Orange is The New Black: Season 2, Episodes 4 & 5

Posted on June 14, 2014

Orange-Is-The-New-Black-Season-2-Episodes-4-5-6-Tom-Lorenzo-Site-TLOYael Stone in Netflix’s “Orange Is The New Black”

 

Episode 4: “A Whole Other Hole”

“I’m going to get poison pumped into my veins. What’s a little mouse shit in my lungs?” 

With this episode, Orange is the New Black really digs into its second season; showing us the ways in which it’s different from season one and the ways in which it hasn’t lost its touch at all.

If we tried really hard to come up with something critical to say about the show as a whole, it’s that it sometimes veers a little close to beatifying its characters, as if every single inmate at Litchfield was either the victim of someone else’s evil or just a person who made a bad decision or wrong turn somewhere. It’s a good thing for the show to pull back a little from the broadness that defines its style and remind us that prison is also – and many would say “mainly” – a place to send people who are dangerous and sometimes even psychotic. There’s no better way to shock us into remembering this fact than by using a character like Lorna to illustrate it. Yes, it was one of those classic “Everything you THOUGHT you knew is a lie!” twists, but it was executed so perfectly that it made us wish we were watching a network or cable show in real time, just so we could get on twitter and gasp along with everyone else.

We thought it was pretty much a given that Christopher was not going to marry Lorna and assumed it was because he’d long since moved on. Anyone watching the show could see that her constant wedding planning was a total pipe dream and that she was just deluding herself in order to get through her sentence. But to find out that Lorna’s delusions are much stronger and go much further back than prison? To find out the extent to which she harrassed and threatened Christopher and his real fiancee, to the point of it being legitimately scary? That was a genuine “Whoa” moment. And yet, our hearts still break for her, even after the reveal that she planted a bomb under Christopher’s car. That’s a testament to the writing and to Yael Stone’s fragile, high-strung performance. The scene in Christopher’s house went from tense to full on batshit crazy slowly, letting you come to terms with the idea that Lorna is quite a different person than you thought. By the time she’s naked in the tub with a wedding veil on, you’ve got your face in your hands, begging her to get out of there; pleading with her not to get caught, even as you recognize that what she’s doing is very, very wrong. It was some of the best directing and acting the show has ever put together, making for one of the most talked-about sequences of the second season. A sharp, poignant turn that reminded us just when we needed the reminder of how much this show can be a knife to your heart.

In other Litch news:

Brook Soso may just outdo season 1 Piper for being both hilariously un-self-aware and annoying, getting some of the best lines of the episode. “Is she Chinese? I don’t want to presume. She could be Malay.” “Everyone is in such a bad mood!” Thankfully, Nikki, who declared herself a “bean-flicking Mother Teresa,” knew exactly what to do to get Brook to shut up for a second.

Vee is getting more emboldened (and thus more dangerous) by the minute, playing the black girls against each other and casting her own power play as some sort of civil rights triumph. Cindy, Taystee, Janae and Poussey are right to laugh her off when she talks about being a powerful black woman in a place like Litchfield, but Vee’s no joke. She’s a sociopath who knows how to zero in on a person’s most painful weakness and then jam her finger into it over and over again until they’re howling in pain and willing to do as told. We worry about Poussey going up against her. She doesn’t seem to understand yet just how much of a hold Vee has on Taystee. Interesting costume design to note (in a show that doesn’t have much of a chance to tell story through costuming or makeup): Taystee’s braiding her hair again, just like she did when she was under Vee’s influence in the outside world. This goes hand in hand with Suzanne’s new Vee-approved hairstyle. There’s some subtle brilliance in the idea of using the hair of the black female characters to signal the notable changes in each of those characters. We’re keeping an eye on Cindy’s afro puffs.

And just to prove how committed the show is to its central theme that every person has a story to tell, it looks like we’re going to learn a lot more about Rosa, who came off as nothing more than a throwaway character last season. That moment when Morello cheerily tells her to buckle up and she looks down at the seatbelt with resignation was sadly beautiful and perfectly human. Why bother?

Piper’s trying to put her Litchfield life back together, but we’re just  happy to see her side-lined from the main action. We’re hoping that continues for a while. What’s going on with Vee and her posse is far more interesting than anything else this season. It would be a shame – and it would feel like a betrayal somehow – if Piper somehow winds up at the center of this one. Especially since it keeps threatening to get seriously ugly. “The reign of whitey is over,” says Nikki, about the Latinas getting the best seats at movie night. Vee’s doing her best to stir up racial resentment and we’re starting to get scared that the season will end with a riot.

