Still bingeing away at Orange is the New Black Season 2 and I am loving every minute of it. The individual stories we love are all there and the show’s increasing focus on characters who are not Piper (Taylor Schilling) is alright by me. I have nothing against Piper, but the fresh perspectives have been great and the increasing focus on life in the system — rather than life passing through it — gives the show an entirely new feeling.
As we coast into the middle of the season, tension between the ever-polarizing groups grows and, like the housing market in 2008, things are getting ready to burst. Setting up what may be the series’ main conflict,let’s start with episode five…
Episode 5: Low Self-Esteem City (AKA The One In Which Racial Tensions Flair)
It’s Latinas vs. the Ghetto in this episode and although Gloria (Selenis Leyva) is plucky, Vee (Lorraine Toussaint) may vanquish her efforts by virtue of experience.
The Hispanic bathroom has plumbing issues before work in the morning and they make a strategic invasion of the Ghetto showers, making Vee and company late for work. Caputo (Nick Sandow) brings in a plumber who gives them a cost estimate to repair the damage that freezing has done to the pipes. Fig (Alysia Reiner), the assistant warden, is furious that anyone has been given money without her consent and refuses to repair the pipe work, instead limiting showers to 30 seconds in order to circumvent the problem. Tensions flair between the Latinas and the blacks, with the black girls at a significant disadvantage as the Latinas hold the kitchen and, therefore, ultimate power. Gloria — concerned for Daya (Dascha Polanco) and her unborn baby’s safety — goes to negotiate with Vee, who insists she is a harmless old woman trying to do right by her girls. Vee convinces Gloria to give her girls a spot on custodial and Gloria consents, unaware she is giving Vee a way to smuggle contraband into the prison.
In other developments:
- Red (Kate Mulgrew) begins to move her own contraband through the prison
- Nicky (Natasha Lyonne) and Boo (Lea DeLaria) begin to keep score of their sexual conquests
- Healy (Michael Harney) tries to relate to his Russian wife and wishes he could reconnect with the women in the prison
- Piper learns that her grandmother is dying
- Healy, acting on his desire to do good in the prison, works to grant Piper furlough to see her grandmother, but she must reconnect with Larry (Jason Biggs)Tay to have a place to stay
Episode 6: You Also Have Pizza (AKA Everything is Beautiful and Everything Hurts)
It’s Valentine’s Day and as we roll through the episode, each character is interviewed and asked their definition of love in an Office-aside-style roll. Some of them barely make sense and some of them are deeply moving, but each of them is perfect in their own way — and isn’t that how it is with love? Larry asks Piper to be his mole inside the prison to find out if any of the large amount of state funding going into the prison is ever reaching the prisoners. Unsure at first, Piper wants to win Larry’s trust back, so she begins asking questions and receives sketchy answers from employees at best. Healy, concerned by her prodding, encourages her to stop rather than risk her furlough and Piper improvises an excuse and responds that she wants to begin a prison newsletter to facilitate better communication between inmates, guards, and administration. Healy, still wanting to reconnect with the girls, agrees to support the idea. In flashbacks, we learn about Poussey’s life as an Army brat and the intense toll moving from country to country took on her. After a German officer finds her sleeping with his daughter, he arranges to have Poussey’s family reassigned and a distraught Poussey attempts to pull a gun on him in a crowded restaurant.
In other developments:
- Red warns that Vee will not like how these games will end
- Poussey and Taystee (Danielle Brooks) continue to strain their friendship
- The Latina girls begin to extort Bennett (Matt McGorry) for their continued silence about the pregnancy
- Suzanne (Uzo Aduba) helps Morello (Yael Stone) overcome some of her dependency on Christopher.
Episode 7: Comic Sans (AKA Things Come Together)
In a harmonious mid-season episode, everything we’ve been building up to so far begins to sync. Everyone is running their businesses successfully and independently. Vee and her cigarettes have the once laid-back black girls under control and in operation. Gloria Mendoza is working to keep her girls on top, and Bennett steps up to stop their bullying. Red’s operation is off the ground, once again bringing in useful contraband. The guards continue to fumble as they try to reassert order over the prison. Piper’s faux newsletter is underway — except that she discovers many people, including inmates and guards, are genuinely interested in it, so she, Morello, Daya, and Flaca (Jackie Cruz) learn to work together to make a decent first edition. Fig — the most woefully underdeveloped character — finally gets some screen time and actual characterization. Her husband is obviously gay and the funds for his senatorial campaign are running low, putting stress on their relationship. Even though she expresses distaste at the idea of improving Litchfield itself, she seems genuinely concerned about the state of the American court and prison systems. However, signs of change appear in the last few moments. As Caputo takes a sprig of rosemary out to Red’s greenhouse, where it will continue to grow into a new plant, Fischer listens to a the recording of a phone call in Spanish in which Aleida (Elizabeth Rodriguez) reveals the pregnancy. As the episode closes, Taslitz (Judith Roberts), whose dementia has been worsening for several episodes now, is released as an act of “mercy” because the prison can’t afford to care for her any longer. It is revealed that the elderly woman has no close family and will be left on the streets with no home. Piper looks on as the door closes on Taslitz’ crying face and the orange screen takes over. If that isn’t foreshadowing, I have failed all my high school English teachers.
Life on the inside is rough, but it has order and some fierce ladies to keep that order in place. Things are fixing to blow in Litchfield, and life as our girls know it is certainly about to change. All this contraband has to be noticed eventually and Caputo’s increasing insistence on tightening up security is only going to make things worse. Daya won’t be able to hide a pregnancy much longer and Piper’s efforts to see her grandmother and get information on the money moving through the system are not exactly compatible. However this ends, you know it’s going to end big.