Reviews

‘Orange is the New Black’ Season 2 Binge-Blog Review

By  · Published on June 6th, 2014

Netflix

Hopefully you’re ready to go back to prison. Orange is the New Black has returned in all of its shower shoe glory (and in its entirety, of course). Since all 13 episodes of season 2 are on Netflix, let’s spend the entire day with Piper, Taystee, Nicky, Red, Alex, Crazy Eyes, Lorna and all the other guests of the Litchfield penal system.

When we last left that gigantic cast Red’s lost her power, the Supervisor Sam was a complete jackass and Piper was punching an angel.

I’ll be binge-watching and writing down some reactions as we go along, so let’s slide the bars into place and get not-going. Standing still is hard.

Ep. 1 – “Thirsty Bird”

After a cliffhanger ending and the natural wait between two seasons, all you want is closure. To know how the wound opened at the end gets sewn up. To know what direction the story is heading. Whether we fell off the cliff or climbed up to the next ledge. The first episode refuses to tell us, or Piper (Taylor Schilling), what’s happening.

It’s a beautiful, crazy-making exercise in tension building that puts her on a conveyor belt from solitary to a bus to a tarmac to a plane to a pick-up point for male prisoners to Chicago. We don’t get there until 20 minutes into the episode, and Piper is frantically asking why and where the entire way. Instead of answering the questions we have, it adds more questions and more mystery.

Fortunately we have a familiar face in Lori Petty to act as a security blanket. This show has always done an excellent job of conjuring ways to punish those who are already being punished while offering the audience a lifeline. And we definitely need Petty’s grounding sensibility (not to mention her talent) because we’ve got roach delivery systems, panty-swaps and some psycho astrology in our new environment: the Metropolitan Detention Center in Chicago.

Presumably there are new stakes – mainly men and a different threat of sexual assault, less freedom, less mobility. Few shows would have the gall to introduce this many brand new characters after spending only a single season building a strong ensemble, but Orange is the New Black is insulated by two things. One, our knowledge of casting news. Two, our ability to press play immediately after the credits roll.

Speaking of which, this episode was directed by Jodie Foster, and the work here is stunning. Shifting location was a serious gamble, but Foster’s eye and guidance makes the episode feel like new wine in old wineskins. Even with the shouting question marks, there’s always a sense of safety (and I’m genuinely thankful for a lack of claustrophobic close-ups for this ride).

Plus, it’s pretty cool that something directed by Foster includes someone in a Hannibal Lecter mask (see above).

Maybe most interesting is that this episode solves The Great Piper Problem. She’s a changed person after defending herself against Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning), and the grit shines through. If she’s still a special snowflake, she’s a tarnished one, and the mental anguish she feels through to the 40-minute mark is brought on by a truly frustrating situation, not her sense of entitlement. The childhood backstory helps slightly, but it’s more that she’s hardened herself.

So we’re here only temporarily, and Piper didn’t actually kill Pennsatucky with her dainty, soap-making hands. But she did screw up royally by trusting Alex (Laura Prepon), who is now rocking civilian clothes following what’s probably a courtroom selling out of the big boss she worked for. Piper should have trusted her ethical gut instead, but that kind of decision-making process has gotten fuzzy.

Today’s Lesson: Being honest is only good if someone gives you something for it.

Ep. 2 – “Looks Blue, Tastes Red”

Wow. From the first second she’s on screen, it’s abundantly clear that Teeka Duplessis is playing Young Taystee. It’s uncanny. She’s got the mannerisms down to an art. Bonus points for holding steady alongside a veteran like Lorraine Toussaint, an actor whose resume will sprain your finger if you try to scroll through it.

In fact, the acting this season has been strong and naturalistic throughout. It’s also aided in part by writing that feels like your favorite pair of jeans. The dialogue is so good that it doesn’t seem like anyone wrote it. In other words, great work, writing staff.

Unfortunately, Pennsatucky’s teeth are a major distraction. A rare practical misstep for the show, particularly because of how obviously ADRed her speech is. The prop chompers and swelling look gross enough, but the vocals are way too clear and the sounds aren’t lining up with her motions. Seems like a best-we-could-do fix.

