Our coverage of Orange Is The New Black‘s second season closes in on the finish line as Piper (Taylor Schilling) gets furlough and prison politics get complicated.
Let’s bitch it out…
2×09: ’40 OZ Of Furlough’
I found this episode a challenging mix of tones. On one hand we have the story of Piper Chapman, the WASP-y, materialistic girl who no longer finds herself comfortable with the roles assigned to her by polite society. On the other, the continuing developments of both the inmates and guard storylines as two characters break their silence with potentially explosive results yet to come. Both are interesting, engaging stories – and yet I wish that they had been further separated.
One of the strengths of the opening episode was that we weren’t constantly bouncing back from Piper’s solo journey in Chicago to check in on Litchfield (ditto the second episode which cut Piper out of the mix completely). The simple fact is that there is enough meaty content to justify spending the time with just one, even if it would make the Piper-haters grit their teeth to have to spend so much time listening about Archaeology candles from how good the white wine tastes (nothing ironic about that, Piper).
Unfortunately ’40 OZ Of Furlough’ elects to divide its attention and the results are less compelling than they would be otherwise. I personally wanted to see more of Red’s (Kate Mulgrew) past with Vee (Lorraine Toussaint) – which plays out both exactly as I expected, and somehow completely differently. It never occurred to me that Vee effectively made Red into the smuggler/dictator that she is today, and the way that Vee manipulates her first as a friend and then twists the knife raises all kinds of warning flags about Vee’s present day interactions with Taystee (Danielle Brooks) and Suzanne (Uzo Abuda). Of course the other big developments are the two tattlers: Bennett (Matt McGorry), who tells Caputo (Nick Sandow) that Pornstache (Pablo Schreiber) has fathered Diaz’s (Dascha Polanco) baby, and Big Boo (Lea DeLaria) who reveals to Vee where Red’s shipments are coming in. Both of these secrets are apt to have HUGE ramifications moving forward and something tells me that both tattlers will regret opening their mouths.
- We’re obviously meant to draw comparisons between the way that Piper is treated compared to her brother Cal (Michael Chernus). She is admonished for her fall from grace and branded the family black sheep while Cal successfully hijacks the event to get married on the cheap and no one bats an eye except their irritated mother. Admittedly prison is a much bigger deal, but it does give us insight into the life of privilege and class that Piper came from before Litchfield and where their true priorities lie.
- In other Piper developments: she finally accepts that things with Larry (Jason Biggs) and his flaccid penis are over. Good riddance.
- Piper also learns that Red’s suspicions of the state of the family business are well-founded: the restaurant is locked up with a rental sign in the window. The Russian is gonna be pissed.
- Finally, Healey (Michael Harney) further aligns himself to Pennsatucky’s (Taryn Manning) crazy train when he recognizes a kindred spirit in her quick temper. It makes sense that he would immediately adopt the psycho-babble BS that he receives in therapy when he meets with Penns – after all, what better way to heal himself than to fix the projection of his problems?
- Catherine Curtin’s Guard Bell (when Piper asks what she would be sneaking out of prison): “It’s procedure. Don’t look for logic.”
- Natasha Lyonne’s Nichols (finishing up her AA speech): “So in closing: fuck the Germans!”
- Piper (when Larry offers to let her stay at his house): “Wow, you couldn’t even try to make that sound like you meant it.”
- Piper (when Larry admits he slept with someone else): “Do not defend your boner to me right now”
- Emma Myles’ Leanne (considering Kimiko Glenn’s Soso’s offer to join the hunger strike): “It depends on what they’re serving for lunch today, but I’ll think about it.”
- Diane Guerrero’s Ramos (explaining to Mendoza how the old women stole the goods): “Yeah, and one of them looked like a Disney witch.”
