‘Orange Is the New Black’ Season Two Breakdown: Episodes 7-13

Binge-watching the second season of Orange is the New Black is a little like being in a prison of your own making. No forced showers or bad food, but you’re trapped there until it’s over. Then suddenly you’re released from its hold and left to wander into the world a little disoriented. There’s the rush, followed by a realization that it’s really over — at least for another year.

Season two of OITNB upped the risk factors, packed more of an emotional punch, and focused not only on the battle for power but also the mental effect prison can have on anyone. Nearly all the characters battled not just the world around them but also their own mind. Many were faced with hard decisions that either worked out for them or got them into more trouble.

For a closer look at the first half of the season (episodes 1-6) check out my previous post, but read on now for a look at how things wrapped up in episodes 7 through 13.

Spoilers are coming, inmates — you’ve been warned.

The two central storylines of this season were the battle between Vee and Red, which took some serious twists in the second half of the season and the administrative fraud issue, which I’m going to address first.

It’s been clear for quite sometime that there’s some shady business going on at the prison. Piper becomes drawn into figuring it out after Larry mentions wanting to write about the issue and how there’s another reporter also interested in the story. Piper begins her prison newsletter, hoping it will provide her with access to what’s going on or at least provide her a cover for asking questions.

The prison newsletter allowed for some fun interactions between characters that often aren’t placed together: like Diaz and Piper. As a font nerd myself, I greatly appreciated the Comic Sans joke and the fact that episode seven was even titled after the terrible font, but eventually, the newsletter is axed by Figueroa (Fig).

In the penultimate episode, “It Was the Change” (which is one of the standout hours of the season), the prison is clearly falling apart under the pressure of a storm. The prisoners are forced to all sleep in the cafeteria and piss in a bucket. The plumbing and power are out, and the ceiling is leaking. In the chaos, Piper sneaks away and finds the files she needs to prove there’s been embezzling at the prison. As she’s leaving Fig’s office, Caputo catches her.

Caputo uses this to his advantage. In the finale, he brings Fig down, takes over her job, and finally feels validated. While this should all have been fascinating stuff, the fraud storyline never completely satisfied me. Partly because we don’t ever get all the details — or even a clear understanding of exactly what Fig was doing or why.

The season is spliced with scenes of Fig and her closeted-gay husband, who is running for office and is also involved in the money issues at the prison. At the end, it seems Fig doesn’t quite have the downfall I was expecting or hoping for. She is brought down, but it wasn’t as joyful as I wanted. Are we meant to feel sorry for her? Was the clichéd closeted politician a necessary storyline?

I did find myself liking Caputo, and his new role at the prison could provide some interesting storylines for next season. In the finale, we already saw that things aren’t going to be that simple for him — from the nuns at the gate to losing a prisoner to Bennett’s confession that he’s the father of Diaz’s baby, there’s a lot on his plate. Will he eventually fold under the pressure? We’ll have to wait and see.

While the embezzlement storyline provided some fun moments, the real battle of the season was between Red and Vee, which became one of the strongest storylines of the series. I’ve always liked Red, and this season really gave her character the opportunity to grow more complex and interesting. And the evil-eyed, stone-faced Vee made for the perfect villain — just give Lorraine Toussaint the Emmy now.

Episode six fully revealed that both Red and Vee were back to smuggling things into the prison — Vee through the cleaning supplies, and Red through the greenhouse. Of course, Red was smuggling in her old things like candy, pantyhose, and makeup, and Vee started off with tobacco but quickly began bringing in hard drugs.

We know from the previous season how Red feels about drugs. This also did not sit well with Washington who has been suspicious of Vee from day one. I loved the extension of Washington’s character; she was fantastic all season long, and when Vee makes Crazy Eyes beat her up, it’s easy to become emotionally connected to her pain.

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Red used her pipeline, in part, to get her family back together. In a great scene in episode nine (“40 oz of Furlough”), she makes them all dinner in the greenhouse and finally apologizes to them. The happiness of this reunion is cut short due to Big Boo, who decides to let Vee know how Red’s getting stuff into the prison.

I’m not sure, however, that I completely understood Big Boo’s rational for doing this. But part of the larger themes of this season seems to be the difference between fun prison games/fights (which Big Boo enjoys) and serious ones. Big Boo had no idea what this information would lead to or just how serious Vee was.