Hopefully they fix her teeth instead.

This whole episode toys with how power begets power. Pennsatucky versus Supervisor Sam Healey (Michael Harney) turned that dynamic on its head – proving it to be true while displaying that Sam isn’t strong enough to wield the power he has. He’s a blunt instrument who can’t even hit that hard. Not so with Vee – a woman who commands simply by walking down the street, and who draws Taystee into the fold because money and power magnetize (or eventually wear us down).

It also ties the concept of progression and motherhood together with a mock job fair that is rigged at every turn (and then doesn’t even come with a prize that Taystee assumed existed). It’s a reminder of potential, of the temporary nature of prison and what awaits her on the outside. The fact that she got out last season only to quickly return makes her hard work and prizeless achievement particularly moving. Not to mention that Taystee (Danielle Brooks) is a bright spot in the darkness on this show, bubbly despite a lifetime of pressure, and despite the pain which we get to see in a backstory where Vee (Toussaint) becomes her de facto mom.

Piper’s friend Polly (Maria Dizzia) has become a genuinely biological mom whose apathy allows her to flash nips in the apartment building hallway. Like a mirror image to Taystee’s story, Polly is literally holding a symbol of potential that has exhausted her. A little lump of pure possibility held up against the results of the former babies who now find themselves behind bars. And who sometimes find themselves as mothers (or at least mentors).

Speaking of Piper, she isn’t in this episode. She’s talked about (who hates deep dish pizza?), but never materializes. This show has truly spiraled out beyond the first woman we met.

Today’s Lesson: “I’m not your goddamned mommy. Grow up.” – Natalie Figueroa

Ep. 3 – “Hugs Can Be Deceiving”

Piper’s physical absence from the last episode makes her return to Litchfield completely badass. You can almost hear “Battle Without Honor or Humanity” jamming in the background as she meets everyone’s eyes. This is a transformed woman. A woman who did juice cleanses but now has a reputation for beating the shit out of another inmate. Should do wonders for her narcissism.

And then there’s Brook Soso (Kimiko Glenn), named after Brooke Shields but without the E, or a body of water depending on when you ask her parents. Either way you want to slice it, she’s annoying like a cartoon deer. It’s also brilliant that the show brought her in – not only to have younger blood, but because she enhances Piper’s evolution. Who knows – by the end of the season, Soso could be the one with battle scars and a rep.

It’s also strange, but Piper emerging from a brief exile felt a lot like her returning home. That’s what Litchfield has become. How much time did she originally have to serve? It feels like she’ll always be there now.

This was an especially difficult episode to watch because of Suzanne’s (Uzo Aduba) childhood story. A kind of Carrie tale that gives us a too-visceral look at the tormented, misunderstood woman who once peed on Piper’s cubical floor. The moment between Suzanne’s mother and the snooty (yet probably correct) birthday party-throwing mom felt either wholly disingenuous or like her adoptive mom’s neurosis was partially to blame for Suzanne’s steady transformation into Crazy Eyes. She raged out of nowhere, going full on “Not my daughter, you bitch!” when birthday mom had a pretty valid point. The window we get in these brief scenes suggests that Suzanne’s mother was aware of the difficulty she faced, but that it overwhelmed her. Trojan horsing her child into a party for second-graders was a clear act of desperation.

Although I liked little Suzanne’s story better. Dragons are cool.

I imagine there will be varying results, but it’s been interesting to focus on the early childhood of some of these characters in addition to or as opposed to the revelation of their crime. The first season held a kind of mystery element in uncovering what these women did to earn orange, this season looks to share more of who they beyond the color.

Random thoughts:

Today’s Lesson: Relax, Omar.

Ep. 4 “A Whole Other Hole”

Orange is the New Black works blue. Really blue. Back of the throat blue. And it does it really well. The quotables on this show are excellent. Two that stand out this episode:

  1. “I can hear you, you old cunt.”
  2. “Giant, pubey, lady beard thing.”

Vulgar magic. Also, obviously anatomically educational.

