For those of us pacing ourselves with the latest season of Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black, the time has come to discuss episodes three and four.
Let’s bitch it out…
2×03: ‘Hugs Can Be Deceiving’
This third episode may offer us insight on Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ (Uzo Aduba), but it’s really all about Vee (Lorraine Toussaint). The latest Litchfield inmate was introduced primarily last episode in Taystee’s (Danielle Brooks) flashbacks before showing up in person in the final scene. In ‘Hugs Can Be Deceiving’, Vee completely dominates as her appearance upsets both Taystee and Red (Kate Mulgrew) and she slowly begins to spread her influence around, starting with Crazy Eyes.
The flashbacks from Suzanne’s past – stretched over three time periods – are fairly straight-forward in showcasing how she and her adoptive parents struggled with her differences (mental and physical). The colour of her skin marked her as an outcast in a way that differs from what we’ve seen in prison (where race is remarked upon either jokingly or used to distinguish social groups). It’s clear that Suzanne’s parents wanted what was best for her, even if they didn’t always know how to help her. Unfortunately, forcing her to try to fit in (and live up to their expectations) breaks her in both of the later flashbacks. It’s very telling (and mildly Freudian) that Suzanne reacts by striking Piper (Taylor Schilling) and calls her mommy after the Christmas musical debacle in last year’s finale. This new twist not only complicates Suzanne’s relationship with Piper; it has the added benefit of revealing why Piper wasn’t in more trouble for nearly killing Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning) – they thought that Pennsatucky hit her back.
Suzanne’s desire to fit in (including the reindeer games that other inmates play) makes her an easy mark for the conniving Vee. It barely takes any effort to take Crazy Eyes under her wing: simply empowering her against Piper and then bribing her with cake is enough.
Vee’s displeasure at the current state of the prison (ie: who’s running it) is likely to inform her arc throughout the remainder of the season. She repeatedly makes reference to her position of power when she was previously incarcerated and her encounter with Red (a nice subversion of expectations, as TVAngie commented on Facebook) hints at the power dynamic the older generation held. Initially I thought that Vee’s interest were simply in winning Taystee back, but it’s clear now that her plans are much more grandiose. Vee’s easy manipulation of people (compliments and cake are all it takes!) marks her as dangerous and currently it seems like no one has even noticed. She’s one to watch out for.
- New prisoner Brook Soso (Kimiko Glenn) is clearly meant to act as a mirror of Piper’s first stint at Litchfield, but the character feels a little too on-the-nose to be truly humourous.
- Larry (Jason Biggs) is surprised to learn that a potential date knows all about his relationship with Piper. As if we need further confirmation of just how stupid Larry is.
- Good to know that Caputo is still looking for ways to masturbate to Piper. Here it’s forcing her to hug Pennsatucky, which is kind of the opposite of hot if you know anything about their relationship.
- Yael Stone’s Morello (comparing herself to Christopher’s new fiancé): “You don’t go Jessica Rabbit when you got Rhianna”
- Natasha Lyonne’s Nichols (when Piper compares Litchfield to a spa): “I thought the water tasted like cucumbers.”
- Vee (to Suzanne, about Piper): “You are a garden rose and that bitch is a weed.”
- Nick Sandow’s Caputo (when Piper speechifies about being a model citizen): “Spare us, Chapman, this isn’t a beauty pageant.”
2×04: ‘A Whole Other Hole’
As Alan Sepinwall suggests, there’s a lot of symmetry between episodes three and four as they concern a certain kind of crazy. The difference is, of course, that Suzanne wears her issues on the outside for all to see (and avoid), whereas Morello (Yael Stone) has constructed a reasonable public persona that masks a deeply disturbed young woman. The revelation about just how bonkers Morello is definitely took me by surprise in a surprisingly affective episode. Watching the wedding-crazed convict risk everything to drive to
ex-fiancé Christopher’s house, break-in, parade around in his new fiancé’s veil and take a bath in their tub is almost shocking.
