Season 2 of everyone’s favorite women-led prison dramedy premiered on June 6 at 3 am in my part of the world. I resisted the urge to stay up all night just to see what kind of ridiculous, graituitously-nude craziness the showrunners would throw at us next, but after consuming the entire season over the course of a few days, here’s what stuck with me – for good reasons and bad.
Spoilers after the jump..
The Good, otherwise known as ‘Let’s start with what didn’t make me want to cancel my Netflix subscription and throw my tv against the wall’
More Prison Politics
Prison is an entirely different world from that which most of us are used to, one with its own set of currency and rules. The introduction of Vee The Shit-Stirrer gave us more plotlines centered around prison politics, leading OITNB into more meaty narrative territory and bringing me closer to reaching my dream of finally getting to watch a female version of Oz.
The flashbacks are like the best part of this show. Getting to see more of everyone’s pre-prison life is so satisfying. I especially liked learning more about Black Cindy, because Black Cindy is hilarious and awesome and her fro is cute.
Suzanne, Suzanne, Suzanne
I didn’t like “Crazy Eyes” at first, mostly because the idea of a scary black prison wife to contrast Piper’s relative innocence really chapped my ass. However, I will stan all day for Uzo Aduba and I was so so glad to see her character get some much-needed development. Suzanne should not be limited to an easy punchline, and I was glad to see that (mostly) reflected in the writing. Now I just need for her to be cast as the lead in a drama directed by Steve McQueen and co-starring Idris Elba and I will be happy.
The Bad, otherwise known as ‘Things That Made Me Want To Fast-Forward
Someone please explain to me the point of Bennet confessing. Like ok, great, then both he and Daya can be in prison and not get to see the baby and then find it hard to get jobs to support their familly later? I’m not saying it was right to frame Pornstache, but couldn’t Daya have claimed she didn’t know/remember, get out of prison eventually and marry Bennett? Then he could legally adopt the child and be its father anyway, right? This situation did not call for grand declarations of love and “manning up,” which apparently means throwing your life away in a move that will make life more difficult for everyone you care about.
I’ve always liked Daya though, and I still do (thick girls who like comics and drawing, represent!). I’m going to blame her foolishness on the pregnancy hormones. (Side-note: I used to like Bennett too until he tackled my girl Watson on some hyper masculine police brutality mess. Hit a little too close to home for me so eff that guy. )
Everyone in Piper’s Life Who Isn’t in Prison
Never in my life have I cared about people named Larry and Polly and I’m not going to start now. Plus, Larry is like literally everything wrong with privileged white dudes and Polly is just..trifling. Please let them move to a place far enough that we never have to see or hear about them ever again.
That lackluster season finale
Sure, we got to learn more about Rosa and come to care about her character more, but centering the final moments of the finale around her made it devoid of emotional impact for me. And having Vee get hit by the van was just cartoonish and forced, too much of a ‘see kids? This is what happens when you’re mean’ moment. Maybe I’ve been watching too much Game of Thrones lately, but rarely is justice so neat and storybook-ish.
The Ugly, otherwise known as ‘The Shit From Season 2 That Left Me Thinking ‘Wow, You Wrong For This and You Know It.’’
Vee as The Big Bad Wolf
I was happy when Vee first showed up. ‘Finally, the black girls get a leader,’ I thought. ‘Look at them all organized and powerful at their lunch table. It’s the prison version of Unfriendly Black Hotties and I love it.’ But wait, what happens when the black girls get power? Apparently organized negroes mean everything goes to hell. Sure, this is a prison full of criminals, but things weren’t really bad until the black girls found a way to run things.
Introducing Vee as the big bad wolf that brings everyone together made her a one-dimensional plot device. Making her the only actual bad guy while everyone else is just misunderstood was a lazy way to add some conflict. Just look at how HBO’S Oz did it – yeah, they had racial tension and race wars but it was never as simplistic as ‘this group is bad and this group is good.’ You want to know why? Because all of those people were in prison for a reason. There was no room for moral high ground because everyone did what they had to do to survive. Making a black woman the baddest of the bad while constantly using wide-eyed fair-skinned girls (Piper in season 1, Brooke in season 2) to represent innocence within the walls is horse shit.
Honestly, I’m just tired of seeing black faces represent universal evil that everyone else – even other black people – can band together to defeat. There have got to be more creative ways to achieve unity.
With the appearance of Brooke, who’s incarcerated for white girl hobbies like protesting against people punching dolphins or whatever, we see once against that when privileged people commit crimes, it doesn’t make them criminals. We get to see them scared and look out of place. They don’t belong in prison. They’re naïve. You know what I want to see? A girl like Brooke or Piper land in jail and be right at home with the worst of the lot, because she’s just as bad as them – she just got away with it longer.
I know I already touched on this, but you know what I’ve seen a million times already on a million other shows? The point of view of privileged straight white dudes who call themselves writers and live in nice apartments that their parents pay for. You know what I haven’t seen? The stories of characters like Sophia and Suzanne and Daya fully explored in mainstream media. Continuing to waste screen time on Whitey McWhine-A-Lot while interesting characters like Sophia and Flaca just linger in the background is becoming inexcusable.
That Terrible ‘White Privilege Isn’t My Fault’ Speech
During her outburst in episode 8, Piper spoke for every white girl who’s sick of having to face their privilege, who hates having it brought up because she’d prefer not having to think or talk about it, who prefers not having to face how it hurts other people, who like to believe that because they didn’t invent white privilege that they don’t benefit from it. Because of this, they attack the messengers, resenting the anger and pain POC feel at constantly being reminded that society doesn’t view them as being worth as much as blonde-haired white girls like Piper, all because they don’t know what to do with their own guilt.
I’m not saying that it was right to give her a hard time, but Piper and her grandmother have always taken center stage over people like Sophia and her father, and rather than get in the dirt and really think critically about the unfair systems we contend with, we get a few minutes of Piper struggling with her white guilt before chalking it up to something that’s out of her hands and moving on to plan how she can spend her furlough.
Um, The Entire Premise of This Show
Consider this: characters like Poussey, Black Cindy, and Janae would never get a show unless a white girl like Piper ends up in their space (and hilarious shenanigans ensue!). Think about what that means for a minute – WOC not existing without the presence of privileged, conventionally attractive white women. Orange Is The New Black may be entertaining and good for a binge-watch, but that fact alone is enough to leave a bad taste in my mouth.