chef of the prison. This is directly seen when she discreetly gave Piper an unpleasant meal after Piper accidentally insulted the prison’s food in front of her at the lunch table. Not only these two characters, but it is seen that there are numerous types of varying attributes assigned to everyone in the prison, creating a unit of diversity and makes the interaction between the inmates more interesting. It is also noticed that in the dialogue, the writers utilize many metaphors and references to past events and culturally separated groups to signify the division within the prison mates.

A component highly worth discussing in the first episode was the initial voiceover at the beginning of the show, where Piper’s voiceover describing both her life back home and life in the prison, signifying the difference in environments and truly assisted in introducing the plot effectively.

The main character of the show, Piper Chapman.

The way the first episode was structured by Friedman and Kehan was extremely well-done, the plot was clear to understand and the various transitions with scenes and character personalities kept me engaged and interested the whole way. Overall, it left me wanting to keep watching.

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