Funniest moment of the season so far: O’Neill’s wide-eyed look at the revelation of the clitoral hood. Absolutely hilarious – and done without a word said. In fact, Sophia’s whole coochie lesson was comedy gold, with “I’ve seen some funky punani in my day,” going down as one of the all-time great bits of dialogue for this show.

Oh, and Red found a pipeline. Literally. That was probably the one bit of this episode we found just a little too convenient. She walks into an unused shed, sees a mouse, and in seconds, discovers a major security breach. Fine. Go with that, but it’s a little silly.

Outside Litchfield, Larry and Polly are about to have an OH GOD WHO THE HELL CARES.

 

Episode 5: “Low Self Esteem City”

“Showers will be limited to 30 seconds?’ Man I can’t even wash my twat in that time!”

Litchfield is so corrupt and broken that shit is literally bubbling up from the drains. It may not be the most elegant metaphor in the world, but it’s definitely an effective one.

And because pretty much everything that happens at the Litch now seems to have a racial component to it,  The “Spanish” girls invade the B Dorm bathroom, causing a fight to break out between Cindy and Flaca and a nose-flaring, eye-burning stare-off between Gloria and Vee. “My girls are not inclined to offer special privileges. “Your girls?” asks Gloria. “When did that happen?” GOOD QUESTION, GLORIA. Don’t turn your back, girl.

Gloria’s always been one of our favorite characters for being a combination of badass and smart. Not smart in the Vee or Red sense, where you come into prison and use your intelligence to secure a position of power. No, she’s smarter even than that: she stays the hell out of things – even as she herself enjoys quite a bit of power and privilege as the head of the kitchen. Unlike Red, she never really uses that position to secure anything but a few perks here and there. In flashback, we find out (as we so often do with these flashbacks), that there’s another side to the story. She may be strong and loaded with common sense now, but there was a time when she was a victim and making some highly questionable choices in her life. We can’t say anything about her backstory was shocking, but it was fun to see her rocking the shit out of some skin-tight acid-washed jeans. The last minute reveal that her aunt’s Santeria may actually work felt a little off-model, though. Like something from an episode of Lost.

This was the “everyone is in their own prison” episode, which is one of the central themes of the show. Whether you wear the prison drabs or you wear a CO’s uniform, you’re stuck in Litchfield, railing against your restraints, and generally unhappy over it. Sometimes we think the show oversells this idea; especially with characters like Healey and Caputo. You can show us a million scenes of Healey’s wife being horrible to him and you’re never really going to convince us that it’s somehow akin to … we don’t know, Suzanne’s life. Or Daya’s. And every time we watch Caputo act like a lovestruck teenager around Fischer, we can’t help but roll our eyes. It’s not that we don’t care about the guards and employees of the Litch; it’s just that the show has not managed to make us feel sorry for them – and it keeps trying to.

But Healey probably needs the character rehabilitiation, since his actions at the end of last season tipped him over the line from “frustrated man” to “villain.” What’s interesting about him is that he clearly has no motivations or thought of his own. He simply adopts whatever someone else is feeding him. He doesn’t enact, he reacts – to everything. So if his wife is a bitch to him, he’ll take it out on an inmate. If Caputo suddenly becomes his hero for being in a band (giving you some idea of how emotionally immature Healey must be) and starts talking about their duty to keep the inmates safe and clean, then by God,  he is going to do just that. And every time he reacts this way, adopting someone else’s point of view or making sudden left turns out of nowhere because his wife emasculated him, he keeps looking up expectantly, waiting for applause and a pat on the head. And then storming off angrily when he doesn’t get it. No, we don’t feel sorry for Healey in any significant way, but he is one of the more finely drawn characters on the show. And he’s the best way of reminding the viewer how much the inmates are at the mercy of other people’s bad moods or frustrations.

As for Caputo, we appreciate that he’s both an asshole and someone who genuinely cares about his responsibilities to the inmates, but other than that, we don’t much care. His mooning over Fischer comes off silly and his sparring with Figueroa is one of the rare times the show actually feels like a stereotypical TV show. She’s WAY too broad a character for this ensemble (a problem we have with Pornstache as well) and their banter always sounds scripted. Just fuck and get it over with, you two.

In Piper news, she gets a visit from her mother and brother (but not her father), which helps remind us just how fucked up her family is. Then she calls Larry. We are sitting on mountains of don’t-give-a-shit.

And finally, it looks like Red and Vee are going to go to war this season. Gloria was pretty upset to find out from Red that Vee played her like a fiddle (in a scene that should land Lorraine Toussaint an Emmy nod, just for the sheer creepiness displayed in that little smile), but we’re convinced she’s smart enough to stay out of it from now on. “This shit’s dangerous,” she says, as she blows out her tampon string-and-crayon Santeria candle. Smart lady.

 

 

 

 

[Photo Credit: Jessica Miglio for Netflix]

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