The first official poster of Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight.
Binge-watching TV shows has become the rage, especially for shows like Orange is the New Black. With all thirteen episodes premiering at once, you do not have to tune in week after week after week like traditional television. Although having such a marathon on your couch is fun and exciting, those TV viewers who finish within 24 hours of its debut must come to the grim realization that they will have to literally wait for an entire year for a new season. There’s your BIG downside of binge-watching.
Believe me, I felt out of the loop seeing many of my friends post online how incredible the second season of Orange is the New Black was the weekend of June 6. Now having finished towards the end of July, I’m glad that I paced myself as well as relieved that i’m back “in the loop”. See? Now I only have ten months of waiting…
The first season of Orange is the New Black really took me by surprise. It marked Netflix’s second outing in original programming and proved to be the best show they’ve given us, even more than House of Cards or the fourth season of Arrested Development.
Last year, we were introduced to a cast of colorful characters locked up in the Linchfield Correctional Facility, led by our fish-out-of-water Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling). But as you know, this isn’t just her story as our time is shared with nearly every prisoner and in this season, we got flashbacks from different characters like the jokester Taystee (Danielle Brooks), the love-obsessed Lorna Morello (Yael Stone), the head chef in charge Mendoza (Selenis Leyva), bookkeeper Poussey (Samira Wiley), and many more.
This season’s primary storyline was focused on a new inmate “Vee” Parker (Lorraine Toussaint), who outside of prison was a drug dealer and a not-so-ideal mother figure for Taystee and who inside of prison was a bitter enemy of Red (Kate Mulgrew) years ago when she was previously incarcerated. Their rivalry reignites as both of them become their own kingpins of smuggled goods. Different products, different turfs, same customers. That does not fly with Vee.
Meanwhile, Piper becomes the editor-in-chief of a newly-started newsletter for the inmates, which leads her to investigate the corrupted prison system. Pregnant inmate Dayanara Diaz (Dascha Polanco) and baby daddy security guard John Bennett (Matt McGorry) contemplate their plans going forward. And Taystee and Poussey’s strong friendship is put to the test when Vee comes between them. A lot more goes on, but these consist of this season’s main subplots.
The second season has exceeded its predecessor in almost every way. The writing is so well-crafted and this season in particular is more focus and the humor is much sharper. The character development alone is worth praising as additional flashbacks for Piper and Red and new flashbacks from lesser-known characters fueled the storytelling.
Now let’s get to that tremendous cast.
Taylor Schilling continues to give a strong, grounded performance as Piper. Her character has become less “poor me” and more of a “what’s next” mentality. And her integration and interaction with the other inmates makes Piper likable as not only is she no longer an outsider, but she seems she can get along with anybody.
That being said, Kate Mulgrew is truly the all-star of the cast. We were introduced to Red as the cold, mean Russian that ran the kitchen. Despite some weaker ties with certain inmates, she has become a Mother Hen to many. Mulgrew is tough, moving, and hysterical as the show’s most lovable character (Seriously though, I wanted to give her a hug at least twice per episode. Stop melting my heart, Red!).
There were so many memorable performances this season. Lorraine Toussaint is masterful as the intimidating, manipulative, and monstrous Vee, who makes Pennsatucky look like Elmo. Vee is one of the greatest TV villains in years. Uzo Aduba continues to do impressive work as Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren. There were a handful of actresses that got more spotlight this season.Yael Stone is heartwarming and heartbreaking as the romantically optimistic Morello. Samira Wiley shines as the emotionally vulnerable Poussey. Barbara Rosenblat has a bigger (yet not big enough) presence as the cancer-burdened Rosa, who we discover was a bank robber back in the day. Her moments may be brief, but they are incredibly moving.
Only three small disappointing thoughts come to mind. The first being Pennsatucky, who was really underplayed this season. After that epic brawl between her and Piper in the Season One finale, their tension fizzled away fairly quickly and Pennsatucky was not nearly as involved with the plot like she did before. Actually, she was a bit nicer (perhaps it was her new teeth). Taryn Manning’s talents were unfortunately restrained this year as she gave one of the strongest performances last year. The second disappointment was the lack of Pablo Schreiber, who plays the outrageously inappropriate guard George “Pornstache” Mendez. Like Pennsatucky, his presence was heavy Season One, but he only appears in a few episodes in Season Two. And from the looks of it, the odds of him returning are not in his favor. And finally, the biggest disappointment of all was the absolute zero presence of Michelle Hurst, who gave the most underrated performance as Miss Claudette, Piper’s first roommate. It’s a shame that she was written off.
However, there were positives that cancelled out the negatives. Laverne Cox, Natasha Lyonne, Lea DaLaria, and Danielle Brooks also give fun, dependable performances. Improvements made among the cast include upping the screen time of the prison staff and the pack of elderly inmates who befriend Red, all who earn big laughs.
Like I said about the first season, each episode of the second season was bare-minimum good. There was not one filler/boring episode, all of them serve their purpose. Believe it or not, that’s a rarity in television.
Many are still torn whether Orange is the New Black is considered a comedy or a drama. I can easily tell you that it’s a comedy. It’s one of the most funny, emotional, and outstanding comedies in modern television. And that’s not an exaggeration.
Watching Orange is the New Black is like eating at a buffet. You can either satisfy your extreme hunger by swallowing it whole without even processing it or you can pace yourself and enjoy all of the dishes this meal has to offer. There is so much to fit on one plate. Orange is the New Black served up delicious seconds. I will certainly be coming back for thirds.
500 posts! Didn’t realize that’s an actual achievement. Thanks for following Joey Goes Hollywood, the blog of everything movies and TV!
Who’s Who? Jack Gleeson of Game of Thrones and country singer Hunter Hayes.