The reveal works because it plays on our expectations of what we think we already know. For a full season we’ve always figured that Morello was simply deluded – that her ex dumped her when she went to prison. Instead it turns out that she never had a fiancé – that the relationship never went beyond the meet-cute-via-mail-fraud we see in flashback. I can honestly say that I never really took much notice of Stone as an actress before now – she seemed too broadly drawn, a caricature who hung around the fringe to give Nichols someone to play off in the background. After seeing Stone take Morello to new depths of insanity, however, you can bet I’ll be watching her a lot more closely in the episodes to come.
In other news, Vee continues her prison domination. With Suzanne firmly on side, she sets her sights on breaking up Taystee and Poussey (Samira Wiley) and the result is surprisingly heartbreaking. We’ve seen Poussey crack wise, but – like Morello – her role on the series has been primarily comedic. With the exception of her frustration with Taystee when her friend returned to Litchfield late last season, Poussey has always felt like the jokey sidekick. Here, however, we see that her feelings for Taystee go much deeper and while Taystee can’t reciprocate, she can value and love her friend in another sense.
Or at least she does until Vee reminds her that the relationship will mark her when she gets out. It’s a shallow, petty move that ends up making Taystee look worse than Vee for so easily succumbing to perceptions of societal expectations. Put this in contrast with Piper’s mildly-humourous attempt to “pimp” Soso out to Big Boo (Lea DeLaria) – which has its own underlying ickiness – and ‘A Whole Other Hole’ offers up a fair amount of subtle commentary on the nature of female relationships. Soso might be a naive idiot for expecting a female commune (does she think she’s living in Top of the Lake or something?), but she’s not completely wrong in her disappointment of how easily the women turn on each other. Here’s hoping that Taystee sees through Vee’s malicious words and reunites with her bestie soon. I have my doubts, though…
- The recurring B-plot that runs throughout both episodes is Red’s struggle to find her place now that she’s no longer kitchen Queen B. Initially she seems resigned to fade away with the other gray-haired women (crochet!), but Vee’s reappearance and the discovery of a grate in the green house energizes her. Despite their conversation in 2×03 about staying under the radar, it seems that both Vee and Red are making a run at reclaiming their positions of power at the prison. (Side Note: It took me a bit to understand the significance of the grate – I may have just been off my game watching the episode late at night, but did anyone else struggle with the fact that it means she has a new smuggling route?)
- Larry and
stupid-facePolly (Maria Dizzia) grow increasingly close: between staying up late and making up fake marriage stories, it’s increasingly clear that these two are going to sleep together. Why the delay, though? Seriously…just get it over with!
- I’m not feeling the Diaz (Dascha Polanco) / Bennett (John McGorry) stuff this season. Am I alone? Even the suggestion that he’ll smuggle vitamins in his leg for their unborn child doesn’t really interest me.
- Far more interesting: the quietly impressive scene between Miss Rosa (Barbara Rosenblat) and the teenage boy during chemo. How much do I want to know about Miss Rosa’s bank robbing history now? A: A lot!
- Finally, even if I find Piper’s actions with Soso morally questionable, the pay-off – church sex that enables Nichols to add another notch in her black book – is pretty amusing. I hope the implication that Nichols has exchanged one addiction for another is explored in greater depth later in the season. There’s some interesting stuff there and the show can always benefit from more Nichols.
- Laverne Cox’s Sophia (educating the girls on their private parts): “I’ve seen some funky punnany in my day.”
- Piper (moving Red’s stuff): “What are you gonna do – not feed me?” Hey shout-back to episode 1!
- Piper (when she’s told she’s acting like the famed detective as she collects her belongings): “Inspector Gadget was not a good detective. He had Penny and Brain.”
- Big Boo (laughing about Soso): “You know she’s right, Chapman. You’re a horrible person.”
Your turn: What are your thoughts on these early episodes? Were you intrigued by Suzanne and Morello’s back stories? Is Piper a terrible person? Will Vee and Red come into conflict after all? Who will win the sex wars: Nichols or Big Boo? Will Taystee and Poussey reconnect? Sound off below, but *please note*: since the entire season is now available, please refrain from commenting on future episodes and spoiling the viewing experience of others.
Orange Is The New Black is now available in its entirety on Netflix. Our coverage continues next Wednesday with a review of episodes 5-6. If you are binging, however, come back Friday for TVAngie’s take on the second half of the season (her thoughts on the first half can be found here).