… And we’re back. After a quick break last week, it’s time to return to the lovely ladies at the state of New York’s busiest women’s prison. It was a steady climb toward greatness after the disappointment episode one provided and the improvement between the first two episodes was both real and abundant. That trend continues with installments three and four. So, enough of me gabbering. Let’s go. Naturally, spoilers abound:
1. The further I get into this series, the more I realize how much of an indictment the entire narrative is on the U.S. prison system. Think about it: From the reasoning behind the main character landing in prison (call me a bit too liberal, but facing a sentence of 13 months behind bars for merely being in the presence of someone possessing drugs seems sort of harsh, no?), all the way to the bit characters (whose stories are all tragic, heartbreaking and weirdly touching at the same time), the more these stories are told, the more frustrating our jail system appears. That’s the point, of course — the real Piper Chapman has been an outspoken opponent of our prison system in recent years, testifying at a hearing on “Reassessing Solitary Confinement” in February — but that point is driven home with more authority each time someone’s background is revealed. Do these women really deserve the punishments they received? Did any of them really ever have a shot at a normal life? Are these characters really nothing more than a product of a severely fractured incarceration system that isn’t even close to achieving the slightest bit of reform? It’s easy to laugh at a lot of the antics that go on this series, and it’s easy to cry when the sadness is asked to creep into each of our eyes, but there’s a much larger point underneath all of this that deserves examination, and I often wonder if it actually is commonly being examined. Maybe the most blatant example of this observation, of course, comes in the form of …
2. … Crazy Eyes. You can’t find a bigger fan of that character than me. From the moment she first appeared, formulating that crush on her dandelion, I was willing to stop watching the series forever if they wrote her off somehow. It’s quite honestly one of the most compelling characters (Internet) television has seen in a long, long time. To learn a thing or three about the way she was brought up in these episodes … my goodness. To see precisely how mean people were to her as a child. To see how un-accepted she was by pretty much everyone around her. To see how innocent she appeared, holding her baby sister in the hospital room. I mean … wow. Not only does it make you wonder about how truly beneficial-to-the-kid our adoption system is here in the United States, but it also questions the repercussions of parenting on one’s development as a human being. The flashback of her mother dropping her off at a sleep-over and subsequently sticking up for her daughter left me with a weird feeling. They won’t allow her to hold their newborn for longer than two minutes, but the second someone questions if she should be allowed to spend the night at a friend’s house, everyone’s mad? Was her adoptive mother sticking up for her out of love, or was her tangent nothing more than a reflection on her desire to have Kid Crazy Eyes out of her hair for the night? Then to see her be forced to stand in front of her classmates at graduation because of a mother who would give anything to just have a normal child … well, that was cruel (and it harkens back to the possible ulterior motive for why she wanted her to stay at a friend’s house so badly). Either way you cut it, it’s sad. Beyond sad, actually. It paints Crazy Eyes as someone who has searched her entire life for acceptance and received it a grand total of never. Or, well, until Vee comes around, that is. Which leads me to …
3. … I don’t like to see Poussey and Taystee in an awkward place because of Vee. Why? Because the relationship between the two might be the most endearing thing the series has going. There’s an earned comfort between the two and it translates wonderfully through the small screen. The second to last thing I want to see is those two feuding. The last thing? Red exist without power. Watching her become rejuvenated through the arrival of Vee has been, if nothing else, a lot of fun. The hair is back. She’s scheming again. She’s forced to take on a roommate for the first time in 12 years, which was interesting to see, considering how that roommate is now Piper. She offers anecdotes and helpful hints to those who might need them. In short, she’s up to something, and I love to watch her be up to something. Watching her be active levels out the sense of melancholy that often hangs over each week’s narrative. And speaking of melancholy …
4. … Lorna. It really bugs me when I hear people talk about how nuts she is after seeing this episode. I don’t completely buy into that. I just don’t. You want to talk about someone with no shot? Check out her sick mother, detached father, young-mother-of-a-child sister. Her obsession with celebrity is a clear shot across the chin of a popular culture’s obsession with fame. It’s a formative point to argue, the way we are brought up to appreciate and admire and idolize those who can sing or hit a ball or act on film or be “beautiful” or insert-your-own-over-paid-gig-attached-to-being-a-celebrity-here. As far as I’m concerned, Christopher can go fly a kite. Is she emotionally unstable? Obviously. But is it necessarily her fault that she ended up that way? That’s the question this series loves to ask on an episodic basis. Now, as for stray thoughts:
– I loved the callback to Crazy Eyes punching Piper, making the fight at the end of season one appear even. It was clever from a writing standpoint and uncommonly useful from a narrative perspective.
– The competition between Boo and Nicky can be a lot of fun. And I’ll leave that right where it is.
– The chemotherapy bit was an interesting way to add perspective to the series. “I’m going to die in here,” that inmate says, and it stings.
– That silly journalism angle with Larry? Blah.
5. The Comfort Dorn Funny Line Awards:
Taystee, playing charades: “Chick whose husband died real young.”
Poussey, in response: “The White Michelle Williams.”
Inmate who stole Piper’s book while she was gone: “Fine, Inspector Gadget.”
Piper: “Inspector Gadget was not a good detective. He just had a lot of stuff.”