Orange is the New Black: Thirsty Bird, Demanding Poochie

Orange is the New Black (Photo: Netflix)
Orange is the New Black (Photo: Netflix)

Orange is the New Black’s Season 2 debut finds Piper Chapman facing consequences. Ryan wonders whether it’s enough.

At first glance, Orange is the New Black began its sophomore season in the worst possible way. Instead of the break I’d hoped her visit to the SHU would provide, we got a full hour of The Truman Chapman Show, wondering what’s next for her.1 It’s 20 minutes before we know where Chapman is going, and another 20 until we find out why, from none other than Alex Vause. In the meantime, we get to endure Chapman’s various unpleasant experience, not knowing whether this facility and its cast of characters will become the new normal.

In a continuation from last season, Jenji Kohan et al are trying very hard to gain empathy for Chapman. OITNB has never been particularly subtle, but this time it’s just blatantly trying to manipulate the audience. We’re supposed to have pity as the women in her family teach her to bottle up her feelings2, listen sympathetically as she pours her heart out to us (and Tank Girl), cringe as Chapman’s bunkmate assaults her to find out exact time of her birth. Don’t you want to give her a hug and tell her it’ll all be okay?3

At second glance, “Thirsty Bird” plants some interesting seeds for the rest of the season. Alex, Larry, Crazy Eyes, Miss Claudette — all of the people who cared for Chapman are either gone or not speaking to her. The U.S. Marshal who lets her use the bathroom on the plane only does so to prevent her from peeing her pants, which would mean either more work or more smell for him. Alex appears to be protecting Chapman, but (predictably) goes for the double-cross to get herself out of the clink. Larry’s father represents Chapman for the trial but then taps out, not because he’s emotionally invested and disappointed, but because he can’t abide her perjury.

Even as we’re shown situations where we (are supposed to) feel bad for her, Chapman is reaping the bad karma she sowed last season, and finding it’s isolation. This could be a very positive new trajectory for Season 2. Is it enough to keep Orange is the New Black from going off the rails, a la Weeds? More importantly, is it enough to keep me from turning into a hate-watcher? It just might be, provided the action quickly returns to Litchfield.

Tomorrow: Mooch reviews episode 2, “Looks Blue, Tastes Red.”

  1. Or, in my case, wondering what I did to deserve having this episode to review.  
  2. Related: is it a surprise to anybody that Chapman has been a goody-two-shoes her entire life?  
  3. In case you were wondering, the correct answer is NOPE. Assault is never okay, but let’s be honest, I’d not rush to comfort her.  

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  • bsawhill

    I agree, any scene with “Pipes” (or Larry for that matter) was when I would look away and start sorting more socks. I found myself wondering a lot whether if having an omnipotent narrator (Piper’s voice and narration) would be less annoying, or if a House of Cards “yes I am talking to YOU” kind of interaction with the viewer would be more helpful. In the end, no, I realized just wanted less of them on the screen, period. I also agree with your “Pipe Dreams” post, I wanted more stories about the other women in there.

    What do you think of Regina Spektor song during the opening credits? I found myself fast forwarding through it every time (exciting fact: the opening credits take 7 seconds longer in Season 2 than Season 1)

    While I appreciate the efforts the producers made to use the faces of recently incarcerated women as a way to tell us this story isn’t just about Piper…(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/20/orange-is-the-new-black-opening-credits_n_3786127.html), Spektor’s song, much like any scene with Piper, just made me want to skip over it.

    • I know I’m in the minority, but I love the theme song. If you have Netflix autoplay set up, it should bypass the theme song as long as you are watching more than one episode at a time.

      • Huh, interesting. I checked my settings just now, and I do have autoplay turned on, yet I have to skip the opening credits manually every time. Are you watching on a computer, or a set-top box?

        • When I watch directly on my iPad the autoplay kicks in, but not when I use it with my Chromecast. I recall a tweet on 6/6 from someone celebrating that the autoplay skipped the theme song.

          • Barbara

            Alas that was not my tweet, but I am glad to know that there are others who felt my pain.

            Fwiw it takes 1:11 to get thru the opening credits in season 1…1:17 in season 2.

            I try to avoid autoplay if I can because invariably I need a break and/or a beer or just the opportunity to think about how implausible that last scene was…. or to get more socks to sort 🙂

    • Yeah, I agree with you on the theme song. But then I’m not much of a Regina Spektor fan to begin with, and I tend to get annoyed with any theme song when I’m binge-watching. (Watching on a weekly schedule is another story — I quite enjoy, for example, Teen Wolf’s opening credits when it’s airing.)

      Thanks for that article about the women’s faces! I was wondering who they were but hadn’t bothered to go look it up.