Introducing intermittent moments of self-awareness and a crippling tension, Episode 11 of OITNB Season 2 represents the calm before the storm. Episode 12, meanwhile, is the storm. It achieves this through subtle, creeping tricks of the trade… like an actual, massive storm.
While not acquiring documents that may later end up in an evidence bag, Piper is told she’s being transferred. Aside from an intimate reminiscence with Morello, this acts less as actual plot and more of a call to arms for her old ‘fight the system’ routine. Moments like this are frequent in these penultimate episodes; almost every character is grabbing snakes’ tails while we await the reaction from the dangerous, bitey end.
Following the rebellious theme Chapman inspired in the first season, Soso has decided to protest via hunger strike. Garnering a little attention after a publishing error, Sister Jane hijacks the strike – and the spotlight – in Episode 11 (Take A Break From Your Values) with a series of flashbacks that present her as one of the most well-rounded and interesting personalities on the show; an activist nun who still craves adoration in prison is a success for any programme.
Orange’s excellent writers and irreplaceable actors turn a clever sideshow into an emotive main act. It’s a point at which Orange proves it can do anything; within seconds a conversation about the Catholic Women’s Justice Lobby involves the phrase “anti-authoritarian cupcakes”.
Vee is still rocking the boat in Take A Break From Your Values, and it becomes a boat she may need soon. The episode sees Crazy Eyes attempt to spy on Poussey during a Healy-lead therapy session. Surprisingly, this doesn’t work – aside from Suzanne’s one-liners which, as always, are delivered exceptionally – so Vee is forced to take further measures by excommunicating Taystee. Kohan and her team have honed characterisation and pressure-building in a way that has several fantastic story arcs vying for centrality. It’s impossible not to care immensely about each person’s decisions.
On Red’s side of the fence, it’s clear things have changed. Season 1 saw her as the tough-guy of The Litch. Red was the gauge for danger. In Season 2, with Vee’s presence, the audience is led to lines like “Drugs in prison ain’t the craziest thing ever to happen” and “We’ve got a rat problem”. Absorbing Orange’s talent for crude jokes and wit, Season 2 has a clear-cut deadliness to it. It got real. This is never clearer than when Red’s OAP compatriots decide to make a move of their own that has her and Vee squaring up against each other and speaking words of war. Lorraine Toussaint (Vee), with each and every script, has brought a real sense of threat and ‘prison’ to the prison.
Concluding Episode 12 (It Was The Change), it’s obvious who the star of the show is: Wanda, the storm that reigns ruthlessly over The Litch, forcing the inmates (including the warring factions) to sleep together in the hall. A truly brilliant plot device, it raises the stakes while remaining trustworthy and taut, influencing everyone and pushing them to their limits. If the production team can keep comedy gold like Healy’s lesbian theories until the final hour, everyone should be excited to see what’s left after the tempest has passed.
Orange Is the New Black Season 2 is available on Netflix UK as part of a monthly subscription of £6.99.