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Orange is the New Black, S2 Overview, Part 1: Dark themes under a quirky coat

Orange is the New Black, S2 Overview, Part 1: Dark themes under a quirky coat

Orange Is The New Black Season 2

Orange is the New Black, Season 2, Episode 1: “Thirsty Bird”
Written by Tara Herrmann and Jenji Kohan
Directed by Jodie Foster

Orange is the New Black, Season 2, Episode 2-4: “Looks Blue, Tastes Red”,  “Hugs Can Be Deceiving”,  “A Whole Other Hole”
Written by Jenji Kohan (Episode 2), Lauren Morelli (Episode 3), Sian Heder (Episode 4)
Directed by Michael Trim (Episode 2, 3), Phil Abraham (Episode 4)

Orange is the New Black, Season 2, Episode 5-7: “Low Self Esteem City”, “You Also Have A Pizza”, “Comic Sans”
Written by Nick Jones (Episode 5), Stephen Falk (Episode 6), Sara Hess (Episode 7)
Directed by Andrew McCarthy (Episode 5,7), Allison Anders (Episode 6)
Premiered Friday, June 6th on Netflix Instant

Although the anti-hero television dramas of the past have been almost consistently compelling, there is a tendency for it to be nothing but a boy’s club that girls aren’t allowed into. Orange is the New Black, however, is a breath of fresh air for viewers who are looking for someone to say, “Girls can do bad too.” With its dark themes of heartbreak, death, violence, crime and isolation, it remains palatable because of its funny coating and cast of three-dimensional, interesting characters.

The season begins after Piper Chapman reached her breaking point with the fiercely irritating Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Doggett, and we find her once again locked up in “The SHU,” unknowing if she has now become a murderer along with her prior indiscretions with the law. Piper is moved to a different prison, where she sees her ex-girlfriend, Alex Vause, and at this moment, viewers feel like we’ve jumped back into the hamster wheel that is Piper’s relationships with other people. Eventually, Piper returns to Litchfield where, as with the prior season, the following episodes primarily surround the lives of the other characters in the prison; Taystee, Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren, Lorna Morello, Poussey Washington, Sam Healy, Diaz and Bennett, as well as several others, along with the introduction of two new characters; the devious and manipulative Vee, and the intensely annoying babbling Brook.

Although the first half of the season has been laden with twists that left me with my jaw on the floor, it is a slightly slow burn, although there is still an undeniable feeling that something large is coming. Alex has been absent for the past six episodes, there has only been one reference to “Pornstache” being the underhanded creep that he is, Diaz and Bennett remain adorable but the ability to keep their relationship a secret seems shaky, and there has been a palpable pressure build up between pseudo-moms Gloria Mendoza, Red and now Vee. The foundation is set for a dramatic wrap up in the final episodes.

Orange is the New Black’s ability to tackle a multitude of plot lines about sad and very different lives, while still keeping a strong comedic inclusion that makes the series easy and enjoyable to watch, is unrelenting. However, a few times the occasional cliché does slip in. We see the typical, “These are all the reasons why we can’t be together – oh screw it, kiss me!” scene, we see the worn-out, “As a young girl I just didn’t fit in” archetype, as well as a standard unrequited love story that has been present time and time again in film and TV history. Although the clichés are there, the way that the series’ writers present them are done so in a way that is forgivable. By this point in the story, viewers have become incredibly attached to this large cast of characters, and there is so much that is clever and new. The snippets of wisdom or humour in the dialogue are enough to forgive anything that might seem tired, such as Red’s drip of advice to Piper, “All problems are boring until they are your own.”

In the last six episodes, I eagerly hope for more Alex, less Brook, a resolution (or maybe a blow out) to the tension between the “moms” and an answer to where “Pornstache” is and what nasty tricks does he have up his sleeve.