The concept of what makes a home and a family is a theme explored in a lot of TV shows. So much so that it comes with its own series of tropes and it is one of my favorite themes in media. However, what happens when you apply those themes to a setting that is usually used as a cautionary tale?
Welcome to the main crux of season 2 of Orange is the New Black.
Even though the first episode is focused on Chapman a month out of the incident with Pennsatucky that ended season one, she is no longer the central focus of the show as a whole. Well, at least when inside the prison. Unfortunately, the outside world is still focused on Piper’s little bubble, which is mostly Larry. Ugh.
Inside the prison though, the narrative really starts to dig into the lives of the other women we only started to become acquainted to last season. I was initially a little worried that Jenji Kohan wouldn’t live up to her promise of Piper being the show’s “trojan horse” when the first episode was exclusively focused on her, but my fears were quickly dashed when the next episode had Taystee as the central focus character. If season one was our introduction at the party to these women, season two is sitting down with coffee and getting to know them better. One of my favorite story lines from this season that I didn’t expect was Miss Rosa (Barbara Rosenblat) dealing with her cancer getting worse, which was a big jump from her being a bit of a one note character last season. A close second was Morello (Yael Stone) learning to get over Christopher and learning more about good old Sister Ingalls (Beth Fowler). All these stories actually made me forget that Alex Vause was gone for most of the season.
However, the person who really deserves all the awards this season is Samira Wiley as Poussey. The character definitely became a fan favorite last season, but she really got to stretch her wings this season. The same for Danielle Brooks as Taystee and Uzo Aduba as Suzanne, but Poussey broke my heart the most as she struggled against losing her prison family to Vee (Lorraine Toussaint). If that wasn’t enough, it was also seeing her flashbacks to her time in Germany in ‘You Also Have A Pizza’ that made my heart hurt the most.
Vee was such a fascinating villain to go against Poussey, Red, and so many others though. Where Pornstache was just slimy and infuriating, Vee was manipulative in a way that would make the characters from Game of Thrones jealous. In the episode ‘Low Self Esteem City,’ we really got to see how abusive her behavior is and how it is indeed on the same spectrum of the physical abuse Mendoza (Selenis Leyva) went through before she came to Litchfield. Vee wasn’t redeemable, but damn, was she amazing to watch. Especially when she was going to battle with Red (Kate Mulgrew) for control of prison contraband.
It wasn’t just the prisoners we got to know more this season, but the people working at the prison too. Like Chapman’s section on getting to know the guards in her short lived prison newsletter, we get to see how the place affects the correctional officers and prison administration as well. The short answer being that it drives them just as crazy between Figueroa embezzling money under the guise of expanding the prison instead of doing anything with it, Caputo coming down hard to compensate especially when the inmates are complaining about bathrooms and going on hunger strike over the treatment of the older prisoners, Healy coming to terms with his anger issues that nearly got Chapman killed the previous season and Bennett dealing with the secret that he got Daya pregnant. Fig and Caputo definitely had the meat of story, but my heart got stolen by O’Neill and Bell’s love story that was happening. It was just so adorable in a very weird way and O’Neill was stealing the show in the last episode. I won’t spoil it too much, but it does involve nuns and a banjolele.
I’ll need to go back and rewatch the two seasons back to back to see which one I truly liked more, but I did love season two for really digging into the characters and letting them grow. It not only showed how great the writing on the show was, but how exceptional all the actors are. It also did an amazing job at not just exploring what makes a family and a home, but issues such as abuse and treatment of the elderly in prison. My only real complaint about the season was that as much as she became recognized from her work on the show, Laverne Cox didn’t seem to have a whole lot to do as Sophia Burset this season. Granted, her lesson on the anatomy of the vagina in ‘A Whole Other Hole’ was probably one of my favorite moments of the season, but I can only hope that the next season will give her a continuing plot line that she’s worthy of. As the theme song says, we got time.
What did you think of this season of Orange is the New Black? Was it on good behavior or should it be sent to the SHU? Let us know in the comments!