Orange Is the New Black, Ep 2.02: “Looks Blue, Tastes Red” puts the focus on Taystee

OiTNB S02E02

Orange Is the New Black, Season 2, Episode 2: “Looks Blue, Tastes Red”
Written by Jenji Kohan
Directed by Michael Trim
Released Friday, June 6 on Netflix Instant

A little whiplash never hurt anyone when it comes to entertainment, but it’s hard not to knock this episode down a few pegs after the delicious intensity that was “Thirsty Bird.” Though, if we needed some downtime, Taystee is a perfect character to spend it with, especially as a first-time flashbacker, and with the exciting prospect of getting to spend even more time with her down the road. In contrast to Piper, who courts controversy, Taystee is just simply likeable to everyone, even before we heard her story about waking up at a construction site with barbecue sauce on her breasts. Both her prison story and flashback story, by being totally sincere, play to that likeability strength, and give us a buoy for an episode that spends its entire time setting up little plot lines for the season, and basically reminding us who the characters are and where we left them.

And where did we leave them? The status quo is pretty much that everyone’s friendly and happy, downtrodden yet playful, and hopeful for the future. Sophia is clearly on an upswing from getting that Christmas card from her son in last year’s finale, twirling in cocktail attire; Nichols and Morello continue their banter;  Big Boo took things a little too far with Little Boo; and Daya is still pregnant and not pooping. It is little stakes as far as the eye can see. Even Pennsatucky’s return is soft, as she’s fuzzy on the night of her beating, and the only real consequence seems to be that she gets a new set of teeth, her glee about which is a cute moment, forgetting for a second she is a murderous psychopath.

Or are we really supposed to forget? We know things can look blue, yet taste red; prison career fairs can seem like real opportunities, but are definitely not; Big Pharma are the real criminals; and peach can look like our color, but in the next second be considered outdated by the person who recommended it.  All these things bring up a duality theme that the show loves to play with, which is, how do we handle everything we know about these people and their crimes, and enjoy their company and laugh with them? Are we really taking them at face value? Are we supposed to? After seeing Piper’s more hardcore cell-mates last episode, it’s a relief to be back with the devils we know, but at the same time there’s the nagging knowledge that these are people the bulk of society shies away from in real life. After all, if prison was really this fun, wouldn’t we all want to go there? At least a little bit?

This is maybe why they decided to keep Taystee’s story typical for now, and if I had to guess, twist it later. This is a smart, articulate girl who unfortunately grew up without parents to guide her, and was looking for a place in society and a family. She eventually got it, but only by falling on the wrong side of the law. It’s simply sad, and we as an audience are made to understand at least that much. Even if they connect the dots with last-season Taystee a little bit better later on, we still need, like Piper last week, to get the foundation to have a strong story moving forward.

Like with Larry and Polly’s connection, and Red’s son promising her money, Taystee’s story doesn’t exactly make for a thrilling hour, but it does make for a deft Part One. With Vee showing up at the end, and with very little context as far as where the two women stand now, the wait for barbecue sauce should not be long.

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