The battle begins to heat up when Vee confronts Red about her tunnel and says she wants to share it. This might seem like an OK compromise given the circumstances, but Vee’s intentions are suspect as we are shown more backstory about Vee and Red in their earlier days. When Red first came to the prison, Vee friended her and encouraged her to start smuggling things into the prison through the kitchen (like she was doing in season one). Red is grateful until Vee turns on her and wants to take over Red’s business. It results in Red getting beat up.

Red doesn’t want to share and wants no part of bringing drugs into the prison. She goes on a rampage trying to find out who told Vee. When she discovers it was Big Boo, she kicks her out of the family. While Red is fuming over this, the Golden Girls come up with their own plan: killing Vee. (I loved this moment because it was truly a commentary on how culture views the elderly — they are basically invisible.) Of course, the plan goes poorly and one of them shanks the wrong person (who is never identified). (This could also be a humorous comment on the racist notion that all black people look alike.)

Things hit a new level of intensity just as an actual storm hits the prison (while weather as a metaphor for what’s happening is often overused, I liked it in this case). Red’s camp and Vee’s camp are in full battle mode, or are they? Red and Vee are taking this all very seriously, but the other girls don’t necessary see it that way.

Red’s girls know they aren’t fighters, nor do they have the power or muscle of Vee’s group. Vee’s girls like to play the tough girls but are perhaps just as unprepared for the serious battle Vee is cooking up (well besides Crazy Eyes, which Vee has turned into her henchman). Vee has also kicked her girl Taystee out of the gang after Washington destroys their tobacco supply, which shows us that Vee means business and no one is safe.

As the storm rages at the prison, we are treated to one of the darkest and most disturbing flashback scenes. Just when you thought Vee couldn’t get any worse, we find out not only did she sleep with her hunky “foster” son R.J., but she had him killed. This is the perfect set-up for what comes next, truly establishing Vee as not just as a woman with a fucked-up past but also a true psychopath (which is a lot more fun).

Red is faced with a hard choice and realizes something must be done, and it’s on her to do it. Due to the storm, everyone is forced to piss in a bucket, and when the bucket is full, the last person to use it must go empty it outside. When it’s Vee’s turn, Red is ready for her. As the rain comes down, she sneaks up behind Vee and begins to strangle her with plastic wrap from the kitchen.

Red has the clear advantage here and has the chance to kill her, but she suddenly wakes up to what’s happening. Red stops, which is an important moral decision for her character. She realizes how silly it all is. “What are we doing?” she asks. The mind game of prison has gotten to her, and she realizes she’s now outside in the middle of a storm trying to kill someone over smuggling lipstick into prison. She has a reality check. Vee immediately sees this as a chance to gain Red’s trust. She’s laughs it off too, and they shake hands.

Red’s decision, of course, comes back to haunt her. The next morning as she’s cleaning up the greenhouse, Vee attacks her with a sock full of locks. Every decision has a consequence.

In the finale, the prison is investigating Red’s attack. She’s alive but badly beaten and refuses to say who attacked her. Vee already has her next moves planned. She tells her remaining girls to point the finger at Crazy Eyes and then tells Crazy Eyes it’s time to take credit for what she did. This scene is heartbreaking because Crazy Eyes has only ever wanted to fit in, and that’s made her the perfect target for Vee. (Uzo Aduba really brings it this season. Crazy Eyes starts to really think she attacked Red even though she knows she was somewhere else. )

Black Cindy and Watson go along with Vee’s plan at first, but both are getting a little nervous. Taystee warns them to get out now, but it’s not until Nicky and Big Boo steal all the drugs from Vee – and Vee comes after Black Cindy — that they both decide to tell the truth.

As things begin unravel, Vee realizes she’s lost control and has one final showdown with Taystee, which is a perfect scene. Vee can’t stop herself from trying to manipulate the situation and tells Taystee, “You’ve broken my heart.” Taystee replies, “You don’t have a heart.” Vee is that true psychopath that doesn’t even really know what’s true or not true. She’s so good at playing all these different roles that her actual thoughts or feelings are lost. Does she actually care for Taystee somewhere inside her?

