Warning: This contains spoilers.
“It’s turned into fucking Riker’s round here.” Wanda isn’t wrong about that. The Season 2 finale is packed with twists and turns, none of them very moral and most of them involving things occurring in prison that should really not be occurring in prison. It’s a brilliant, stylised mess.
Vee’s story concludes with the aftermath of her ‘slocking’ of Red. As her crew turn on her – in a fashion reminiscent of The Lion King’s Scar and the hyenas – she flees, but not before causing Crazy Eyes some more emotional turmoil. Throughout the season, it’s been tough watching Suzanne (a controlled and unstoppable Uzo Aduba) act as the brawn in Vee’s crew, especially against Poussey. Suzanne’s confusion comes full circle as she admits she’s “unreliable” and we understand a little more about her.
In a well plotted, yet unsatisfying, final move, Rosa kills Vee mid-escape. Although Gloria and Norma used faith to ensure Vee’s death, it still feels somewhat as though she deserved worse.
A highlight of the episode is Red’s conversations with Sister Jane, who now has a “gaggle” (O’Neil asserts that this is the correct collective noun) of nuns at the infirmary gates protesting her treatment. The nuns themselves are brought to some bother when O’Neil decides to protest their protest with help from a ‘banjokele’ and some hilarious songs about nuns. Red and Jane rarely converse alone, so this shows the best parts of both their personalities. Written by Jenji Kohan, We Have Manners, We’re Polite cleverly produces something a little different for each of the characters in this way – not necessarily closure (Season 3 will arrive June 2015) but a change for the characters, a final move to demonstrate their defining features.
Some of the more features are produced by Healy, who is thanked by Pennsatucky and inspired to save Crazy Eyes from being framed for Vee’s attempted murder of Red. There’s also Bennett, who finally admits to being completely in love with Daya. Less admirable are the moves of Figueroa (embezzling, crying, begging and getting away with it) and, oddly, Caputo. Although his hate for Fig knows few boundaries, audiences may find his sexual bargaining with her somewhat distasteful. He may be angry and proven inept, but Caputo’s remained a pretty good guy throughout and the comedy gets lost in his willingness to degrade his boss like that. This proves an awkward, lone blip in an allegorical story about the struggle to do right.
As for Piper, Taylor Schilling delivers a season-high performance. Having spent Season 1 adapting to The Litch, Chapman ends her Season 2 journey adapting to the part of her that adapted to The Litch. She manipulates the naïvety of Polly and Larry and effectively leaves Soso to fend for herself. Now that she knows exactly what she wants, everyone is on the edge of their seats to discover what the third outing brings for her and Alex.
Orange Is The New Black Season 2 has been an eagerly awaited addition to the Netflix programming family. A staple of binge-viewing, Jenji Kohan’s adaptation of Piper Kerman’s memoirs has continued an onslaught of wit, a barrage of sharply crafted feminism and an excellently evolved plot.
As Schilling takes more of a back-seat, Kate Mulgrew (Red), Samira Wiley (Poussey), Uzo Aduba (Crazy Eyes) and the masterful Lorraine Toussaint (Vee) step forward to give Season 2 a broad feeling of intensity across multiple story arcs. A true collaboration between sympathetic directors, writers and actors, Orange is unlike any other television show. As Black Cindy warns Vee at their parting: “You gotta have people.” Orange has some of the very best people around.