For any premium channel like HBO or Showtime it takes great original content to separate itself from the competition. This is why HBO is still the top dog because of shows like Sex & The City, The Sopranos, and The Wire. Game Of Thrones and True Detective are the new hotness that keep HBOs archaic structure relevant. Netflix has changed the world in terms of entertainment consumption, and to solidify itself it needed it own buzz-worthy show. Enter: Orange Is The New Black. It’s about a well todo white woman who goes to prison. Somewhat of a spiritual successor to Weeds, the show became a hit when the first season was dumped on our laps. It was the topic of conversation and think pieces for weeks and season two became anticipated immediately. Here we are a month after the new season and now I can share my thoughts. For context, I watched the show at a relatively slow pace, and although I wasn’t clamoring for each episode, I was curious to see what was next. When I finished the season it didn’t consume me the way great seasons have in the past, but I enjoyed my time with Piper & company.
Anyone who enjoyed season one will be happy this time around. Piper and the gang are back and just as ridiculous as ever. Some new additions round out the solid cast, the performances vary from good to incredible, and the character stories are well rounded. The writing isn’t as sharp as last season but that’s only a minor quip. And while the end of the season was shocking, it left me wanting more the way a good episode does and not satisfied the way a season finale should, but I am interested to see what happens next.
Most episode function in a “LOST” style format. Where plot developments happen in the present while flashbacks give us insight into a character’s origin. I wasn’t as engaged with this plot as I was with last season but it’s the back stories that kept me engaged. I enjoyed learning more about these women and how they ended up in prison. I liked Lorna story among other standouts. Unfortunately, not much is done with these characters after their stories are told, and this is a result of such a large cast. The first season was all about Piper, but here she takes a backseat to the rest of the prisoners. Some are fleshed out more with the extra time like Poussey and Black Cindy, and others are barely mentioned like Sophia Burset. Red has a great journey this season as she begins with no power, to accepting the lack of power, to fighting against it. The new character Vee is interesting, but she seems to be the antagonist this season needs as opposed to being a great character in conflict with another. The guards are given a bit more to do with Nick Sandow playeing the sleezball, Joe Caputo, to perfection. All of these characters are hopelessly flawed. Highlighting the blemishes in all of us by embracing their own.
Uzo Aduba steals the show as Crazy Eyes, taking her performance to another level this season. Her character is given much more to do and she takes advantage of all of her screen time. I particularly like her at the beginning of the season as later on she becomes a bit of a henchmen. The prison kitchen is almost a show in itself with the Spanish inmates and I wish there was more time spent with them. The story going on outside of the prison with Jason Biggs is interesting, but holds no real weight. Although he does share a great scene with Piper. The beginning of the season starts of a bit rocky, but it picks up fairly quickly. I appreciated many of the cultural references dropped by the characters. The prison this story takes place in still comes across as a bit of a fantasy, but at this point we should be able to look past that. The subplot with the Warden is pretty compelling, the Cold War between Red & Vee is thrilling, Poussey & Taystee have incredible chemistry and Natasha Lyonne delivers some great lines when she isn’t performing cunnilingus. If you liked the first season you’ll be happy with the developments here and if you weren’t impressed last season this is more of the same.