It’s been two weeks so we’ve all had time to watch the second season of Netflix’s greatest show, ever, Orange is the New Black. At least that’s what I’m selfishly telling myself so I can talk about it, 8 hours after I finished the thirteenth and final episode. For you people who haven’t been able to lock your kids in their rooms after dinner and binge-watch with proper unhealthy vigor, well, get over yourself, there are spoilers coming. Go take a Buzzfeed quiz on who’s your Orange Is The New Black prison wife. Wait, they really have that one? Good grief.
I liked season 2 better than 1 because of how they grew the characters. Piper Chapman is almost a completely different person, which a few months in prison should do to her. The finale scene in between her and new inmate Brooke SoSo was well paced, and dialogued brilliantly. SoSo is the new Chapman and Chapman is something else. The loss of innocence and the effect loneliness has on someone behind bars was symphonically played.
I know many OITNB watchers disagree, but the Piper Chapman vs. Alex Vause dynamic drives the show, it’s why Piper is in prison, and using it to open the season in episode 1, developing other characters in the following 11 shows, before ending with Piper vs. Alex was genius. Piper getting revenge through her cheating best friend and ex-boyfriend, sicking Alex’s probation officer on her was great writing. It showed Piper standing up for herself and moving past her younger life, crush.
Top 5 Characters
1) Piper, see above. She’s the center of the show, a fictionalized version of the woman who wrote the book and did the time. Season 2 was about her white privilege and suffering through her impossible furlough, then watching everyone reject her, in one way or another. Taylor Schilling grew up as actress this year and she was superbly written.
2) Vee, hate her or hate her, she was the villain the series needed. There was no heart or soul to Vee, just an opportunistic player who used everyone for sport or commerce. I clenched my fists in anger when she slocked Red and yelled at my TV when her band of “sisters’ turned against her, finally, and left her with the only option, escaping. So when fellow runner, cancer-stricken Rosa ran her over in the van, I cheered. That means Lorraine Toussaint’s performance was dynamite. She’s probably picking up some hardware come awards season.
3) Red, After making an average villain in season 1, then losing everything to Vee in season 2, her redemption was handled in an excellent manner. When Piper visited Red’s old NYC market, saw that her family had lost it, then returned and lied to Red that it was doing well, the look on Red’s face told you everything you needed to know. She thrived on being needed. Kate Mulgrew did an amazing acting job. Last season’s menacing and chopping people up with that bad Russian accent with no purpose, was replaced depth and heart. Her interactions with conflicted, narcissistic hunger striking nun, Ingalls, were fantastic.
4) Healy, Say whatever you want about him, but the man gives a damn. Like the women he’s assigned to protect and serve, he’s a reject too. His mail order Russian bride hates him, despite his kindness. The touchy-feely Safe Place counseling sessions were treated as a joke by the inmates and eventually he saw he was their butt. Michael Harney was great on NYPD Blue as an annoying sad sack detective. He brings the same to this character. He’s the soul of an otherwise soulless corrections department. He makes you want to eat a cookie and talk about your problems then make fun of him behind his back. How he saved Crazy-Eyes from an assault conviction against Red was well-written.
5) Poussey, Her backstory was better than her front because we saw why she was so complicated, conflicted and conceited. Her sexuality imprisoned her as much as her lack of faith in her friends. It was nice to see her reunite with Taystee at the end. I hope these two provide strength in season 3.
Honorable mention – Rosa. It was heart-breaking to watch her near death and of course seeing her drive away from prison and over Vee was fist-pumpable. Barbara Rosenblat’s performance is the only reason she’s not in my top 5. Her flashbacks scenes showing her as a randy, kiss 0f death giving bank robber fell flat for me, but the stuff in the hospital with the teenaged cancer patient was funny. She will be missed, provided she meets the fate we think, given only weeks to live with cancer.
Bottom 5 Characters
1) Morello, So, she’s an internet thief and a bat-crap crazy stalker of Christufuh, not his devoted fiancé. Yet, inside in the prison she’s everyone’s stable sister and emotional crutch? This is poor writing. Being locked up should make a whack-job like Morello moreso. There’s way too much heart there for someone so unhinged in the general public. Letting her get away with visiting Christufuh’s house, wear his real fiancé’s veil, and soak in their tub just didn’t jibe with the rest of her character. Yael Stone doesn’t do anything wrong, but the writers turned her into a cliché.
2) Taystee, She was season 1′s star then season 2′s disappointment. I never bought her conversion into Vee’s disciple of destruction. On the outside she questioned Vee all the time, now inside, she’s going to turn her back on her friends until the end? I just didn’t buy it. Danielle Brooks didn’t show a lot of range. She nails Taystee’s happy go lucky stuff, but doesn’t handle being a bad ass very well. Taystee came back at the end of the season and her friendship with Poussey is a highlight.
3) Larry, Has there ever been a more crappy partner to a main character, before? There’s no reason for Piper to ever want to be with this guy. He’s a douche, a coward, and going after Polly, Piper’s bets friend, while she’s married and just given birth to a baby makes him unredeemable. Real-life Larry and real-life Piper are together, married, and happy. I know they’re sitting on a pile of cash because of this show, but how do they watch this portrayal and not hate themselves? Larry makes me root for Piper and Alex to be together and that’s crazytown. Jason Biggs’ career has been mediocre and his blandness makes Larry awful. He gives writers like me a bad name.
4) Nicky Nichols & Big Boo, They’re lumped together because they spent so much worthless time competing for prison booty, literally and figuratively. Natasha Lyonne and Lea Delauria are good actresses who deserve better. Nicky showed heart with Red. Her anguish over not doing smack was well done but everything else was blah. Big Boo’s betrayal of Red to Vee was wrong. There were several other characters that could’ve been used (Pennsatucky, anyone?) so it left Boo this nasty person, poorly played.
5) Sex, Look, I like sexy time as much as the next dude and you’d think a show with lots of nudity and bodies bumping would be something I was into, but this season has too much. Did we really need to see Vee’s stuff? Don’t get me going again on the sex contest between Nicky and Boo that went nowhere and lasted several episodes. What happened between Caputo and Figueroa in the assistant warden’s office was offensive.
Honorable Mention – Natalie “Fig” Figueroa. There aren’t enough good roles for women in show business as is, so when you give an important one like prison assistant warden to a hack like Alysia Reiner who turns it into a back alley Disney witch character, bad things happen. Good riddance.
So, let me know what you thought. I stayed up to 12:30AM watching the last 3 episodes. It was that good.
Did I mention Orange Is The New Black has one of the best themes songs in TV history?
Here’s Regina Specktor’s You’ve Got Time.