Our coverage of Orange Is The New Black‘s second season continues as the contraband imports catch the attention of the guards.
Let’s bitch it out…
2×07: ‘Comic Sans’
Things are coming to a boil as we move into the latter half of the season: between Red (Kate Mulgrew) and Vee’s (Lorraine Toussaint) growing contraband businesses and Caputo’s (Nick Sandow) frustration with the sliding quality of his staff, things were bound to come to a head. ‘Comic Sans’ and ‘Appropriately Sized Pots’ work well together because they’re exploring the cause and effect of the new prison regime. Here Caputo, still smarting from being unintentionally rejected by Fischer (Lauren Lapkus), takes his frustrations out on the staff by imposing a Shot quota. Not only does this increase tensions between the inmates and the guards, it reinforces how quickly people abuse their positions of power when afforded the opportunity. Vee proves this when she decides who gets to roll the smokes (Udo Aduba’s Suzanne) and who sells them (Danielle Brooks’ Taystee and the woman whose past we explore, Adrienne C. Moore’s Cindy). Even the traditionally dull romance between John (Matt McGorry) and Diaz (Dascha Polanco) gets a kick from this overarching theme after he refuses to be blackmailed, gives the kitchen girls Shots and tosses Ramos (Diane Guerrero) into SHU. It doesn’t take much for Diaz to remind him who has the real power in the prison.
This is not to say that it can’t be subverted, though. Vee and Red are old pros at manipulating the system, and now we’re seeing Piper (Taylor Schilling) find her own way. Although she tells the reporter that she’s not interested in causing trouble, the Big House Bugle still contains political cartoons and propaganda pieces (such as a pro-Caputo ‘Guards: They’re People, Too’ column that even Michael Harney’s Healy recognizes as an attempt to appease). In Vee’s words, everyone is playing “the long game” to ensure their future. The only ones who aren’t are the grasshoppers.
- The “compassionate release” story is a little too on-the-nose considering Piper’s concerns for her sick grandmother. Still, it’s hard not to feel something at the end of the episode when we learn that the woman will likely end up on the streets, dead, because the prison can’t afford to care for her full time.
- Is it sad or funny that Figueroa’s husband is in all likelihood gay? While she’s still very much a cartoon character, her lament that the focus is on Luffas instead of sentence reform offers a rare glimpse that Fig actually does care about her job and the women in the prison.
- Larry (Jason Biggs) sleeps with Polly (Maria Dizzia). Eff this storyline.
- I quite liked the conversation about grammar between Morello (Yael Stone) and Gonzales (Jackie Cruz). Both are routinely played for laughs because they’re kind of ditzy, so this is a nice reminder that there’s more to them than surface aesthetics. Also: isn’t it strange how Morello’s refusal to write a “Dickens meets Danielle Steele” column carries a lot more weight and meaning now that we know her backstory?
- Cindy (preventing someone from walking through airport security with a Big Gulp): “You still drinking it? That’s what the terrorists say”
- Piper (to the reporter): “I’m not going to fuck things up to play high stakes Harriet, the spy”
- Laverne Cox’s Sophia (when Red gives her gummi bears): “You ever get kissed by a six foot tall black woman?”
- Elizabeth Rodriguez’s Mama Diaz (when John arrives in the kitchen with contraband): “Fuck Santa. John is better looking and he comes even if you’ve been naughty.”
2×08: ‘Appropriately Sized Pots’
This episode takes everything that’s percolating in ‘Comic Sans’ and explodes it, paying off nearly every dangling plot thread. Figueroa goes off on Caputo, who then reciprocates on Fischer, firing her in a desperate attempt to reassert his authority (and recover from being emasculated). In hindsight a lot of the storylines with the guards in the second season feel like they’ve been building to this moment, and when Figueroa tells Caputo that the prison needs muscle, it’s a foregone conclusion that the man we’ll see get out of the car will inevitably be Pornstache (Pablo Schreiber).
The granting of Piper’s furlough is another one of those moments that feels like it could have only come to one conclusion. The moment that she speechifies about white privilege and defends her grandmother as a person too doesn’t play quite as powerfully as I think the writers (and Schilling) were aiming for, but it once again underscores the racial tensions that have been at the forefront of many storylines since Vee appeared this season. Piper’s attempt to give the furlough back because it’s making her unpopular is a classic character trait (albeit not a very admirable one), so Healey’s dismissal and the revelation that her grandmother is already dead is a nice emotional twist to bring things together. Plus we know that once granted, furlough is followed through regardless of circumstances, so we can look forward to seeing Piper out of prison shortly for no apparent reason (this also nicely pays off all of the conversations Piper has with various women who offer advice on what she should do. Now she can do it all because she won’t be at the hospital).
The other long simmering plot that comes into play in ‘Appropriately Sized Pots’ is Mendoza (Selenis Leyva) getting caught in the middle of the escalating contraband battle between Vee and Red. She’s probably a little more on Red’s side since they have their yogurt-for-spices deal and Mendoza is hiding Red’s stash from Caputo, but that has the makings of a disaster now that Pornstache is back and undoubtedly out for revenge on Red. Interesting developments…
- Although Nichols’ (Natasha Lyonne) attempt to seduce Fischer was mostly played for laughs, there’s an emotional pay-off during their conversation in the church once Fischer is fired. I especially appreciated that Nichols doesn’t sugarcoat the fact that Fischer should get out of there as soon as possible. These women make for great television, but at $16 an hour, who would want to actually work at Litchfield?
- With Fischer gone, is it safe to assume that Diaz’s pregnancy (overheard in an eavesdropped phone conversation) remains safely under wraps?
- I don’t really know what to make of the Soso shower storyline. If this is an attempt to give the character some personality it’s not really working. Either that or something tragic is being setting up for later on this season.
- Finally, I truly enjoyed learning more about Miss Rosa’s (Barbara Rosenblat) history as a kiss-of-death bank robber. The reveal that her young friend at the hospital is in remission is a lovely coda, as is her sniffing of the stolen money at the end of the episode. She got her last heist, after all.
- Caputo (proving to Red that he knows plants): “Broccoli is no pussy.”
- Old woman (when Piper suggests she finds old people comforting): “Glad we could be of service.”
- Fig (complaining about the lackadaisical nature of her employees): “Am I like the boy in Sixth Sense seeing infractions that no one else sees. Am I in an M. Night Shalamana video?”
- Diaz (complaining about her pregnancy): “I fall asleep all of the time like I’m some kind of necrophiliac.”
- Nichols (to Lubcheck, about groping Fischer’s boobs): “Now what are those tits like?”
Your turn: how do you feel about the developments on the guard side of the story (Figueroa’s desperation, Caputo’s reaction, Fischer’s firing, Pornstache’s return)? Is Mendoza in over her head? Will Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning) separate herself completely from her friends? Whose backstory was more interesting: Cindy or Miss Rosa? And what should Piper do with her furlough? Sound off below, but please keep your comments spoiler free.
Orange Is The New Black is now available in its entirety on Netflix. Come back next Wednesday for reviews of episodes 9 & 10.