There’s a trick that sitcoms use when things are getting stale where they pair up characters who usually don’t spend much time together – either the awkwardness or fresh chemistry helps things float on. It can also lead to Joey being in love with Rachel, but usually it’s a short term pivot. Orange doesn’t want to wait to push disparate personalities together, so we get Piper bunking with Red (Kate Mulgrew). An Odd Couple routine from them is promising.

Meanwhile, Brook is having the exact opposite experience that Piper had. Sure, she cried the first night, but she’s held on to her moronic sunshine like she’s not even locked up. Oblivious and impenetrable. The question is whether she’s worth a blanket. She is a 5-foot-three Jar Jar Binks.

Yael Stone has been a standout since episode one, so it’s good to see her character Lorna in civilian clothes in a backstory that achieves an amazing amount. It exposes her for a self-deception we’d only seen hints of, it defines the length of her insanity (a bomb?) and it serves up compounding emotional trauma. Her driving away from the hospital is the boldest move of the series so far, and her reward was punishing despair.

She’s a fraud in every aspect of her life. The woman who seemed sweet and wonderful, polite but lovelorn. Her crime is lying, her romance is fantasy, her delusion is deep in her veins. Naturally, Stone knocks it right out of the bathtub.

It’s also great that she gets away with it. Being inside that house was consequence enough.

Polly and Larry’s (Jason Biggs) interaction was sweet. Funny how the only people we get to know on the outside find themselves engaged in an invented life.

A stray thought: Vee is The Joker. A genius. Insidious. She’s going to blow up a Gotham hospital and laugh about it.

Today’s Lesson: “Better pussy than smack.” – Big Boo

Ep. 5 – “Low Self Esteem City”

Netflix

This week on Orange is the New Black, Big Boo and Nichols get into a wacky vagina-licking competition, two rival gangs passive aggressively battle over bathrooms and Piper plays charades.

As you can tell by the above description, there’s a clever sitcom quality to everything this show does. Unsurprising that it comes from the creator of Weeds. It’s comedy with a knife to its throat. Even the silliest of squabbles (ice cream on the floor, anyone?) are given an extra 50 pounds thanks to the environment, so when shit really hits the fan (by seeping in through the shower stalls), the result is hilariously intense. If you read the TV Guide episode description, you might think it’s Modern Family set in jail. Thankfully, it’s not.

Although we’re also starting to see a lull in the action as the big arc is revealed. The trick is to pretend the salt is sugar.

Is there a better tagline for the entire show?

And what moment wins the prize for being the weirdest?

Caputo? Correct answer. I kept expecting it to cut away, and he just kept rocking.

One last thing to mention: Vee’s face after her bathroom theatrics. Holy shit. We all go a little mad sometimes.

Today’s Lesson: “Fuck Clive Owen. Never let go.” – Red

Ep. 6 – “Also You Have a Pizza”

The schmaltziest episode yet – with Office-style interview interstitial elements that are explained, offer some funny moments, but still feel out of place. Warm pudding bath with a slice of pepperoni (not deep dish) on the side? Sure. That’s amore.

Meanwhile, Suzanne has a mop puppet (a muppet?). Combined with the last episode, this show has turned down a strange path. Wackier and wackier.

At its heart (sorry), “Pizza” is about searching high and low for normalcy, even if it comes in the guise of a middle school dance. Diaz (Dascha Polanco) and Bennett (Matt McGorry) play house by pretending they aren’t who they are; Piper talks to Larry as if nothing has changed (until that blows up); Red is attempting to become Red again.

Although, why you dig a tunnel into prison solely to bring in lip gloss is beyond my comprehension. Better to reign in hell, I suppose. And it really doesn’t matter because it’s Red! And she’s climbing to the top again. Beautiful.

This episode felt off the mark, but even when the story feels adrift, it delivers moments like Healy’s call to his wife’s answering machine, Suzanne’s abiding understanding of love and acceptance shared with Lorna, and Healy splitting his heart cookie with Pennsatucky. That hug. Heart-punch. What other show can offer a scene like that between two “villains” and still yank the heartstrings?

Random thoughts:

Today’s Lesson: You leave parts of yourself behind everywhere you go.

