OZ (Season 1), 1997
Signed up the 29/03/2017
OZ is a prison drama created by Tom Fontana that looks at a diverse group of men in an American prison called the Oswald “OZ” Maximum Security Penitentiary and the show also chronicles the lives of the correctional officers that look after the inmates. The show stars J.K Simmons, Lee Tergesen, Harold Perrineau, Ernie Hudson, Terry Kinney, Rita Moreno, Edie Falco, Eamonn Walker, Kirk Acevedo and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje among others.
This show is/was ahead of its time, the first season is still so relevant even in today’s world. The season tackles many issues which include racism, criminal injustice, drug abuse, homophobia, and religion are just a few of them.
The show’s use of various unique shots to sometimes create this emotional connection between character and audience and close up to enhance the emotions is spectacular. The show even utilizes what some today might call “cellphone filters” but man they work in making OZ standout and be one of the most visually arresting shows I have ever seen in my entire 24 years of existence. The little monologue/narration sequences in which Augustus Hill does to introduce us to a new character or theme are so cool, each monologue/narration is accompanied by a different style sometimes visually or even in the way the scene is shot, directed and blocked.
Episode 4’s “Jefferson & Billie” scene is probably one of my favourites because visually it was beautiful, story wise and character wise it was just brilliant, Billy a character who barely had like 30 seconds of screen time since episode one, finally reveals to his brother that he is sorry that he is not who Jefferson wants him to be but he loves who he is, he loves being queer and Jefferson responds with “I love you Billie, Allah loves you” and I cried, despite Billie mentioning his father’s apparent homophobia, his brothers acceptance and love is enough even if Jefferson is about to die, even if they’re both in prison and both these characters reach a moment of self-acceptance. This episode also shows how inmates deal with the prospect of death via the death penalty which is introduced in earlier episodes.
OZ boasts one of the most diverse crop of characters that each character has enough depth in them to be a fan favourite. J.K Simmons plays a racist asshole called Vernon Schillinger who leads a racist group in the prison and he “tattoos” a swastika on Tobias Beecher’s (Lee Tergesen) ass cheek but don’t worry Vernon gets what’s coming to him in the form of one the most disgusting yet fulfilling scenes you’ll ever watch and probably inspired The Help’s “eat my shit scene”.
Beecher is an interesting character who from the get go is trying to atone for his crime and in prison he is dealt with more trauma and the only to deal with that trauma is to lose himself.
Some of these characters are carrying the weight of their crimes with them, such as Jefferson Keane. Keane’s journey was my favourite this season, his character arc brought out so much, his journey exposed the internalized conflict one has when they’re have to come face to face with ones actions.
The show is brilliant and I can’t wait to get to season two and see what’s in store for me. The start of HBO’s reign and for that we are grateful.
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