Orange Is the New Black, Ep 2.11: “Take a Break from Your Values” exposes the problems of the season through contrast

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Orange Is the New Black, Season 2, Episode 7: “Take a Break from Your Values”
Written by Nick Jones
Directed by Constantine Makris
Released Friday, June 6 on Netflix Instant

A storm is coming, literally and figuratively… and now we have riot gear.

The great thing about this episode is that it finally solidifies the impending war brewing all season, and features black vs. white’s first big blow that actually involves major violence. Taslitz taking matters into her own hands, and shanking the enemy, is a move in the right direction for a conflict that has been only based on words and flashbacks long enough. The fact that she’s old and misses her mark, of course, makes the move all the juicier, and gives Vee the upper hand going into the final two episodes, which is wonderful tension.

On the other hand, the part that’s still lacking in this season-long story is that I don’t really know what the real possible outcomes of this war are, and the writers seem like they are holding on too tight to a conflict that would benefit from some transparency for emotional involvement. For instance, take Poussey and Vee’s scene. Poussey hits the nail on the head that she has nothing left to lose. That has been sharply set up. But, what does she have to gain either? What might really happen if she wins against Vee? What would that even look like, and what is her end goal? Her flashbacks show that she’s sick of people dictating her life, so that’s her motivation, which is fine. But also like her flashback, it seems really useless to be going after the bully figure with so much direct force, time after time. Ultimately, I wish that at this point in the season, if there is to be so many people against Vee, that it would be less posturing and random attacks, and more precise plans and actions… and not just from tertiary characters hurting faceless extras.

I mean, how many times are we going to see main characters like Poussey stand up to Vee uselessly? Or see Red? The acting is astounding, and both Samira Wiley and Kate Mulgrew make their frustrations real, but we need to press forward. As much as I like that something finally did occur at the end of the episode, there is no guarantee that that will spur anyone else on. Boo is the MVP of this story line so far, because she is actually taking the game semi-seriously. When she tells Red the reason she became a traitor is because Red is a joke, it rings painfully true. If Red was the one to take action at episode’s end, it would send a much clearer message to the audience that we need to be taking the conflict seriously, and that it won’t eventually be brushed under the rug.

One story that does pull this clearer messaging off, surprisingly, is the plot with Larry and Polly. It is pleasantly satisfying to see them as a united couple and tell Pete the truth about their relationship, embarking on something new together with open eyes. We can get invested in them, and fear for Piper, because we understand who they are now, the outcome they are looking for, and what they will eventually be confronting Piper with. It has been a smart move all season to get them off the will-they, wont-they wagon so steadily, and has been a breath of fresh air from the more cyclical prison drama.

The flashbacks this week also don’t disappoint in presenting something more interesting than the seasonal A-story. By Sister Ingalls taking over Soso’s hunger strike, and us knowing her goal about compassionate release (despite the humorous twist that she’s also somewhat a narcissist in it for herself), we can root against her obstacles. It’s deeply sad that she’s alone by episode’s end, pleading for some kind of answer from Jesus, but like Nicky says in regards to Alex’s endangerment, “The system doesn’t have a conscience, and nobody likes extra work.” So, yes, her actions may be futile; however, the story remains successful. Sister Ingalls is made smart enough to know that even if newspapers don’t care, or the administration doesn’t care, at least Caputo knows what she’s doing, and that as long as that’s the case, what she’s doing has a clear purpose.

When the status quo is as loath to change as it is in prison, this is truly the key to making stories work. It’s why the first season featured so many exchanges of favors, and why this one is simply floundering. Perhaps if Nicky took that heroin after all, there would be more desire and complication in play, but as it stands, the main plot is all but dried up. Hopefully, Hurricane Wanda will provide the nourishment it needs, but with two episodes left, I might have to make like an excommunicated nun, and pray.

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