First thing’s first: A new Netflix Pix will hit the World Wide Internet next week. For now, though (and because we already missed a week of this), we are going to continue forward with our “Orange Is The New Black” series a day before Friday. Why is that? Because who wants to read about the prison system when we are supposed to be out there celebrating freedom, gosh-darn-it! FREEEEEDOMMM!
Yeah, anyway. Behold five things about episodes five and six of this latest “Orange Is The New Black” run. Naturally, spoilers abound:
1. It’s becoming increasingly hard to not question the writers’ imagination when it comes to this series. Almost exactly one and one-half season(s) into it, I’m having trouble buying into the things I once loved about the narrative. Creator Jenji Kohan told Terry Gross last year that she felt it imperative to include the flashback device because she didn’t want to spend all her time writing and creating in a prison. The back-stories allow her and her staff to not feel so insulated and trapped while they come up with ideas for how to explain the depth of each character. She thought that writing a series set solely in jail would be “too depressing.” That’s fair enough, but after seeing Gloria and Poussey’s backgrounds play out in these two episodes, I can’t help but focus on the similarities between a lot of the crimes these women committed. Much like episode three, when Suzanne was profiled, we didn’t exactly see how P ended up in prison (here’s a guess: She used a gun). Outside of her and Crazy Eyes, however, the reasoning behind how the majority of these women wound up in jail can be summed up in two words: Drugs. Money. Either/or. Take your pick. We find in episode five that Gloria was committing food stamp fraud. Watson (the track star from season one – remember her?!) committed robbery. Tricia shoplifts, but kept a list so she could one day pay everyone back. Shoot, even Piper is in there because she carried drug money across the world. The only character with a crime that doesn’t seem stale is Pennsatucky, who done gone killed an abortion provider. I mean, I get it. How many crimes can one writing staff come up with while still being interesting? But for whatever reason, the similarities in the stories are really beginning to get to me. Maybe it’s because we, as fans, live for those flashbacks because they, for all intents and purposes, are the main reasons why a lot of us enjoyed the show so much to begin with. Either way, if I see another woman go to jail because of money problems I might just …
2. … Well, I don’t know what I’d do (once I start a series, I can never walk away; it’s one of my many faults). Still, the commonality conundrum highlights yet another gripe I’m beginning to wrestle with: Is anybody supposed to be blamed for being incarcerated anymore? One thing that’s become increasingly visible is how much we are asked to forgive these characters for the bad things they did. Last week, I talked about how the show is an indictment on this country’s prison system, and while I continue to believe how true that is, I can’t help but get a little bored with how much we are asked to sympathize with these characters, even though they are written to be inherently bad people. It’s like a room filled with anti-heroes (the latest craze in TV!), though the minute we discover why these women are supposed to be anti-heroes, the pianos start playing in the background and we’re asked to almost immediately forgive them. It’s no secret that I’m not the biggest “Breaking Bad” fan in the history of the world, but at least by the time the thing ended, you really began to dislike the character of Walter White. With “Orange,” it’s like, “Hey, Gloria was committing fraud, but she had kids she needed to feed!” “Hey, Taystee sold drugs, but she didn’t have parents!” Give us somebody with no redeeming qualities, will you? Please? Make Vee a cold-blooded murderer or show Suzanne burning down day-cares or something (not that we endorse burning down day-cares, of course. Settle). It’s just beginning to feel like the writers are getting a little lazy with the details of these backgrounds. Yet even with all of that whining out of the way now …
3 … The Valentine’s Day episode is the best that “Orange Is The New Black” has ever been. The tiny confessionals were pitch-perfect and whomever had the idea to insert those into the fabric of the episode needs to get a raise yesterday. Never did they feel contrived and never did they feel cliched. Yes, it’s an easy way to address love and Valentine’s Day and all that, and sure, it’s not like that trick has never been done before, but in this setting with these characters in the context of this story, you couldn’t have asked for a better execution and you certainly couldn’t have asked for more pitch-perfect answers from each woman as they took the screen. The best one of them all? Crazy Eyes. Duh. I could watch Uzo Aduba be that character from now until 2039 and never get bored. The Latino kitchen on the other hand …
4. … The situation between Daya and Bennett is little more than tiring anymore. Watching Daya’s girls try and manipulate him into giving them things is almost hard to watch. Plus, no one quite knows what’s going to happen with this baby situation. It’s a slow-burn story, sure, but to give it a presence in each episode the way they have done thus far is unnecessary. If there isn’t a shocking/entertaining/great payoff to that story line … well, yikes. Now, as for stray thoughts:
– I used to really, really enjoy journalism angles in movies and television (“All The President’s Men” is still one of my favorite films ever), but from Piper’s newsletter to Larry’s ridiculous investigative exposé, I can’t seem to get up for whatever “Orange” is selling when it comes to print media. Something about it seems flat and cheap. There’s no real other way to describe it.
– Boo and Nicky’s competition is one of the most fun things this series has ever done.
– Caputo playing bass in a band is my new favorite thing in all of Internet Television. Not only does it give that character room to breathe, but it also makes him someone for which we ought to root. Why? Because nobody ever cares about bass players, silly!
– I still can’t get a feel for what they are trying to do with Healy. I understand why they want to make him likeable, but I just can’t get over how cold he was to Piper at the end of season one. It’s going to take a lot to get back on his team.
– I immediately loved Vee when they introduced her. Four episodes later, my opinion on that character has gone nowhere but down. I despise how she manipulates these women. I despise how she’s going head-to-head with Red. I despise the cigarette business. I despise it all.
– Anyone else annoyed with how little they’ve used Pennsatucky so far this season?
5. The Comfort Dorn Funny Line Awards:
Boo, checking in on the competition with Nicky: “We were making L-O-V-E.”
Nicky: “I’m not sure that’s how you spell ‘gross,’ but congratulations, Boo.”
Pennsatucky, to Leanne’s new friend after they call her Hillary Clinton and she argues otherwise: “It’s a metaphor … you potato with eyes.”