Friday, June 13, 2014

Orange Is the New Black Season Two Wrap-Up

I just burned through season two of Orange Is the New Black in record time. Initially, I believed the new season was not as good as the first. Now that I have finished it, I take that back. To those who believed (as I did) that OITNB is the Piper Chapman story, you may find yourself disappointed to discover entire episodes in which she does not appear. Though Chapman is still a major character, the second season gave a number of her fellow prisoners a greater time in the spotlight.

To me, the drama between Piper and Alex is pretty old and boring. How many times can someone burn you and fuck up your life before you swear them off forever? In the season two opener, Alex does it again. When both Alex and Piper find themselves in Chicago waiting to testify against the drug dealer that employed them, Alex convinces Piper to lie on the stand and say she didn't know who he was. She convinced Piper that it was for her safety. Despite that old adage about not believing liars, Piper did as she was told and committed perjury. Naturally, Alex didn't, and she was released from jail immediately. Piper gets burned again.

Back at her "normal" prison, Piper is fuming about being burned by Alex once again. But she hardly has time to vent about it before being thrown into a whole bunch of new drama. I won't go point-by-point throughout the whole season, but I will share some of my favorite highlights from the season.

At the end of the first season, Piper had her big fight with Pennsatucky, and it looked like Penn might be dead. She wasn't. But due to a lucky twist of fate, when Crazy Eyes saw what was happening and popped Piper right in the face, this actually saved Piper. Because Piper, too, was knocked out and showed signs of being in a fight, the administration at the prison held that the conflict was mutual and neither girl was given additional discipline. Oh, and Pennsatucky got new teeth out of the deal!

As far as new characters go in season two, there are only a handful. The first one is Soso: a young, naive college girl who was arrested for unlawful political protests. She was kind of funny, and seemed a little bit like Piper did when she first got to the prison. By mid-season, though, I stopped giving a shit. The other newbie is Vee: a tough as nails drug dealer who has been to prison before and has long standing relationships with both Taystee and Red. Vee becomes a major character in season two.

Morello, the seemingly sweet romantic who is constantly planning her wedding, turns out to be a lot more dangerous than anyone might have thought. We learn that she is not in jail for mail fraud, but for criminal stalking. Her "fiancee" is a man she went out with once and became obsessed with. In one episode, Morello abuses the trust placed in her and steals the van she uses to transport a sick prisoner to get cancer treatments. She drives to her victim's home, breaks in, and does some generally creepy shit. She gets away with it in the sense that she is not caught by the prison; but the "fiancee" knows she was there and confronts her at the prison in a very loud scene which exposes her true crime to the other prisoners.

In the backstory segment on Taystee, we see that she was a child of the foster system. The aforementioned Vee takes her in and turns her into a drug dealer. This seems to be something Vee does often. She is the master manipulator, especially when dealing with vulnerable children. In prison, Vee and Taystee reunite, and after some initial drama, the two are back in business together. In short order, Vee becomes the queen of the black women in the prison, and uses "divide and conquer" tactics to crush anyone who challenges her position. 
"Crazy Eyes"
Taystee and Crazy Eyes are especially susceptible to Vee's manipulation. While everyone else slowly catches on to Vee's game, Crazy Eyes falls deeper under her control. In an especially sad scene, Vee convinces Crazy Eyes that it was her - and not Vee - who delivered a brutal beatdown on Red. Vee is so cold that she had no issue letting Crazy Eyes take the fall.

Spoiler alert: Vee eventually escapes from prison, but is killed by Miss Rosa, who herself escaped - with the help of Morello's van.

Speaking of Miss Rosa, her backstory was a little more interesting than I had assumed. In her flashback, we see a young and very attractive Rosa in her life as a bank robber. Her real crime was being too greedy. She got caught by trying to rob a second bank just minutes after robbing her initial target. Silly criminal.

Somehow, Piper is given a 48 hour furlow at one point in the season, and we get caught up with her ex-fiancee, Larry, and her "best friend," Polly. Despite her chronic cheating, Piper finds herself quite furious to discover that Larry and Polly are now a couple. Hopefully, this means we'll never have to see the two again, as I dislike both characters.

Unfortunately, season two does not have any major storylines with Nichols. She's in the show a lot; but besides her contest with Big Boo over who could get more prison pussy, and the challenge to her sobriety when she is handed a bag of heroin, she's just sort of there. I like her character and would like to see more stories with her next season.

There are some other reveals and backstories, but none that I really cared about except for the Caputo vs. Figueroa battles. Fig suffers some major setbacks this season by discovering her husband is gay, and for getting dangerously close to being arrested for embezzlement from the prison. Ultimately, she skates on the criminal charges by resigning, but Caputo gets to deliver the fatal blow by tricking Figueroa into blowing him in exchange for his silence on her criminal activity. After finishing, Caputo reveals that he has already turned her in to the warden. Oops.

Overall, this season was better than the first one. The deeper exploration into more of the prisoners added to the appeal of the show rather than distracting from the Piper focus of the first season. Piper is great, and I like her story lines (for the most part), but learning more about Diaz, Sophia, and Crazy Eyes, for example, gives a more complete picture of what life is like in this fictional prison.

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