With few options, Vee does the only thing left to do: She escapes through Red’s tunnel. What happens next was perfectly crafted and not just in this one episode but was built through various scenes throughout the season.

As this season has progressed, Miss Rosa was given more screen time — revealing an interesting character that once seemed destined for the sidelines. In fact, this season did a great job of including a lot of the older female characters in important and interesting roles (another rarity in television and film). Rosa has been slowly dying of cancer and needs an expensive operation that the prison won’t pay for. We’ve seen her go in for treatment a few times (which is how Morello went on her adventure early in the season). We’ve seen her backstory as a bank robber; we’ve seen her befriend a teenage cancer patient; and we’ve seen her interact with Vee, whom she calls “a rude lady.”

It is all this careful build that makes the final scene of the season a great moment. Rosa is returning from treatment and from being told she has three weeks to live. The prison is on lockdown because no one can find Vee. The van, driven by Morello, approaches. The guard gets out to see what’s happening and tells them to wait. Morello sees the chance to let Rosa die on her own terms and tells her to take the van. Morello gets out, and Rosa takes off.

As she’s heading down the highway reliving her glory days of high speed and bank robbing, Vee emerges from the woods. Rosa sees her and veers over and hits her (presumably killing her, though Vee’s death is not confirmed — meaning there’s a chance she could return in season three). The ending felt right and gave Rosa a great send off.

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And then there were the men. Healy actually got a compelling storyline this season. I really liked his sad attempt to gain popularity through his therapy group called “Safe Place.” His relationship with Pennsatucky also provided some interesting and thoughtful moments for both characters.

Sadly, Bennett’s storyline did not work as well. I liked the Diaz/Bennnet/Baby stuff in season one, but this season, it fell really flat and became pretty repetitive. It seemed they just kept having the same conversation over and over again. There was also the brief return of Pornstache, who is a great character, but again didn’t really add anything meaningful to the story this season.

One of the problems with the Bennet/Diaz storyline is that the show is moving at a very slow pace. Piper is only sentenced to 15 months, and seasons one and two have really only covered about five to six months, which means they can’t really speed up the Diaz pregnancy, and it’s leaving them with not much to say or do. While I like looking at Matt McGorry, I’m not sure where his character can go.

Larry also fell into a plot that I wasn’t a huge fan of (as mentioned in my first post), hooking up with Piper’s best friend Polly. I did, however, like the scene of them coming to see Piper to get her blessing. It was so wonderfully selfish and ridiculous and totally something you could see Piper doing in the free world, which made it work nicely for all characters involved.

The final big moment of the season was between Piper and Alex, and it was also very carefully crafted. The first episode of season saw Piper get screwed (not in the good way) once again by Alex, who cut a deal to get out of prison after telling Piper to lie on the stand.

Throughout the season, Piper has been dealing with her feeling about what Alex did, eventually reading the letters she’s been sending and – finally – calling her. Alex tells her that the guy she testified against didn’t get convicted and that she’s now living in Queens, terrified to leave her apartment. She’s also got a gun for protection. Piper is worried about Alex’s safety.

When Alex comes to see Piper in prison, she tells her she’s there to say goodbye. She says her only option is to skip out on her parole and disappear. Piper has come to the conclusion that she’s pretty much alone (after basically losing Larry and Polly) and wants Alex in her life.

Piper makes a bold, perhaps selfish, perhaps vindictive move, asking Polly and Larry to contact Alex’s parole officer and tell him she’s planning to skip town. The officer goes to Alex’s place and finds her with a gun (which is against the terms of her release). Alex is heading back to prison at the hands of Piper, which should provide some good moments for next season. (It has already been confirmed that Laura Prepon is returning as a full cast member for season three.)

Season two really outshined season one and proved this show is capable of being many things and nearly of them are great. Now fans will be in a different kind of prison waiting for season three to drop.

Best Moments of the Second Half (not mentioned above):

Piper’s white privilege speech in episode eight was amazing.

Piper’s furlough episode hit just the right balance of humor and sadness.

Rossa and her teenage cancer friend stealing the nurse’s wallet.

Sophia’s scene with her son.

Crazy Eyes’ interrogation scene in the finale.

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