It’s the end of the road for Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, which means it’s time to check in on Litchfield’s finest going into S3.
Let’s bitch it out…
Season finales serve a few purposes in the world of television and even though OitNB doesn’t technically air on TV, it still abides by the same basic rules. And so ‘We Have Manners. We’re Polite’ does what a finale needs to do: wraps up long standing story lines, lays the groundwork for new ones and gives everyone a send-off or closure before we leave them for many months. In some cases, such as Fig (Alysia Reiner), Vee (Lorraine Toussaint) and Miss Rosa (Barbara Rosenblat), it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see them again. Let’s break down where everyone stands and what worked (and what didn’t) in the finale:
- Our de facto heroine, Piper (Taylor Schilling), reverted back to super unlikable status just in time to blackmail and connive her way to the top. After successfully working with Caputo (Nick Sandow) to get rid of Fig, Piper not only puts the kibosh on her transfer, she sics Polly (Maria Dizzia) and Larry (Jason Biggs) on Alex (Laura Prepon) to ensure her lady love gets a taste of her own medicine ands up back in prison for S3 (when Prepon returns as a series regular). Gotta say: the scene when Larry and Polly visit in prison is excruciating and I’ve never hated Piper more than when she pulls her “wounded bitch” act. She’s really, really unlikable sometimes.
- Huzzah for Miss Rosa (Barbara Rosenblat) mowing Vee down. I love that the cancer stricken older woman’s rationale isn’t politics or vendettas; it’s simply because Vee was rude and Rosa only has 3-6 weeks to live. Kudos to you, Miss Rosa – you’ve been a hoot all season long. If we never see this character again, this is one hell of an exit.
- Speaking of Vee’s death, I’ll admit that I don’t entirely buy it. I get that she’s a creature who preys on those in search of a mother figure that she can control, but I don’t believe for a second that she wouldn’t have found some other group of gullible women to manipulate. I appreciate that she anticipates being blamed for Red’s attack now that Taystee (Danielle Brooks), Poussey (Samira Wiley), Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore) and Watson (Vicky Jeudy) are willing to stand up to her, but it’s a pretty desperate measure to make a run for it through the woods.
- Most heartbreaking award goes to Uzo Aduba’s Suzanne, whose conflicted portrayal of a fall girl for Vee features both highs and lows. Her desperate sobbing as she clutches the UNO cards given to her by Vee is very powerful; even now she fails to realize the extent to which the older woman manipulated her. And yet it’s so clear that despite being used, Suzanne got something from Vee that no one else in prison was willing to offer: respect and, to a certain extent, love.
- With that said, the whole “you need family/friends to survive” theme is pretty heavy handed in this episode. I appreciate how it plays out across a variety of different characters (including Ruiz, who is so desperate not to be transferred away from her baby), but it also feels very obvious and a bit clumsy at times.
- Let us all hope and pray that this is the end of Diaz’s (Dascha Polanco) desperate requests for Bennett (Matt McGorry) to come clean. Obviously Caputo was never going to let such a scandal go public so close to the start of his tenure, but hopefully now that Diaz learns that she’s the one in danger of suffering if the truth comes out, she’ll ease off on the stupid request for him to do hard time.
- I quite enjoyed Red’s (Kate Mulgrew) time with Sister Ingalls (Beth Fowler) as they discuss sex, faith and conviction. If OitNB lost its way a few times this season, it is because there weren’t enough of these kinds of scenes: ones that feature interesting, complicated, diverse women relating to each other unexpectedly. As much as I enjoyed the battle of minds and wills between Red and Vee, it did feel overly familiar, especially when you consider the narratives from other prison shows.
- Similarly, I’m surprised at how effective the Healey (Michael Harney) / Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning) scenes ended up. Initially I thought that they would simply be in cahoots over their respective actions in last season’s finale, but they’ve come a long way and seem to have a genuine affection for each other. Wouldn’t have expected that last year.
- Nichols (Natasha Lyonne) seems headed for a relapse, no? After all, in TV you don’t introduce an addict without doing an addiction arc. Hopefully her emerging friendship with Big Boo (Lea DeLaria) will help her through the hard times to come.
- Finally, I don’t really know what to say about Mendoza (Selenis Leyva) and Norma’s (Annie Golden) spell to get vengeance on Vee. It connects back to Mendoza’s backstory…but…I got nothing else.
- Cindy (challenging Vee’s comparison of Amazon’s monopoly practices to attacking Red): “Not sure cheap books is the same as pinning shit on crazy.”
- Caputo (surveying Fig on the floor): “I mean, you’re a terrible person, but you’re still hot.”
- Guard O’Neill (to Caputo): “Like a murder of crows, there’s a gaggle of nuns.”
- Alex (lamenting her messed up situation): “Davy fucking Crockett is my probation officer.”
- Suzanne (when Taystee calls a crazy fool): “No, I am not crazy. I am unique.”
- Sister Ingalls (admitting she masturbates): “There was this one statue of Jesus on the cross that was especially ripped. He was my guy.”
- Polly (when Piper questions her post-baby readiness for sex): “And my vagina bounced back really fast.”
- Penns (explaining to Healy how he helped her make a new friend): “And I will never finger her. And I will never let her finger me.”
- Taystee (as Cindy explains Vee’s missing heroin): “Wait. Her shit shit? Oh shit.”
That’s it for me. What did you think of S2? What was your favourite storyline? Are you sad to see a villain like Vee go or will you be happier for things to settle down? Is Piper a terrible person for paying Alex back? Is Nichols destined to use? Will Poussey and Taystee be able to go back to how it was before? Will Caputo crack under the pressure like Fig did? And whose backstory would you like to see in S3? Sound off below.
Orange Is The New Black is available in its entirety on Netflix. Thanks for reading. If you go into OitNB withdrawal waiting for next season, I recommend a slightly older UK show called Bad Girls, which is also about women in prison and looks to be available on Netflix. Enjoy!