Do Over: Oz
For many a year Scum reigned supreme as the greatest prison drama, as good an incentive as any for staying on the straight and narrow. Then Oz came along, swinging a snooker ball in a sock and roaring ‘I’M THE DADDY NOW!’. Over six bloody seasons the inmates of Emerald City – an experimental wing within The Oswald State Correctional Facility – warred, united, loved, lived and lost more exciting lives than your or I ever will. In this microcosm of society, several distinct groups fought for supremacy over the various black market economies that thrived in the prison from the canteen to the drug (tits) trade. The level of skulduggery per episode is matched only by The Shield, the murder count so ridiculous that any other prison would have been shut down within days.
Our moral guide through Oz is the wheelchair-bound Augustus, breaking the fourth wall as narrator as we ourselves enter the prison via Tobias Beecher, a man put through the ringer like no television character before or since. The viewer soon becomes adept at spotting the cannon-fodder as new characters are introduced in every episode to become pawns in the bloody machinations of the core characters. Under the watch of Warden Glen, the most ineffectual prison warden in history, practically everyone dies. Here then, is a look back over the great and good of Emerald City:
His presence is generally marked with an irritated ‘Go away Adebisi.’ To detail the gang leader’s nefarious exploits in full would likely break the internet, so here are his choice moments:
- Inciting a largely successful race war.
- Pouring a steaming vat of hot oil over his two colleagues-in-tits in the canteen.
- His crowning achievement is pretending to be mentally ill over the course of an entire series in order to convince the screws he has not only given up selling and imbibing tits, but has completely reformed. Successful in his philanthropic ruse, he is permitted to work in the AIDS ward of the prison where he promptly obtains infected blood with which to infect Mafia boss Nappa, thus eliminating his rival. Bravo!
Muslim leader Saïd is responsible for the most intense ham acting ever to have graced the small screen. Running the gamut of emotions from A to Bananas, he kills Adebisi in self-defence and goes batshit crazy for a while, as they all do at some point in Oz.
Between attempts to civilise the men of Oz, Em-City co-ordinator McManus manages to bed practically every female employee that comes through the prison doors. He is also wrongly accused of sexual assault by Adebisi on the hapless Kenny’s behalf.
Sometime second-in-command and full-time whipping boy to Adebisi, Kenny attempts tirelessly to give himself the nickname ‘Bricks’. It doesn’t take.
Latino madman Miguel Alvarez does not mix well with others… yet is strangely likeable. Amongst countless acts of extreme violence, he gouges out a guard’s eyes to earn the respect of his new boss, and then trains a Seeing Eye dog for said guard. Miguel is also the subject of Oz’s only dirty protest, more insanity than protest.
Death row sexpot who manages to get pregnant while in Oz. Adebisi develops a crush on her but she rejects him leading to teasing from the other gang leaders a la Travolta and the T-Birds in Grease.
Vern is just a big kid really, the most loveable Nazi since half of Peter Sellers. Leader of the Aryan Brotherhood and bane of Tobias Beecher’s life, he is one half of the greatest game of one-upmanship ever undertaken. Beat this…
- Vern makes Beecher his bitch and immediately brands his arse with a swastika.
- Beecher snaps, becomes somewhat of a respected bad-ass and shits on Vern’s face.
- Vern breaks Beecher’s arms and legs.
- Beecher manipulates Vern into killing his own son who has landed in Oz.
- Vern has Beecher’s son and daughter kidnapped and kills the son.
- Beecher has Vern’s other son ‘disappeared’ by the mob.
- Vern has Beecher’s da killed.
In an inspired bit of casting, Beecher ends up playing the Macduff to Schillinger’s Macbeth in the Oz production of the play.
Another Machiavellian survivor and expert at playing sides against each other, O’Reily is almost on a par with Adebisi for deviousness; the two have a grudging admiration for each other and sometimes pair up, usually to the detriment of some unfortunate. It’s an enabling, yet mutually beneficial relationship. So deep is O’Reily’s love for prison doctor Gloria, he has his brain-damaged brother Cyril kill her husband. She is strangely flattered and pretty much over this tragedy by the next episode. The child-like Cyril of course ends up in Oz, and O’Reily and Gloria get it on.
Worryingly, you start cheering these mad bastards on and justifying it. Amidst all the chaos there are glimpses of humanity and humour: the relationship between the O’Reily brothers Ryan and Cyril; the inmates collecting money to send Ribadow’s sick grandson to Disneyland; the show of solidarity on the night of Cyril’s execution; the Oz canteen, the epicentre of fuck-acting with all the cliques sitting together, your school with added maiming.
Oz is simply the greatest crime deterrent of all time. Show it to your kids.