If the title of HBO's brutal prison drama suggests a fairy tale, be warned that this Oz
lies on the other side of the rainbow. This gritty portrait of men behind bars is a testosterone-driven soap opera packed with murder, suicide, sadism, and savage battles for dominance in the concrete jungle.
Season 2 opens in the wake of a prison riot that shut down the experimental cell block known as "Emerald City" among the inmates, but it doesn't take long to build a whole new head of steam after prison reformer Tim McManus (Terry Kinney) reopens the unit. The drug wars pit the Italians against the blacks, the Aryan Brotherhood re-establish their campaign of intimidation, and Alvarez is pushed to desperate measures when he's ousted by the new Latino leader (Luiz Guzmán). Even more volatile than the physical brutality (this season offers up a bloody blinding and a crucifixion) is the soul-crushing psychodrama played out between vicious Aryan leader Schillinger (J.K. Simmons) and Beecher (Lee Tergeson), the meek lawyer transformed into a drug-addicted wild man by prison's predatory world and seduced by cold-blooded killer Chris Keller (Law and Order: SVU's Christopher Meloni).
Some the stories get lost in the thrilling runaway pacing, but at its best Oz's searing stories of men penned in and pushing back goes straight for the jugular and invariably draws blood.
In addition to HBO's four-minute promotional short is an interesting featurette in which the creators and select actors discuss the show. The three-disc set also features cast and crew bios, an episode index, and episodic previews.--Sean Axmaker
If the hellhole known as Oz (a.k.a. the Emerald City) resembles actual prisons in any way, the message is clear: Stay on the right side of the law. An extensive cast of naturalistic actors animate the multiple plot lines woven together in this daring HBO original. Not for the faint of heart or those offended by raw prison patois; definitely for those who like their drama undiluted. 8 hours on 3 DVDs. Simon Says: Though definitely modern and American, Maupin also shares something with Old World giants such as Dostoyevsky and Dickens: legions of devotees who map and tour the real-life locales of his books. And all of the above authors had their work serialized in newspapers, Maupin's in the San Francisco Chronicle. Now, which way to 28 Barbary Lane?