Netflix binge review: Orange Is the New Black Season 2 (Episode 9, 10)
40oz of Furlough8.5
Little Moustachioed Shit9
Chris Bryant | On 23, Jun 2014
Relationships are important in Orange Is the New Black. Episode 9 of Season 2 tackles family – one of the show’s prominent themes – and Episode 10 deals with strangers, especially within the prison walls.
40oz of Furlough takes place partly outside The Litch, as Piper is granted 48 hours of furlough to attend her grandmother’s funeral. As the funeral turns into a wedding, Piper is repeatedly forced to defend herself against her family.
Writer Lauren Morelli cleverly navigates a minefield of predictability here, ensuring that any alienation Piper feels is dealt with carefully. Piper’s family are still impressively weird, but Morelli continues the increasingly challenging trend of being surprised by Chapman’s reactions; her two days of freedom are distressing, self-destructive and celebratory, in equal measure.
Elsewhere, Red invites “The Family” for a meal in her greenhouse. Warming and unifying, the meal is attending by all the old faces – and sabotaged by only one. The script once more strikes a balance that results in a wrenching plot twist, but somehow keeps the characters involved lovable and enjoyable to watch.
Vee’s new family are not in the same happy boat. Rich and powerful, they’re still troubled by Poussey’s militant defiance to let Taystee go. Samira Wiley maintains a perfect performance as Poussey, the struggling outcast, while Lorraine Toussaint hits her stride as Queen Vee. It’s almost distressing that as Poussey becomes weaker and Vee becomes all-powerful, they get better and better to observe.
As Episode 9’s family theme continues, we’re treated to flashbacks of Red and Vee when they first met. An ingenious few scenes have us noting how much they’ve both changed, and how much they haven’t. Kate Mulgrew (Red) has always been the biggest character on the block; seeing her younger self struggle is not only troublesome, but an excellent piece of acting, writing and direction.
Episode 10 follows a similar idea by examining the relationships between strangers. This time, Alex and Piper’s relationship is analysed in flashbacks, with a new take on their falling in love. Writer Sian Heder’s different angles on pre-existing stories show Piper to be not quite as innocent as we may have thought; Alex may be trouble, but Piper actively seeks her out. Previously family but now strangers, Vee and Red proceed with their contraband war, with Vee finding the upper hand thanks to a betrayal from Red’s relatives.
Together, they define Orange Is The New Black’s intense second season. It shares a lot of traits with other prison dramas. It’s violent and scary, but still has its own humour and tone. No one embodies this more than ‘Pornstache’ Mendez, who returns for these two episodes with an entrance packed with style, tension and a moustache – followed by an exit equally as important, fitting and, yes, moustached.
Though his return is short, Pablo Schreiber (aided and abetted by Heder and director Jennifer Getzinger) makes use of his time and explodes with word-perfect outbursts, threats, swagger and arrogance. As corrupt and disgusting as he may be, he’s a riot to watch.
Photo: Ali Goldstein for Netflix