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Orange Is The New Black Season Two Review

What a smash hit Netflix has on its hands! Piper and company are back for another season of prison hijinks, authority malfeasance, and lesbian love triangles. Season two of the show, ‘Orange is the New Black’ was released to the world on June 6, 2014 and people still haven’t stopped ranting and raving about it. I consider this show to be a dramedy because the episodes are an hour long (standard for a drama) and it is more than just a garden-variety comedy.

This season, the showrunners made the audience think and laugh in a non-polarizing manner which serves their impetus for sustained and unbridled popularity. You (the viewer) will laugh, but you also will take an extra glance at how female prisoners are treated in the federal prison system. You will root for love, but you might second-guess yourself, if that love is between a prison guard and an inmate. Season two was complex, and I loved the writing this season even more than last year. Episode one started in a haze of confusion for both Piper and the audience:

Piper is awakened in solitary and, without being given any information, is forced to board a bus and a plane to whereabouts unknown. – IMDB

Some of the questions rattling in my head were: Is she in solitary for killing Pennsatucky? Is this just a short-term situation? Is she in the county jail awaiting a court hearing? WHAT IS GOING ON?!??! Luckily the writers are smarter than I am, and were able to write the first episode in a way that was both mysterious and entertaining. They even gave us a super-payoff with Alex screwing Piper, yet again.

[adinserter block=”1″]Am I alone in how I think about the Piper/Alex relationship? IT IS SO ANNYOING!! I do not care about these two being together; fighting; breaking up. I now believe that the show is supposed to center on this relationship, but how many times am I supposed to watch these two screwing (literally and figuratively) each other. Alex is a horrible person. There really isn’t a reason for Piper to find out “why,” or ponder, “What their relationship was/is really all about.” Move on. Alex has shown time and time again that she will do what is best for… Alex – Nothing more, nothing less.

Speaking of horrible people, I cannot believe that Larry and Polly are together. What the hell? I do recognize that this may be a plot point that deliberately separates Larry and Piper (giving a little more room for Piper and Alex to grow of course), but COME ON! A reasonable person that is evaluating Larry’s situation draws only one conclusion: Larry’s a jerk. Personally, I think he was the biggest cry baby of season one when he egregiously wrote a story about Piper’s life inside prison (essentially putting her at risk), which of course was masked as a story about how the situation had affected their relationship. That was dirty.

Polly (Piper’s supposed best friend) isn’t off the hook either. What kind of a “friend” is she? Your best friend’s ex has to be off limits! That has been a code for civilized humans since the beginning of time. I am going to be upset if Larry and Polly live a long, happy, and devoted life with each other throughout this show’s lifespan. They are clearly in a relationship of opportunity and convenience. There are no strong ties… overwhelming emotions… or undeniable chemistry that has brought them together. Larry’s heart was broken by Piper. Polly’s heart was broken by her aloof and inattentive husband. In a nutshell: It is an inappropriate, non-torrid, totally legal affair. Pretending that it is anything more than that is comical.

Piper is the main character, so all of her storylines will headline any season of this show, but the heartbeat of season two was Taystee’s struggle with her mother-figure/mentor Vee. I mean, Vee was the one that gave Tasha the Taystee nickname, and without her, this season just would not have been as good.

SIDEBAR: One pet peeve I have is that these characters seem to have dealings with people on the “outside” and then end up being in the same federal prison – with the same people in their family, neighborhoods, etc. This isn’t a county jail, it’s a FEDERAL PRISON. I’m not a prison expert, but I’m positive things would not always turn out that way. They even said in the season two opening episode that prisoners get moved around all of the time. Maybe I am just ignorant about how these things work?

Vee is the most divisive character this show has had so far, and that is saying a lot for a cast of societal misfits. I loved seeing Crazy Eyes act as Vee’s Weebay-style (‘The Wire’) “muscle.” What a perfect role for a bourgeoning psychopath. It was also interesting to see the rest of the “crew” fall in and out of line with Vee’s various objectives. Vee also had a pretty important history with Red that played a huge role during the matriculation of the season.