2×10: ‘Little Mustachioed Shit’
The house of cards shows signs of toppling as we inch closer to the end of the season. Vee’s true colours are becoming increasingly clear to everyone as she lords her authority and influence more publicly (in the cafeteria, at the phone line and – sadly for a number of reasons – in the showers). After seeing the back story between Vee and Red last episode, it’s almost shocking that Vee would use the same tricks again, even going so far as to suggest that she wants to be friends with Red once again. It’s interesting that the Russian hard-ass almost seems to believe her…at least until Nichols arrives with the baggie of heroin that Gina has been shadowing her over. And with one simple bag of drugs Red confirms what she’s expected of her nemesis all along…
Between the casual dictatorship and the events that transpire in the women’s bathroom when she silently orders Suzanne to beat the living crap out of Poussey (Samira Wiley), Vee has truly become a force to be reckoned with during this second season. And yet I still don’t really feel like we know anything about the woman. Everything we see of her is through the eyes of other characters: Taystee and Suzanne’s desperation for a mother figure, Poussey’s fear of losing everything she cares for, Red’s wariness of mistakenly trusting her. At this point, I really want to see a flashback from Vee’s point of view to get an idea of what makes this woman tick (it must be about more than just power). I think that there must be more to her facade than meets the eyes, but without greater insight, in many ways Vee has inherited Pornstache’s role as the broadly drawn villain for the season.
It’s fitting that we see the two of them at work in the same episode as it clarifies just how cartoonish Pornstache is. I’ll admit that his obsession with Diaz has never felt authentic to me. Throughout S1 I kept expecting him to suddenly turn to her and John and reveal that he’d been playing them all along. When the “truth” about his rape of Diaz comes out, the satisfaction of his slow motion march down the hallway after being fired and arrested is thwarted by Pornstache’s dramatic proclamation of love. The fact that Diaz would actually prefer Pornstache’s public announcement to the genuine affection John has for her also confirms how little their relationship has been developed this season. Yes, it is complicated and fraught with some power hierarchy issues, but their recent conflict proves to me that the writers have done these characters a disservice by failing to dedicate screen time to them or properly elaborate on Diaz’s rationale for wanting something else. Early there was a suggestion that her desires were being driven by pregnancy hormones (understandable), but what is it now? She’s eager for John to sacrifice himself to even the scales? How does that even work?
With the end in sight, there’s also a great deal of house cleaning so we touch on the other storylines that have been percolating away in the background:
- Healey’s Safe Space initiative doesn’t take off (as predicted), but it seems to help forge even closer bonds with Pennsatucky.
- Despite being a target for mockery, Soso’s hunger strike gains two supporters in Yoga Jones (Constance Shulman) and Sister Ingalls (Beth Fowler). This still has the potential to blow up into something significant in the remaining three episodes.
- Piper figures out that Larry’s fling was with Polly (Maria Dizzia) in a surprisingly effective prison visit that sees the truth come out without the best friends ever verbally acknowledging it. The flaming bag of poo is a nice visual connection between the flashbacks and the present (I particularly liked Polly’s resigned declaration that she deserves it).
- Alex Vause (Laura Prepon) sighting! Not only does she appear in flashbacks to seduce stupid vapid Piper, she sends her a thick letter but we’ll have to wait to see what its contents reveal until Piper decides to stop punching walls and start “getting revenge” (as Red encourages her to do to Larry).
- Nichols learns Morello’s (Yael Stone) secret about her more-stalker-than-romantic relationship with Christopher. I wasn’t sure if we were meant to believe Nichols’ love for the distraught woman is what caused her to hand over the heroin, but I still rather like the two of them together.
- Finally, Poussey’s shower beat-down: what I appreciated most is the fact that the attack – and fall-out – is done wordlessly by Vee. She has such control over Suzanne and Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore) that all she needs to do is signal them to get them to do her bidding. Vee’s cool, calm response is much more frightening than having her fly into a rage. I truly hope that she gets her comeuppance before the season’s out.
- Piper (after learning that Alex has a girlfriend and Alex compliments her on her shoes): “They’re from Marshals. Fuck you.”
- Red (telling Laverne Cox’s Sophia how she would have dealt with a son who turned her in): “Well if it was me, I would have kicked him to death.”
- Piper (when the reporter asks if she’ll take pictures): “Why don’t you get me an iPhone so that I can take pictures and play Candy Crush?”
Your turn: are you hoping that Vee gets a taste of her own medicine? Is Poussey the most tragic figure this season? Will Red discover that Piper lied to her about her restaurant? Do you want Morello and Nichols to hook up? Will Soso’s hunger strike become a significant plot point? And are you satisfied with the way Diaz and Bennett’s relationship has been handled this season? Sound off below, but please refrain from posting spoilers about upcoming episodes so that the viewing experience of those pacing themselves is not ruined.
Orange Is The New Black is now available in its entirety on Netflix. Come back next Wednesday for a review of the remaining S2 episodes: 11-13. See you then.