Ep. 7 – “Comic Sans”

We’ve always known what the TSA does. It’s excellent to see it put into action and given some comedic heft from Black Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore). She’s fantastic here as the queen of her tiny domain, lording over everyone with sheer force of personality, yet unable to deal with anything coming close to resembling responsibility. Not even responsibility’s cousin.

Although, it feels like flashback stories are getting less time to develop than last season, which makes sense considering how much ground there is to cover inside Litchfield. The past few haven’t seemed necessarily tied into the episode either. The formula of having a new star for each episode has shifted to having a spotlit performer while the rest of prison life moves on with the group.

Also, am I crazy, or does it feel like there’s more sex this season? From the orgasm-giving competition to Poussey’s Teutonic girlfriend disproving scissoring, a lot of the relationships are defined greatly by the sweaty stuff. This is what Game of Thrones’ popularity hath wrought. It’s not porn, it’s HBO, and other shows are following suit. On the other hand, Orange finds clever ways to subvert expectations (like an aborted make-out session between best friends in the kitchen) turning fetish fantasy into just-kidding-fuck-yourself moments.

Is there actually more sex, or does it just feel like it? I don’t know. Can someone do the math on this?

Also, can someone figure out the show’s magic formula for creating empathy for assholes? We get to see Figueroa (Alysia Reiner) on the outside and, like Black Cindy, her home life explains a lot of her rigid, unfeeling personality. Here are two disparate characters on either side of the power spectrum, but away from the beige and concrete, there’s profound unhappiness, a lack of fulfillment and (in Fig’s case) a not-at-all-subtle gay wink from chirpy assistant to Mr. Figueroa. Life on the campaign trail is tough. Maybe Bowser has someone to answer to, too.

Random thoughts:

Today’s Lesson: Yearbook isn’t a real class.

Ep. 8 – “Appropriately Sized Pots”

It’s a recurring theme on the show, but this episode held on tight to the vicious dichotomy of being kind to others and being a noxious jackwagon. Healy – once the outright big bad of the show – is at the center of the conversion. He’s shown a great capacity for care (early episodes), the ability to stand by while another human being in that care is being murdered (the end of season 1), and now he’s returned to the land of people attempting to give a shit. He’s a cancer in remission.

That Orange so thoroughly and continuously recasts good guys as villains and vice versa is a powerful, yet often quiet, statement about the system itself. Prison is a crucible not only for the inmates, but for the guards and administration as well. All are capable of losing their way, and all are capable of finding it again. When personalities can shift under fire, it’s the fire itself you should blame.

Speaking of super nice people, Susan (Lauren Lapkus) getting fired was a miniature earthquake. It’s not like she’s been a significant presence on the show, but her character has always provided bright-eyed relief from the grind, and now she’s a bug on the boot heel of a jealous man who is idealistic but powerless (and a man who seemed to be the hero of the season). Nichols’ (Natasha Lyonne) silver lining was especially adept. Susan is getting out of prison, a place that she wasn’t meant for. That she asks if Nichols will be okay is as perfect a character moment as you can get. Uncorrupted and escaping while she’s still herself.

On a raw style note, 70s heist film Rosa (Stephanie Andujar) was a blast. Who needs nun masks to rob a bank? Ben Affleck and Jeremy Renner are weak.

Having that much backstory on old Rosa (Barbara Rosenblat) is surprising. It’s also a testament to the show’s ability to take the minor shadows that make an impression and give them greater definition. When we first met her, she was a lump awaiting death in Piper’s temporary holding cell. Now she’s a free-wheeling bandit that loves the smell of money.

Since we’re rounding the bases toward home, and Pornstache (Pablo Schreiber) is back, here’s a brief list of the giant storms on the horizon:

Today’s Lesson: People get soft when they’re dying.

Also, enjoy this:

Ep. 9 – “40 OZ of Furlough”

First of all, this title is one article away from being a true Sublime reference. Opportunity, missed.

