[This is a review of the Orange is the New Black season 2 finale. There will be SPOILERS.]
It’s happening again. Orange is the New Black is over and simply put, I’m sad. Folks were dragged off to SHU, an elderly inmate was ditched as a “compassionate release,” someone else was stabbed and poor Red (Kate Mulgrew) was slocked, but the undeniable appeal of the large majority of the characters and the wacky yet oddly comforting sense of community continues to make Litchfield feel just like home.
The final episode of season 2, ‘We Have Manners. We’re Polite,’ isn’t a particularly sound 90 minutes of television, but the show has hit a point where script structure doesn’t even matter. Orange is the New Black rocks an exceedingly well-developed setting and has an abundance of characters you’re deeply connected to in it, giving just about anything that happens to them a must-see quality.
There’s a lot going on in episode 13, but most of it can be tied to Vee (Lorraine Toussaint). There’s Red’s recovery from the slocking and the SIS (Special Investigation Services) investigation, Nicky’s (Natasha Lyonne) choice to retaliate by stealing Vee’s stash, and Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore) and Watson (Vicky Jeudy) finally deciding to ditch Vee and reunite Taystee (Danielle Brooks) and Poussey (Samira Wiley). Minus whatever Norma (Annie Golden) and Gloria (Selenis Leyva) are busy cooking up to get Vee out of Litchfield, this is some of the strongest material of the episode because the overlap facilitates a very effective build.
This isn’t an issue of business, family loyalty or prison hierarchy anymore. Vee’s a selfish, violent and deceitful person, and it’s in everyone’s best interest to get her out. Some efforts are more effective than others, but everyone does their part. Red comes to realize that telling the truth is more important than pride, Cindy and Watson stop Vee from framing Crazy Eyes (Uzo Aduba) and the rage Nicky’s heist incites helps confirm that Vee’s really the one who’s off her mind. In the end, Rosa (Barbara Rosenblat) is the one who gets the job done, but if Red never got slocked, Nicky wouldn’t have went after Vee’s stash, and if Nicky didn’t take the drugs, Vee never would have snapped and lost her family, which is what ultimately compels her to flee through the tunnel, putting her right in Rosa’s path.
The big moment was a little clunky in a number of respects, particularly the intercutting between Rosa and Vee that tipped us off a bit too much, but the payoff of letting Rosa be the one to finish her off is still extremely gratifying. She’s been a Litchfield staple since day one. She’s tough and cynical, but still a decent person, and in this show, that goes a long way. Even though she never takes responsibility for the death of her loved ones or shows much remorse for what she’s done, she still manages to prove that good can exist right alongside an obsession with robbing banks. She may deserve to live out her days in prison according to the law, but Rosa is still a person, and a very decent one at that. You want her to get one last shot and when Morello (Yael Stone) affords her that, it makes for an especially moving season-ending thrill.
Healy’s (Michael Harney) friendship with Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning) fizzles out when he decides to be a big baby about the end of Safe Place, but Caputo (Nick Sandow) is still going strong having finally taken Fig (Alysia Reiner) down and making you believe that as the new assistant warden, he really can make a difference. After two whole seasons of sneaking around and trying to frame Pornstache (Pablo Schreiber), it was rather refreshing to finally see Bennett (Matt McGorry) man up and tell Caputo the truth. The Daya/Bennett storyline is notorious for repeating the same beats over and over again, but because their love does feel genuine, it’s hard not to be happy for them when Caputo lets Bennett off the hook and gives their relationship the slightest chance.
As for Piper (Taylor Schilling), how she decides to make the best of her bizarre romantic situation might actually spice things up for Larry (Jason Biggs) and Polly (Maria Dizzia) in the process. It’s always been tough to care about Larry because it’s so much easier to root for Alex (Laura Prepon), and after deciding he’s in love with Polly, seemingly out of the blue, it’s come to a point where it’s hard not to wonder, why have him around at all now? Polly, on the other hand, was in fine shape until she decided to ditch her husband and her child’s father for Larry in an instant. We get little to no relationship building and we’re expected to believe Larry and Polly are just meant to be together? It can’t work like that. However, if Piper winds up taking the upper hand and convincing the two to do her dirty work for her out of guilt, that could lead to some solid season 3 hijinks and the move Piper makes at the end of this episode proves.
Alex is a fan favorite. She had to make her way back to Litchfield eventually and when you think about it, it’s probably better off that it happened now, otherwise Kubra could get to her first and then we’d never have her back at all. It’s a desperate move that Piper will undoubtedly have to pay for, but if this is any indication, Piper will be much more comfortable playing the system now. She isn’t malicious and absolutely won’t become the next Vee, but she is capable of getting what she wants by taking reasonable risks and making smarter decisions. When she returns in season 3, she’ll definitely have to smooth things over with Alex, but after that’s taken care of, she’ll have her and all of her inmate friends back (assuming Nicky chills out), she’ll have two people on the outside who owe her favors and will also likely be in good standing with Caputo considering she’s the reason he got his promotion. It could be interesting to see what someone other than Red, Vee or Gloria does on a power trip, and especially Piper.
It’s always fun to speculate, but the thing is, I don’t even care where all of the Orange is the New Black storylines go. It’s not about hoping things will play out one way or the other in season 3. It’s only about the need for more – no matter what more is. I’ve become so attached to these characters and have had so much fun experiencing every single up and down with them, that at this point, the ladies of Litchfield could be talking to each other through the walls in SHU for all I care; I just want Orange is the New Black back fast.
Orange is the New Black has been renewed and is currently filming season 3.
Follow Perri on Twitter @PNemiroff.