Piper isn’t entirely unlike SJP’s Carrie on Sex & the City. She’s likable enough to identify with her at least on occasion, and when you can’t identify with her you still feel sympathy for her struggle. She’s a modern-day “everywoman” just like Carrie. She’s also shallow, narcissistic and selfish enough that you can keep a safe, slightly judgmental distance from her in her darkest hours. Her character flaws are not your own, right? Or are they?
The characters are so cleverly developed that you begin to forget they don’t actually exist. I lived for the well-timed insight into each character’s true nature and clung to clues of what landed them in prison. I was anxious to “get to know” each one better. Their stories unfold artfully, and before you know it you start to feel things for them. Anger, sadness, pity, disgust - as if these women are real and have affected your life somehow.
Watching Piper devolve and evolve at the same time forces you to consider what kind of person you might be if you too were stripped of your perceived identity, security blankets and everything that makes you feel happy and whole. If you were thrown into a pit with a mix of sheep in wolves clothing, wolves in uniform and plain old crazy-ass tigers, would you start to act like an animal too? Your answer will be different after you watch the whole series.
On that note. You end up more creeped out by your own self realizations than Piper’s. The writers do a phenomenal job of challenging viewers to acknowledge how easily one of the many stupid mistakes we’ve made in our lives could have landed us in prison. We are all at the mercy of fate, law enforcement, timing, privilege - and there is potential injustice in all of aforementioned.