Netflix started off as a simple service that just offered your favorite movies and TV shows to watch on repeat while you procrastinated doing other stuff. When they made the decision to start creating their own shows, they were met with skepticism. Several prestigious awards later, the company has made it clear they are a contender. Political drama remake House of Cards and female-ensemble com-drama Orange is the New Black both got second seasons this year to much fanfare and revelry. So much revelry that people stayed up for hours just to marathon the whole new seasons. I was one of those people. The following is a sleep deprived SPOILER HEAVY account of my thoughts.
Let’s take a look at Orange is the New Black‘s second season.
A full synopsis of the season would not only be incredibly lengthy but also incredibly confusing. To boil a nearly 14 hour season into key plot lines: Rosa, the cancer patient, is almost on her way out, Morello turns out to be a delusional psychopath, Piper gets screwed over when Alex manages to be set free, while her former fiancé and best friend fall in love, Daya wants Bennett to reveal that he is the father of her child as her pregnancy is revealed and Pornstache is arrested, Nikki struggles with her heroin addiction, Healy tries to help the inmates, Caputo gets Fig fired from her job as her husband runs for Senate, a new (annoying) inmates joins the group, Poussey is in love with Taystee, all while we get even more backstories on our favorite inmate. However, the big plot is when Taystee’s former guardian gets thrown into prison, a drug dealer named Vee who isn’t above killing to get her way which puts Red and her prison family in danger more than once.
Just like the first season, there’s so much going on but it’s never too much to be overwhelming. The big draw this season is there’s less emphasis on Piper and more on Vee and her group versus Red. Personally, prison drama is all about, you know, backstabbing, stealing, attacking, all that stuff that would expect from a prison show. The personal drama is still engaging but this season feels like it has more teeth.
The pacing of the episodes are as good as ever, smartly mixing in back stories with current events. The best two flashbacks are Morello’s and Poussey’s, though Taystee’s is very emotional and tragic. We still don’t know much about Nichols which I hope gets rectified sooner rather than later next season. I still dislike Suzanne Crazy Eyes even if they did try and make her more sympathetic throughout the various episodes, though at least she’s better explained now. Piper becomes less of an annoying whiner and is more active rather than complaining all the time. The CO drama to me is never as interesting as the inmate stuff but it’s less obnoxious this time around and some plot lines get randomly dropped. The end of this season is technically a cliffhanger but it is oh so satisfying.
The production values on this show are excellent as well. The prison feels confided yet like a complex system of tunnels and rooms. Plus there is movement to the ebb and flow of the prisoners. The flashbacks are shot as lovingly as ever, and with as much color as they can throw in. All the Netflix shows do a lot of work with choosing color but Orange is the New Black uses it to break the visual monotony the setting forces on us.
What this show continues to excel at is presenting women in a believable light. They are neither glorified nor vilified but presenting as sweet, gross, conniving, angry, smart, multidimensional people. It’s really rare to see a show that actually tries with female characters – the only in recent memory was the second season of American Horror Story and anything by Joss Whedon (leave angry comments about all the shows I missed in the comments). The dialogue is sharp, scenarios as funny as they gruesome, and no matter how much it strayed from reality it’s still able to suck you in.
I don’t know if it’s fair to say if this season is better it the first but I do think it was stronger in a lot of aspects. The characters and motivations are more rounded, the narrative is better built, and the balance between characters is better in that it’s not the Piper show anymore. I was able to marathon the show in 24 hours and while I don’t recommend it, the story flowed with an ease that most shows miss. There were no good and bad episodes, they were all quality. If you haven’t started watching this show, do it now. You won’t regret it.
– Excellent narrative.
– Great character development.
– Great cinematography.
– Some dropped plot lines.
– Some characters are a little one dimensional.