Minor season two spoilers.
If you haven’t watched season one of Orange is the New Black, then stop reading this and go watch it now. NOW.
For those who have made it diligently through season one, rejoice! You are probably already done with season two!
On June 6, season two was released in its entirety on Netflix. A hit since the beginning, OITNB was a semi-experiment for Netflix, embarking into the world of truly original programming (I do not count the 4th season of Arrested Development as “original”). Along with other hits like House of Cards, this new generation of streaming television addresses directly the demographics and preferences of the target audiences. People were watching David Fincher movies, Kevin Spacey movies, and presidential/political dramas…. so they made a political Kevin Spacey drama, directed by David Fincher. We asked, they gave. In the case of Orange is the New Black, I guess we were all thirsting for some female drama that did not include Friday night dates or working at a hospital, where little focus can be given to a character’s wardrobe and men are not the only love option.
For OITNB, season one was good, but not amazing. I got really tired of the first-world problems of our main character, as the true storytelling was hidden among the myriad of inmates. Jenji Kohan, mastermind of the hit Weeds, is also the creator of OITNB, and she has gone on record that Piper’s story got us in the door, but what will keep viewers around are the otherwise untold tales of incarcerated minorities. Piper Kerman is a real woman, who did get incarcerated because of drug-running mistakes of her youth, she did have a fiance and a lesbian lover, but Piper Kerman only shares so much with Piper Chapman. Real people rarely make captivating television, so the glory of fiction rounds out less fascinating dents, and sometimes other people’s dents are more interesting. With a bevy of flashbacks highlighting key moments of the women’s lives, we glimpse depth and understanding beyond the orange and beige jumpsuits. Heavy issues of race, poverty, sexual violence, drugs, and motherhood are all addressed, in addition to a fairly scathing view of the privatized prison system. You do have to put up with a lot of Laura Prepon, though.
One of my favorite aspects of OITNB this season? Jodie Foster.
An occasional director for season one, Foster directed the opening episode of season two. Oh the fear! I am a great Foster fan, mainly because the fear she portrays on screen becomes so hauntingly real that it can give me nightmares (Silence of the Lambs, Panic Room). Foster pulled out all of the stops for this episode, drenching viewers in uncertainty and panic. Small homages to Hannibal Lecter, with beautifully placed airplanes, masks, and talks of false freedom. My skin crawled from the hungry looks of men, the implied violence around each turn, the tension of unknown destinations. It was a home run of an episode.
In the week since it all was delivered to Netflix, I have finished season two and I recommend it to everyone I see. Most of my issues with season one have since been resolved, the acting has increased, the story has power, and prison life has become fascinating. You should be watching it.
Stephanie Feinstein spends more time than she should yelling at her television, and that may never change. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org