Tag Archives: television review

“Orphan Black” is Mind Blowingly, Jaw Droppingly Satisfying


That’s the sound of my mind being blown.

“Orphan Black” does it again with this week’s episode, “Knowledge of Causes, and Secret Motion of Things.”

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If you aren’t watching “Orphan Black”, you should be, so let me catch you up. Street thug Sarah Manning discovers she’s a clone after watching her “identical twin” commit suicide by train. She joins forces with her clone-mates, suburban housewife and mother, Alison Hendrix, scientist Cosima Niehaus, and her actual twin, the wild Helena, to figure out the story behind the clones’ origin.

This week, sick Cosima can be cured using Sarah’s daughter Kira’s stem cells; both Sarah and Kira are on board with sharing a little of Kira’s DNA. Dr. Aldous Leekie (love that name) is given a chance to live by evil clone Rachel provided he run and never look back. And Alison blabs about her role in her neighbour’s death to Vic (Sarah’s ex) who is selling her out to cop Angela Deangelis (Angel the angel – another great, if not redundant, name).

On to the mind blowing. Fuse Number One: the reunion of Sarah, Felix, Vic and Alison in a clever moment of comic relief.

The last time these four got together Vic lost a finger. Since then, he’s enrolled in rehab where he meets Alison. The two strike up an unlikely friendship which is understandable once we realize Vic plans to sell Alison out to Deangelis. This week was Family Day. Vic won’t send Alison up the creek if she arranges a meeting with Sarah so he can atone for his sins. Sarah and Felix arrive at the facility. Sarah is confused for Alison and forced to role play with Alison’s husband, Donny, with laugh out loud results. Poor Vic is drugged by Felix and everyone in the facility thinks he’s relapsed.

Donny is the key to Fuse Number Two.

Alison has always suspected Donny was her watcher. This week we learned he thought he was involved in a sociology experiment, like they did in university. Turns out he had no idea who he was actually working for or that Alison was a clone. When Alison accuses him of ruining their marriage, Donny seeks out Leekie, forces him into his car at gunpoint and Leekie confesses. Donny accuses Leekie of ruining his marriage. Leekie berates him. Donny gets angry and bangs his hand–and the gun–against the steering wheel. The gun goes off. Leekie’s brains are splattered all over the inside of the car.

My jaw dropped and stayed unhinged for several moments thereafter.

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Then I laughed.

Then I cursed. How dare “Orphan Black” keep me hanging as to what comes next for an entire week?

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see what happens next!


Orange is the New Black Critique – Memoir and Netflix Series 

Orange is the New Black is the memoir of Piper Kerman, a woman who, at 34, is jailed for a crime she committed ten years earlier. At that time, Piper was in a relationship with Nora, an older woman and drug dealer for an international cartel. Aware of this information, Piper nevertheless agrees to transport money for her girlfriend. When the story takes place, though Piper has a new life, a legitimate job and a fiancée, she must surrender herself to the department of corrections to carry out her sentence.

I found Orange is the New Black, the memoir a day or so after binge-watching Orange is the New Black the Netflix series. Though memoirs aren’t my reading thing, the online reviews were good and the preview was interesting and easy to read, and so I bought it. The memoir turned out to be a quick read, taking me less than a week to complete. Piper’s narrative voice keeps the story moving and the reader turning pages. While I don’t regret reading it, I do regret not reading it before seeing the series.

Memoirs sell for a reason – they help people experience aspects of life they wouldn’t ordinarily get to experience, sleeping with the rich and famous, for example, or living through a long past moment in history. They detail lives out of the ordinary, and are usually didactic or uplifting in nature.  Piper’s story is both. Throughout the story, she gets on her soapbox to tell the reader sad statistics about the number of women who are denied some sort of treatment for ailments while incarcerated, or the proportion of those requesting early release or furlough compared to those who actually get it. Her story is uplifting because she learns to accept the responsibility in her situation and makes peace with Nora and gets out and lives her life, able to put her experience behind her. In the memoir, Piper elevates herself above the rest of the prison population in her narrative, but she is easily able to make friends and fit in, unlike the Piper of the series.

It took me one and a half episodes of Orange is the New Black to decide I wanted to see more. Part of the allure of the series is the way Piper is played as a fish-out-of-water. She wants to fit in, she desperately tries to fit in, but nearly always fails. Though she enters the system thinking she’s different from the other women there, she soon learns she is exactly the same, a point driven home by the last scene of episode 12 of the season. The series is equally horrifying and funny, albeit ironically so. Though Piper tries to mind her own business and quietly serve her sentence, she is dealt random acts of craziness in each episode that she’s forced to deal with, experiencing varying degrees of success. To add to the stress on the inside, she quickly becomes at odds with Larry, her fiancée, on the outside, which impacts the way she reacts to the randomness of events she experiences on a daily basis.

Her rekindling of the relationship she has with Nora on the inside is exaggerated in the series, and characters from the memoir are either similarly exaggerated or made composite for the series (Crazy Eyes, for example, is a composite of 2 or 3 characters alluded to in the memoir). The one thing that attracted me to the series is conspicuously absent from the memoir and that is the way the series gives the backstories of the other prisoners. I found I liked the inmates better when I understood their motivations inside and how, like Piper, they too are fighting to maintain a semblance of normalcy in their lives.

I understand that, while based on a memoir, much of the series is fiction and fictional characters are constructs (see my earlier post) and so the parts that I liked so much are made up to serve that exact purpose. Disregarding the fact that I don’t usually read memoirs, I much preferred the series to the memoir. While the memoir is a good, fast, interesting read, the series fills in the blanks of the story, blanks that, admittedly, Kerman could not know for fact.

Read the memoir first, then go to Netflix to see the fictionalized version. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by both. 

Graphic from http://blogs.metrotimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/orange-is-the-new-black-poster.jpg

About the Author

Elise Abram, English teacher and former archaeologist, has been writing for as long as she can remember, but it wasn’t until she was asked to teach Writer’s Craft in 2001 that she began to write seriously. Her first novel, THE GUARDIAN was partially published as a Twitter novel a few summers back (and may be accessed at @RKLOGYprof). Nearly ten years after its inception Abram decided it was time to stop shopping around with traditional publication houses and publish PHASE SHIFT on her own.

Download PHASE SHIFT for the price of a tweet. Visit http://www.eliseabram.com, click on the button, tweet or Facebook about my novel and download it for FREE!