For those of you unaware, the majority female cast of Orange is the New Black were reunited for a second season, which was realeased in its entirety on Friday. If you somehow missed the first season of this amazing show last year, it is a Netflix original series from creator Jenji Kohan based on the memoir of Piper Kerman's time in Danbury Federal Correctional Facility.
The story of Piper Chapman, a woman in her thirties who is sentenced to fifteen months in prison after being convicted of a decade-old crime of transporting money for her drug-dealing girlfriend.
In this post I'll be reviewing the second season as a whole, going into key stories and highlighting some of my favourite parts so unfortunately for those who haven't seen it yet you should probably stop reading as there will be spoilers.
Recap of the Season
This season continues on from the shocking cliff-hanger we were left on last season where Piper (Taylor Schilling) is seen backed into a corner and being forced to finally lash out against Pennsatucky who had been bullying her over an extended period of time.
We don't immediately find out what is going on and what happened to Pennsatucky. This is intentional as the audience goes on the ride of "what the hell is going on" as Piper is shipped off to another prison without a word or explanation and no closure in sight. Alone and afraid she is forced into a new colder environment. None other than Chicago.
She doesn't know why or for how long and neither does the audience, there is no cut to a different member of the cast that knows more. Then Piper catches sight of Alex and all is revealed, they're there for their testimony against the kingpin that Alex used to work for. After a long exchange and much deliberation Alex convinces Piper to lie under oath and then Alex tells the truth meaning that Piper gets stuck in prison. Piper is understandably pissed off and betrayed for what seems like the millionth time (maybe she should start learning not to trust Alex).
As is the premise of the show, reflection on characters pasts is a big thing. Pipers childhood flashbacks show her as a responsible and well meaning child who always followed the rules and always told the truth. This one time she listens to Alex and not her lawyer about telling the truth and she ends up seemingly screwed over.
The next episode we find out Pennsatucky apparently did survive the beating (a little worse for wear) and was released from solitary after her months stay. She is able to make a deal with Healey to fix her teeth, (which were worse after her run in with Piper) in exchange for her keeping quiet about what went down the night of the beating.
The majority of the season while still focused on Piper's story (and the other inmates), it also had a large portion of it dedicated to the story of Vee and Red. I don't want to do a play by play of every episode so to make this section a little shorter I will say that while entertaining this season was not as strong overall as the previous one. It is still good but the ending left me wanting more in that it was too neat. I'd be interested to read the original memoir to see how close to the real story this season was (especially the end) but I felt like it could have been better.
As we go through the season two new characters are introduced in the form of Soso an Asian inmate with a lot to say and Vee (Lorraine Toussaint who is a sort of mother figure to Taystee and an old friend of Red as well as being a previous tenant of Litchfield.
What can I say about this character, she was a joy to get to know and at the same time such a disappointment. From what we could see she was a strong self made woman. Scratch that she was a woman made from the system that she was put into and she thrived...in a sense.
We find out as we go through the season that when Red was first put into Litchfield so was Vee. They were both new and both had to contend with being oppressed by the inmates in charge. As the audience we know this doesn't last long. It is revealed that early on in Red's journey to the top of the prison and control of the kitchen, she is betrayed by the woman she thought was her friend; Vee. Red is shocked to find out that Vee actually took the top spot ruthlessly and took her business.
A few years later Vee (now out of Litchfield) comes across a very young, very bright Taystee at a Black Adoption Festival and makes an impression on her. Over the years Taystee comes under Vee's wing, a part of her system of drug dealing until Taystee ends up in Litchfield.
When Vee is first introduced we don't know much of the above. She is a mystery and we do not know what she is capable of. Slowly she orchestrates inmates to do as she wants and works the system so that she makes a profit.
Ultimately she falls apart and is killed when trying to escape by another escapee.
This is what disappoints me in her character. She has so much promise as a legitimate prison king pin. Willing to do what it takes, conniving, cruel and just a touch of crazy. Her story with Red and Vee had me interested to see how far they were willing to go with her character. But they stumbled at the last hurdle.
I could not see her character growing so desperate as to run from prison and then get hit by a van after being betrayed by the crew she had nurtured to do as she pleased. Yes she did betray Suzanne but I don't think anyone would realistically cross someone like Vee if you're already under her thumb. Bitch is crazy.
So as a character Vee is great but disappointing towards the end.
This Asian inmate was just straight up annoying to me as a viewer and to the inmates of Litchfield. Piper in her early days was annoying but at least she knew when to shut the fuck up. This Soso character was straight up annoying. I'm disappointed she didn't get stabbed or go crazy.
Primarily I'd say she acted more as a character to push along certain storylines such as the demands for better standards in the prison also as an additional Asian character other than the woman controlling the commissary.
Her main role I'd say became truly apparent towards the end when she has a talk with Piper one on one in the bathroom about how lonely it is in prison and how she should have taken Pipers advice to find a prison wife. Without knowing if Soso is based on a real person as I haven't read the source material, I'd say she is like a reflection of Piper's earlier self and Piper's acceptance that being the same as when you get in isn't going to happen.
Stand out character
The show goes through the stories of a number of characters in the prison throughout the season. Some interconnect but most do not. This season concentrated on mainly childhood and formative flashbacks. Things that happened before the crimes that ultimately got them into Litchfield. One character that stood out most to me as a result of her story was that of Tasha 'Taystee' Jefferson played by Danielle Brooks.
If her performance in the first season was great, then her performance in this second season was nothing short of spectacular.
The sometimes heart-wrenching story with Vee and touching romance/friendship with Poussey meant that her character got to be one of the most well rounded.
Of course there were other characters such as Healy, Red and Morello that deserve a mention, but it is Taystee as a character that stood out for me this season other than the main character of Piper Chapman.
This season had its ups and downs but overall it was a good season. It could have ended less neatly but as is with all TV unless you are 100% guaranteed another season your best bet is to give the audience some closure.
That idea is good and all but personally I felt a little short changed that Red pussied out and Vee only got run over by a van by dumb luck.
In a rare rating by me I'd give this season as a whole:
Some episodes were obviously better than others but overall I think this is a fair rating.
Hope you enjoyed my review of the second season. If you agree or disagree with anything in it please feel free to leave a comment.
As always I will end with something that sums it up.
I'd watch it again if I had the time.
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