Orange is the New Black Season Two: Battle of the Prison Kingpins

Hello everybody! Today we have a quickie review of the second season of Netflix’s original series, Orange is the New Black.

ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK

DIRECTOR: Jenji Kohan

STARRING: Taylor Schilling, Laura Prepon, Uzo Aduba, Danielle Brooks, Michael J. Harney, Michelle Hurst, Natasha Lyonne, Taryn Manning, Kate Mulgrew, Jason Biggs

GENRE: Comedy-drama, Crime, Dark comedy

YEAR: 2013-2014

COUNTRY: United States

The series revolves around Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), a bisexual woman living in New York City who is sentenced to 15 months in a women’s federal prison for transporting a suitcase full of drug money to her former girlfriend, Alex Vause (Laura Prepon), who is an international drug smuggler/mule. The offense occurred ten years prior to the start of the series, and in that time Piper had moved on to a quiet, law-abiding life among New York’s upper middle class. While in prison, Piper is reunited with Alex (who named Piper in her trial – resulting in her arrest), and they re-examine their relationship and deal with their fellow inmates. At the end of Season Two, Piper has 8 months left in prison.

t’s billed as a comedy for certain awards purposes and it’s a deft mixture of comedy, drama and melodrama, but the underlying anger was especially apparent in OITNB‘s tremendously satisfying second season. One thing the show is not is saccharine or unduly sentimental. So often, OITNB is angry — furious at the fact that an ailing old woman can be dumped on the streets without a care plan or resources, aghast at the fact that it’s not unusual for prisoners to lack clean and safe living conditions, upset at the idea that those charged with the maintenance of inmates can steal from them and have their crimes quickly hushed up. Yes, all those situations were fictional on the show, but it’s certainly not hard to believe that similar things happen in real life. As “The Wire” did, OITNB repeatedly puts ugly situations in front of us and says, in so many words, “Are you OK with this? Are we all OK with this?”

We finally get backstories for some of last season’s breakout characters (and some of my personal favorites) that do not disappoint but will definitely shock. “Crazy Eyes” Suzanne’s (Uzo Aduba) flashback is a short story in itself, one that succinctly and deeply tackles themes of class, racism, and mental illness in one fell swoop but also leaves you wanting more. Morello’s (Yael Stone) is a true shocker, surprisingly depressing and much darker than I imagined; one of the many highlights of this season is watching her become unhinged in short bursts, then blink it away. All of the actresses are at the top of their game here (I’d say pay close attention to Samira Wiley as Poussey, but I don’t have to because she quietly demands it). Orange Is the New Black should have an entire Best Actress category specifically devoted to its stars, and all the nominees should take home statues.

Many shows have touched upon women struggling to accept the aging process, but OITNB brilliantly reimagines this within the prison walls. Graying hair, crochet circles, and retirement — all while locked up.

Relationships abound in this season: daughters and mothers (biological and surrogate), exes, new lovers, confusing friendships, fuck buddies, and unrequited love. Then there are the power struggles. There is the quick introduction of Vee (Lorraine Toussaint), a conniving prisoner with past ties to both Red (Kate Mulgrew) and Taystee (Danielle Brooks). Vee reminisces about the good old days when the black prisoners ran Litchfield, and she seems hellbent on making that happen again, setting up racial tensions that divide the prison and will surely end in disaster.

It gets dark (of course!), but it remains funny. For every depressing scene about a woman who is out of choices, there is a laugh-out-loud-funny scene with an impromptu health class on female anatomy.

PROS:

  • Mixture of comedy and drama.
  • Uncomfortable situations.
  • Dark themes.
  • Analysis on relationships in prison

CONS:

  •  Didn’t focus enough on Piper Chapman.
  • Way too many stereotypical characters.

SCORE: 9 / 10

If you have any suggestions for films/TV/Games/Music for me to review, drop me a comment! Remember: Like Media In Review @ https://www.facebook.com/MediaInReview?ref=hl Follow Media in Review @ https://twitter.com/Media_In_Review.

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