It was also one of the weaker episodes. Suffering from The Piper Problem and the dragging weight of a relationship that ended a long time ago. In theory, exploring a potential marriage that ended while one of the partners is exiled is rich ground. In reality, there’s so little to Larry and Piper that spending that much time watching their hollowness seems wasteful even if we get to see Cal (Michael Chernus) defile a funeral with a wedding. The episode also tried a little too hard to shock during a life event that so naturally and easily opens itself up to taboo. On the other hand, Team Cal for life.

But why did it take Piper – a character aggressive to her family and convention – so long to recognize the better way to be wasting her furlough time? She kept saying how much she loved her grandmother, but she spent about five minutes thinking about her and the rest of the two-day period revolving around her own drama. This is the version of Piper that’s boring to watch, and no gas station on the planet stores champagne next to the malt liquor (except the good ones).

Back on the inside, just as Piper got a slow motion return, Pornstache rolls in, immediately changing the dynamic with extremely tall swagger and a delightful disregard for humanity.

Pop quiz time. What was Mendez doing during his time away from the prison?

Today’s Lesson: Don’t look for logic in procedure.

Showtime

Ep. 10 – “Little Mustachioed Shit”

Just for fun, there’s a picture of Pornstache without his pornstache on Weeds. Obviously a smart move on Jenji Kohan’s part to port him over.

His return to Orange has been short-lived, but necessary. This is going to sound stupid considering the natural gestation period, but this baby drama has hung over our heads for far too long. Bennett and Diaz’s relationship hasn’t blossomed or altered much beyond the constant, nagging fear that they’d be caught (really, that he’d be caught), so getting her pregnancy out in the open with Mendez in handcuffs feels like a strong, complicated place to leave it. There’s no way they’re leaving it there, though. Despite the fact that this was basically their plan all along, Diaz’s proclamation of wanting a real man (and Mendez’s full embrace of his love) threatens to derail what should be a closed loop.

With this development, the show has shown once again that it’s greatest strength is subverting emotional expectations. There was a fraction of catharsis to see Mendez hauled off when confetti manufacturers should have sold out their stock for the occasion. The guy was garbage, but the show punishes bad people just after they’ve done a few good things. Plus, Mendez is more tragic than usual because he saves the man who brings him down. In an alternative universe, he let Bennett rage through the bunks and get summarily fired. Mendez lives to grope another day.

Dipping into Piper’s life again was about as meaningless as the last time. It offered a great punchline with a flaming bag of poo, Polly’s response was perfect, and it was funny to see a common Power From The Inside trope of prison/mob movies used for something so juvenile (imagine Walter White making the call…). However, most of the backstory was redundant. A way of looking back on a romance we know all about already. Like an Alex-themed “Last Time on…” segment that was foolishly written into the show. While Piper has to answer why she’s so hung up on Alex, the show should answer the same question.

It’s also interesting how Piper hasn’t been pulled at all into the growing feud between Vee and Red (besides pie in her hair). She’s afloat on her own island even though she’s cutting ties with everyone on the outside, too. Larry and Polly’s hookup feels more like sitcom convenience than anything else. A situation where they want new romance but didn’t want to hire a new actor, making everything feel insular and dramatically faulty. That it’s been treated so ho-hum-happy is even worse. They could have taken tongue out of cheek for at least a little bit of their life preserver clinging relationship. Instead, we’re left thinking, aw shucks, how silly life can be sometimes.

Today’s Lesson: “You don’t drink poison then wait for it to kill your enemy.” – Red

Ep. 11 – “Take a Break From Your Values”

Poussey (Samira Wiley) standing up to Vee when no one else would was cheer-worthy. She’s a hero. So awesome.

Her backstory a few episodes ago was a bit melodramatic and overwrought, but she’s always been a stellar character with values waiting to emerge, and now her ethics are being tested in the toughest arena possible. It’s difficult to stand all alone against the monster, whether it’s a psychotic drug dealer or an extra large cheese pizza.

In a similar fashion, Sister Ingalls (Beth Fowler) has always been an anchoring fixture, a spirit that proves the diversity of the prison and edges away from cliche, so her hippie nun-filled youth is a tie-dyed note against the violence. Like some of the other backstories this season, it doesn’t tie into the present dynamically, but at least it offers clarity and context for the true selflessness of a protest action that “no one knows” she’s doing. The ending was super awkward, though. A weird note for the editors to throw credits after.

