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Orange is the New Crack

June 18, 2014

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Ten days ago, Netflix released the second season of Orange is the New Black, and I must say: it is stellar.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved the first season, but the second season makes it look dull by comparison.

OITNB has a really great model, using flashbacks to show us the backgrounds of the women inside this prison and what brought them to become inmates in the first place. In every case, these flashbacks give us insight into why the women act as they do inside the prison and what motivates their interactions with each other. In the first season, we learned a lot about Piper (Taylor Schilling) and a little about some of the other inmates. My one frustration with that was that Piper’s history was far less interesting than everyone else’s. A white girl gets caught up in lesbianism and drug smuggling? Boring. A black woman grows up in a system of prostitution and works her way into becoming a madam? Fascinating.

Season one took us into Litchfield Women’s Prison through Piper’s eyes, and focused largely on Piper’s relationships with other inmates: Piper and Crazy Eyes (Uzo Aduba), Piper and Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning), Piper and Red (Kate Mulgrew), Piper and Alex (Laura Prepon).  In season two, we don’t need Piper’s perspective to guide us through the prison; it is now a familiar place. Because of that, we’re able to focus on relationships between other inmates: Big Boo (Lea DeLaria) and (Natasha Lyonne) lesbian competition, Pennsatucky losing her group of followers and befriending Big Boo, Mendoza (Selenis Leyva) running the kitchen, Poussey (Samira Wiley) and Taystee (Danielle Brooks) falling out and making up, and of course, Red vs. Vee (Lorraine Toussaint). And along the way we got to see much more backstory than last season, with Piper being just another inmate instead of the viewpiece of the audience.

Overall, the season was a joy to watch and there are plenty of questions for next season, including: Will Rosa (Barbara Rosenblat) get caught? Will Nicky go back to doing drugs? Will Alex come back to the prison? Will we get to see Bennett (Matt McGorry) shirtless again? Can Larry (Jason Biggs) and Polly (Maria Dizzia) go away now? Guess we’ll have to wait and see!

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