Red’s storyline (as with most day-to-day journeys through life) illuminated the fact that high school never dies through the pariah treatment given to a woman (Red) who “used to run the kitchen.” The fact that the prison kitchen manager is such a high ranking position is enough of a thought device to pacify any intellectual who is looking for something deeper in their choice of television shows. It probably wasn’t running the kitchen that made Red so important. It was the smuggling of everything from candy to clothing that really cemented her worth in the past. Running the kitchen gave her the ability to bring a lot of different items in.

Losing that ability was like losing a piece of her soul. Red was the victim of a malicious beating, sensed some trouble with her real family, lost her prison family, re-gained that prison family, and picked up a Golden Girls crew, all in this season. She constructed a new section to lord over (greenhouse), which had an undercover hole that allowed her to get her illegal business (smuggling things into the prison) up and running again. Vee was this season’s MVP, but Red deserves a secondary award… something like Offensive Player of the Year or something.

The funniest and most despicable scene of the season was when Caputo tricked Fig into giving him a sexual favor in exchange for his silence. Caputo learned (from a paper Piper stole from Fig’s office earlier) that Fig had been stealing money from the prison, and before revealing his knowledge to Fig, he had already told the warden of his findings. I absolutely felt horrible for Fig (for the first time since watching this show) because that was borderline rape. Caputo is an ugly human being both inside and out, and a beautiful woman like Fig should never have to subject herself to such a demeaning act.

Season two ended with the ultimate demise of Vee. Due to being alienated from almost every single inmate in the prison, she decides to use Red’s underground tunnel to escape. Meanwhile, Morello convinced Rosa to take the prison van and “make a run for it,” because her cancer was terminal, and she was going to be dead soon anyway. While driving away from the prison, Rosa spots Vee on the side of the rode and takes that opportunity to run her over. Afterwards, Rosa muttered the quote of the season: “Always so rude, that one.” What a way to go out! It was a great way to end the Vee character and the season as a whole.

[adinserter block=”2″]I feel pretty comfortable in saying that ‘Orange’ is the best dramedy on television (yes, internet television is of course still television). No show is ever perfect, but I’m so enamored with these characters that is hard to find a lot of miscues. Each and every prisoner has a compelling backstory. These diverse backgrounds help explain who they were then, and who they are now. It is great storytelling wrapped in light-hearted comedic genius.

One thing I see various bloggers complain about is the visual ambiguity of most of the characters. The women aren’t all Sports Illustrated swimsuit models, but that just adds to the show’s sense of reality. Women in prison typically do look like the eclectic group that this show portrays.

SIDEBAR: Give it up for actress Lorraine Toussaint (Vee). I am thoroughly impressed that she decided to actually bare all at the ripe age of 54. That took a lot of guts, and I didn’t think her body (the top part that they showed) looked that bad.

There simply is not enough time or words for me to discuss all of the storylines of this season. Season three will likely focus heavily on the ever-evolving ridiculous relationship between Piper and Alex. We should also find out how Piper and Larry’s relationship is working out (again, I suspect their “love” will not last). I’m looking forward to the next steps in the Dayanara/John situation as Dayanara gets closer to having her baby. Now that Caputo knows about the inappropriate affair, how will that change their relationship?

The bigger story behind ‘Orange is the New Black’ is that Netflix continues to win. They are the clear leaders of a movement that will be hard to stop. In the beginning, some doubted whether the online streaming format could work long term, but now the future looks mighty bright for companies like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. In fact, the Hollywood Reporter wrote that ‘Orange is the New Black’ had been renewed for season three a month before season two debuted. Piper seems to be a decent person who may have served enough time for her mistakes, but I hope she remains in jail to entrainment me for the foreseeable future.

Jack Gotta
Follow Jack on Twitter @JackGotta


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