Sandwiched in the middle, the three-way love triangle elements facing Polly and Larry were uninteresting as always. It’s when the show slides into full sitcom sentimentality that silly season really begins. What could have been an impossible emotional situation has been a cartoon.

It also dawns on me now that, without stellar actors, this show would be nearly unwatchable. That’s not a knock on the writing, either. The stories and dialogue so often walk a line between soap opera idiocy and trenchant social comedy that Kohan and company are writing solely for the highest caliber of acting talent. There’s no weak link, and they’re what’s holding the show safely on the brilliant side, inches away from falling into awful territory.

In a normal show, Healey’s progression would feel safe and comforting, but his new counseling program feels like a bomb waiting to go off. Another good deed punished. We’ve already seen his sad sack routine turn into virulent disdain once, so seeing something work out for him is like watching Lucy set up the football for Charlie Brown to kick.

The transfer subplot is a bold move, although it’ll undoubtedly be rectified somehow (probably with Piper being the only one who avoids the trauma with her magic special treatment wand). Then again, the system doesn’t have a conscience. Maybe the premiere episode tease of her in another prison was the set up for a very different third season. Probably not, but maybe.

I recognize that I haven’t reflected much on the growing/rekindled animosity between Vee and Red, but it’s difficult to think straight about it – like reading a book and wanting to understand each chapter without having finished the full novel. They are clearly the main arc of the season, and the vibrancy and violence of their relationship has shone through every other corner of the prison (except for Piper). Like an unsettling lesson in intensity, Vee has proven Red to be weak despite puff-chested posturing (and an entire first season showing her strengths), and it’s greatly telling that Vee is trafficking in the very thing Red sees as the ultimate evil. When a character mentions that the concept of drugs being in prison isn’t the craziest idea, it becomes revolutionary that Red wanted to stamp them out (and still does).

But maybe we shouldn’t let old ladies with cataracts have shivs, eh?

Today’s Lesson: Not everyone’s opinion is valid.

Ep. 12 – “It Was The Change”

Netflix

Holy hell. This episode. Maybe the first time this season that a backstory has genuinely and thoroughly mattered to the character and plotting of what’s going on inside the prison. We’ve watched Red and Vee battle back and forth through two eras of jail life, but Vee’s destruction of her son-like lover (yeah…) giving us the heads up that Red’s head was about to be beaten up was the sea change of the season. Although we always, always knew in our heart of hearts that Vee was the devil.

What’s striking is that we get to eat our cake and have it to. First there’s a cathartic, post-strangle conversation where Vee and Red recognize that it’s the system they should be fighting together instead of being at each other’s throats. Imaginary power (or small quantities of it) is a potent tool of restraint. Unfortunately, what comes second is the employ of Vee’s most basic animal power to maintain the social power she imagines is hers. Goodbye, Red.

In other news, you can get high off nutmeg.

Even with as sneeringly awful as she’s been, it looks like Fig’s husband Jason (Peter Rini) is the closest thing we have to a big bad this time around. Funny how a figure who’s probably never been within ten miles of the prison can have such a devastating effect on it. The phone call between Caputo and Fig was about as frustrating as it gets – particularly because we were witnessing the immediate bucket-pissing problems facing the people she refuses to care for. Light jazz has never been so effectively used as a signpost for income inequality.

The Boo/Pennsatucky gay agenda subplot is a nice goofy diversion from the hell they’re going through. I imagine we’ll get to see Tucky’s initiation into the next episode (and it’ll probably involve cutting her hair short and getting forearm tattoos). Harmless toying with a figure who was trying to murder the protagonist a year ago.

Something small that deserves great attention is Ruiz’s (Jessica Pimentel) situation of being transferred away from her boyfriend and newborn baby. We’ve seen glimpses of their visiting hour conversations, little windows into lives that the show has chosen to widen for us. It’s constantly giving us background examples that can remain as added flavor around the edges or blossom into something greater at any moment. It’s the best reminder that all of these lives are as vibrant and interesting as the ones we’re focused on. Rosa, naturally, is the biggest example of this perspective broadening.

