Last Friday, I sat down on my couch at 9:52 am, and binge-watched the second season of Netflix's Orange is the New Black.
Technically, last Thursday night, my roommate and I excitedly stayed up far past our bedtimes, waiting for the midnight release, not realizing that those 13 episodes were locked up until midnight PST. But I digress. On June 6, I watched every single episode back-to-back in a 13.5-hour descent into madness and debt (those orange chewy candies and Seamless don't pay for themselves).
Honestly, the first episode didn't grab my attention like I thought it would. While Piper was getting shuffled around buses and planes, I caught my mind wandering, thinking about how the terrifying Tobias Beecher and Chris Keller love story on Oz was probably the greatest love story in television history, but it wasn't long before OITNB pulled me back in.
By the time I hit the fourth episode it occurred to me that this marathon might be more challenging an endeavor than I had expected. By the time episode 13 rolled around, I found myself loathing Soso more than I loathe real people who have wronged me in real life. Also, I was pretty much entirely consumed by the fear of my retinas detaching. But I did it. Here's what I learned (spoilers, people):
1) Orange is the New Black is a far more self-aware show than it was last season.
At least four different characters call her out on her "I'm the star of my own movie and everyone else's too complex" and it is incredibly satisfying. Also it seems like Soso's character, who is basically the hippie millennial illegitimate child of Piper and Pennsatucky, was simply thrown in to appease Tumblr #socialjustice. Just saying.
2) Black Cindy's past as a TSA Agent is perfect.
Also, I will credit her with asking the most pertinent question of the show, if not the century:
3) Three words: Caputo's bass face.
Oh my god his band's name is Side Boob.
4) Sophia is the best/only sex ed expert.
If anyone needs a refresher on female genitalia, may I please refer you to the scene in the fourth episode, aptly titled "A Whole Other Hole," in which Sophia lectures the other young and clueless inmates on the matter, after there's some major disagreement as to where pee actually comes out of. (Hint: it's not the big hole.)
5) Pennatucky has the most unlikely but hands down best jabs.
6) Vee. VEE. Oh my god, Vee.
If season 1 taught us anything it was that the show needed some wings beyond Piper drama. It needed that oh so deliberate suspense and urgency and danger—it needed something to light the fire under its ass. Vee is just that.
She is sophisticated, cruel, irresistible, motherly, and of course entirely unpredictable. In fact, the only thing you could bank on with her is that she always has something up her sleeve. She has the end game in her sights at all times—never thought it would be so refreshing to have an old school lady on board.
7) Realizing Morello made all that shit up and is actually a deranged stalker somehow makes me love her even more.
Nope, don't care. Christopher and your love is real. And you will get married. Sigh.
8) Piper definitely solidified her position as the "white ladies can haz problems too" poster girl...
...presumably setting the hearts of at least a few people who have been told to check their privilege a-flutter. When Piper is granted the borderline mythical furlough to see her dying grandmother, she yet again becomes the target of resentment. After a particularly rough moment of getting heckled over it in the cafeteria by some black inmates, Piper gets fed up and unleashes this gem:
"I guess white privilege speaks again. And as a speaker for the entire white race, I would like to say that I am sorry that you guys got the raw deal, but I love my fucking grandmother. And yeah...yeah, she may be a whitey too, but she's a fucking person and she's sick, and she needs me. So shut the fuck up."
And then in a beautiful full-circle moment. Crazy Eyes, the very Crazy Eyes who THREW HER PIE for Piper last season, lobs a piece of cake right at Piper's head. The end. NEXT QUESTION.
9) Yep. We're all going to hell for celebrating the return of Pornstache.
Don't even care.
10) This show is definitely doing a bit more digging at the prison system in general, and I dig that.
From the unjust "compassionate release" of Jimmy the elderly inmate suffering from severe dementia to the establishment and enforcement of the shot quotas (and the firing of my beloved Fischer), the show has really broadened its scope to explore the complex faults in the prison that just fuck everyone over.
11) Healy's totally an MRA.
And he sincerely thinks that the lesbian agenda will render men useless and phase them out. Makes sense now doesn't it?
12) Poussey Washington is this show's champion.
P is hands down one of the top three characters in this show for me right now. Her character evolved from basically being Taystee's best friend last season to carrying one of the most powerful backstories and one of the strongest backbones. Also, she speaks German fluently and can roll a joint in like 10 seconds flat. Poussey for President. (With Rosa for VP. Their slogan will be "Enjoy your life, shitpot.")
13) Whereas Season 1 sought to chip away at each characters' façade and reveal the ugly truths beneath, it seems like Season 2 was an exercise in re-humanizing these characters, and it's wonderful.
Pennsatucky becomes far less scary and almost approachable. The authority figures like the COs, Healy, and Caputo are no longer complete assholes, but rather people forced into making asshole decisions.
The show has taken a pretty ambitious turn, transcending the level of immediate character-driven drama to look at larger power plays—between inmates, the various authority figures, and between the prison system as a whole and politics. With characters like Rosa and Vee, the show has demonstrated a prowess for rather poetic season-long character arcs (sigh, like when they "meet" again in the finale) while still keeping things fresh and up in the air.
I do wish the second season ended with a bit more uncertainty and urgency. A lot of great potential crises sort of just resolved themselves rather neatly. And that one big crisis—pregnant Daya and Bennett's future—has become stagnant. Whereas last season their relationship was one of the more entertaining and thrilling plotlines, this season it felt more like that morsel of food on the plate that just gets shoveled around but never eaten. Hopefully that shit will get real when the baby comes.
All in all, Season 2 was a success though I will probably have to rewatch the last third of it. Seriously, I may as well have watched the final four episodes simultaneously on four separate screens, because that's exactly how it felt.
Also, I'm trying to think up rules for a new game called "SCATTER THE NUNS: RUN NUNS RUN!" Taking suggestions.
Lead images via AP.