“Unite 9” is Canada’s much broodier “Orange is the New Black”

If you’re like most of the world, you’ve been counting down the days till the next season of Orange is The New Black drops in June. And while we still have some 65 days, 12 hours and 3 minutes to wait for Piper and the gang to steam up our laptops and give us a reason to stay planted in one position for half a day, there is a little known show called Unite 9 (Unit 9) that is very much worth your watching in the meantime.


The French Canadian series mixes some daytime soap opera drama with Girl Interrupted realness with a dash of lesbian erotica, making Bette’s trip to prison look like a handshake. What’s most appealing about the series is its butch cast of characters. Nevermind that they’re allowed scissors, shoelaces and their own street clothes in isolation, the tomboy fashion alone should send you running to find it on YouTube. There’s no orange to be found here, only an excess of black and brooding.

Now in it’s second season, the show was originally based around Marie Lamontagne, a convicted murderer who lands herself in Unit 9 at Lietteville, a federal penitentiary for women. Try to keep that name separate from Litchfield. The story has since broadened as interpersonal relationships unfolded and she began to learn what landed the other prisoners behind bars. And here we’re still waiting to find out what it is that Red actually did!

In Season 2 we are introduced to a new Primary Worker (IPL), Melissa Caron (Melanie Pilon) who, coming from a men’s prison, is assigned to the isolation wing. Correctional Officer Caroline Laplante (Salome Corbo) greets her and warns her of the differences in working in a women’s prison. Foreshadowing! Once alone, Caron strips down to her skivvies in the locker room just as her new coworker, Nancy Provost (Debbie Lynch-White) walks in to size her up, and totally check her out. There’s so much lez tension already hanging in the air in the first episode, I wasn’t sure whether to squirm or add it to my spank bank.


Once acclimated to her new position, Caron forms a friendship with inmate Jeanne Biron (Eve Landry), and by friendship I of course mean some hot and heavy fraternization. Having just finished Season 2, Unite 9 has already been green lit for a third season with rumors that it may be adapted in English for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in the fall of 2015. Good thing too, because I’d love to see my personal Biron/Caron fan-fiction come to life.


Speaking of, the acting in the series is especially of note. I’m not sure how these ladies have managed to slip under the lez-dar, but Pilon, Corbo and Landry are worthy of the AfterEllen.com Hot 100. They’d all make my Top 5 for sure. And I don’t want to say that Unit 9 is better than OITNB, because I value my life, but I will say that the character portrayals are, at times, more genuinely queer than those of, say Hot Donna. Or, the soon-to-be Mrs. Cruise, if you’re the betting type.

One thing I will say, the tattoos are far superior than the salt shaker (I mean, what is that?) and the asymmetrical hair styles, sexual tension and shower scenes are how I’d imagine an idealized lesbian living situation. Then again, maybe that’s just my fan fiction talking.