Today’s Lesson: If someone throws a gun at you to get your prints on it, don’t catch it.

Ep. 13 – “We Have Manners. We’re Polite.”

Netflix

After a gorgeous season that blended the irreverent with the imminently important, the show fumbles on the one-yard line with a truly awful final shot. A double shot really. First there’s the completely by happenstance (or kitchen hair voodoo dust) vehicular manslaughter of big-haired demon Vee. Then there’s the best CGI of 1990 morphing old Rosa into young Rosa to really hammer the poetry home for everyone under the age of 10.

Also, I’m not pulling 1990 out of thin air. Considering that Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” video came out in 1991 and showed infinitely better morphing artistry, I have to assume Team Orange went back in time to flub the change. Or it’s just another limitation of a smaller budget on a show that doesn’t do hardly any action set ups or use CGI very often. At any rate, it’s really less the execution of it, and more that they committed to such a laughably cliche device at all. “Then Rosa morphs into her younger self, feeling the wind in her hair for the first time in years” is the kind of pre-Fade Out nonsense you get on the Lifetime channel. Egregiously forced sentiment – they might as well have had the faces of dead loved ones appear in the clouds.

(Sidenote: Vee’s fate makes the earlier, sweet kitchen sequence hilarious, effectively changing what Gloria says to Norma into, “You’ll never have enough apple seeds to make poison, so let’s try magic instead!”)

(Second sidenote: Morello’s take on Toy Story is perfect.)

On the plus side, there were a million moving parts that were juggled expertly during the season and throughout this episode, even if they were dropped at the last second.

It’s both fortunate that Red lived (since we get more Mulgrew) and unfortunate. It’s another sign that the show struggles with committing to consequences. Taystee left then came back, Pennsatucky was beaten to a pulp but has become benign this season, now Red’s shocking death has been downgraded to a short hospital stay where she’s remarkably lucid and talkative. That sets up a nice coalition/philosophical debate between Red and Sister Ingalls as nuns gather outside the gate, though, and it results in Red needing someone else willing to betray their own ethics in order to consider doing the right thing (which she doesn’t see as the right thing). You know who started saying that snitching was wrong? People doing things they didn’t want to be punished for.

Speaking of which, it’ll be interesting to see where Bennett’s story heads considering he got a literal Get Out Of Jail Free Card. He can honestly tell Diaz that he came clean, spoke truth to power about his love and his child, and that his boss wants to hide it. He somehow threaded the needle of doing what she wanted without facing prison time of his own.

The worst pill to swallow is that on the cusp of true revolution (Fig out, Caputo in), the guy who actually gives two shits about what’s happening to the institution sexually assaults his enemy before getting her fired, then focuses almost solely on politics and optics instead of facing the headwind of difficult, real change. This is the guy we were rooting for? Once again, the show proves that everyone within the beige walls is corruptible.

That vindictive blowjob, the van attack and the morphing face were all elements of a show who had everything in its hands, then decided it wanted a little more. Complete (if messy) closure undone by indulgences, like wearing a wacky tie with a classy black suit.

After writing all this, I realized that I hadn’t even thought about Piper. That says a lot about where she’s at after two seasons. Schilling is strong, but it’s easy to imagine Piper being pushed all the way into a true supporting role next season.

Again, Orange is to be applauded for all its done despite that What Just Happened ending. This season has been robust, complex and emotionally diverse. It’s delivered sympathy for psychopaths and hatred for good people. It’s bucked convention while providing solidly classic stories within a setting we don’t often get to see, and it’s done so while improving on a stellar first outing. Or maybe outing is the wrong word for a show about people in prison. Either way, the only big question left is how many Emmys will be handed out. Toussaint, Aduba and Wiley all went for the gusto, providing ample clips for award show editors to work into the broadcast (We’re polite!). Stone, Lyonne and Brooks also wouldn’t be shocks to see up at podiums. This cast is going to be its own stiff competition.

Today’s Lesson:A lame end to an excellent season, I can’t wait for season 3.

Related Topics:

Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector [email protected] | Writing short stories at Adventitious.