Things heat up quickly between inmates in the first four episodes after the season premiere of Orange is the New Black, Season 2.
Once we return to the prison, the new season’s themes and plotlines quickly become apparent and it is clear that the writers are pulling away from Piper (our blonde-haired, blue-eyed heroine) and are putting the focus on a wider range of the cast. So far, the shift has kept the show feeling fresh and given the audience a new appreciation for old, familiar characters. What are they up to exactly?
Episode 2: Looks Blue, Tastes Red (AKA Taystee Steps Up)
A mock job-interview gives Taystee (Danielle Brooks) a chance to show off her business savvy and she doesn’t fail to deliver. Flashing back to her childhood and life leading up to imprisonment, we learn that Taystee is a child of the system. At a “Black Adoption Day,” young Taystee (then called Tasha) meets a drug dealer who offers her a place in the ring. In a move as confident as any ABC heroine, our Tasha turns her down and promises to wait for a “forever family.” As the episode unfolds, we learn that this dealer (an unnamed black woman) follows Tasha into her teens and Tasha continues to turn down her offers, working hard at a part-time job instead. It isn’t until Tasha finally can’t take an abusive home any longer that she flees to the ring and begs to be taken in, using her math and rote memorization skills to impress. Two later flashbacks show that life with the ring turns out to be just the kind of home and family Taystee had always wanted, with the ring leader as a loving, motherly figure, until one of her close friends is shot by a police officer during the night, undermining Taystee’s faith in the system. In the last thirty seconds, who appears at the entrance to the rec room but the drug dealing mother figure Tasty names “Vee” (Lorraine Toussaint).
In other developments:
- The Hispanics still run the kitchen
- Daya (Dascha Polanco) is still pregnant
- Mendoza (Selenis Leyva) and her mother compete for her love
- Bennett (Matt McGorry) is still adorable
- Red (Kate Mulgrew) has been dethroned and debates retiring with the elderly prison members
- Penssatucky (Taryn Manning) gets new teeth in exchange for protecting Healy on the official fight report
- Taystee wins the job fair
Episode 3: Hugs Can Be Deceiving (AKA The One Where No One Should Trust Vee but Everyone Does)
Vee takes the prison by storm. Red recognized her from a previous incarceration and the audience realizes that Vee once ran the prison and obviously plans to do so again. After being rejected by Taystee (who felt abandoned when no one was there to meet her after she was released in the previous season), Vee turns to Suzanne to find a way in. Recognizing her desire for inclusion and approval, Vee manipulates Suzanne — Crazy Eyes —(Uzo Aduba) into running errands for her. In flashbacks, we find out that Suzanne was always the odd one out and that she could always tell her mother did not really accept her the way she was. We also learn that it was Suzanne who, having become agitated after the Christmas pageant, punched Piper and made it look as though Pennsatucky had been able to fight back. Suzanne thought that Piper would be angry when she returned, but Piper reveals that without Suzanne, she probably would have been put into Max and she asks to sit together at movie night. Seeing Vee in the distance, however, Suzanne decides to “stick with her own” and leaves a perplexed Piper behind Vee gives Mendoza stale cigarettes in exchange for boxed cake, which she then uses to bribe Taystee and the other black girls to her side once more.
In other developments:
- Piper returns still unsure what happened with Alex
- A new girl named Brook Soso (Kimiko Glenn) arrives in the prison and quickly becomes annoying
- Pennsatucky decides she’s above the other meth-heads,
- Morello (Yael Stone) receives word that her fiancé is marrying someone else
- Sweet baby Bennett begins to sneak Daya prenatal vitamins using his prosthetic leg to keep her from telling anyone about the pregnancy.
Episode 4: A Whole Other Hole (AKA We Were ALL Wrong about Morello)
Morello loses it when she drops Rosa (Barbaara Rosenblatt) off for chemo and, realizing her former fiance’s house is only a few minutes away, drives to see the life that he has built without her. She breaks into the house and wanders around, seeing wedding plans lying around and the beautiful home they have built. She wears Christopher’s new girlfriend’s veil and takes a bath in their tub. This would all be very sad and moving, except that flashbacks reveal she was never Christopher’s girlfriend and that after one date, she began to stalk him and leave him threatening phone calls, eventually planting a homemade bomb in the car of his actual girlfriend. Back at the prison, Vee undermines Taystee and Poussey’s friendship after Poussey (Samira Wiley) refuses to sell her hooch, preferring to make it just for herself and her friends rather than getting caught up in drama. Red petitions Caputo (Nick Sando) to start a garden for the elderly ladies to work on, but only so she can use an old access tunnel to bring contraband into the prison.
In other developments:
- Boo (Lea DeLana) and Nicky (Natasha Lyonne) start a competition to see who can give the most orgasms, starting with Soso (who continues to be unbelievably annoying)
- Larry (Jason Biggs) tries to figure out his life without Piper and finds himself getting closer to Polly (Maria Dizzia), whose husband has gone on a “vision quest” just weeks after she gives birth to her baby.
It’s a solid layout for a new season as everyone’s individual stories come together on the backdrop of a battle for control of the prison. Vee, Mendoza and Red are the contenders and it’s a thrilling match as each woman battles less with each other and more with the obstacles found within their separate groups. As far as solid first quarters of a season go, this one is a kicker and if the next nine episodes continue to deliver the amount of drama, heart and shock, Orange is the New Black Season 2 is going to prove the series’ ability to maintain a story arc over multiple seasons.
What do you think? Did you always suspect Morello was a little too nice? Are you as worried for Bennett as I am? Is Vee good or bad for the prison? Let me know in the comments!