Orange Is the New Black season 2 episode 2 gives us a great taste of Taystee. And absolutely no Piper. There is a little Larry, but it’s not terrible. There is a capital ‘P’ Plot happening1 on this season of Orange Is the New Black but I shan’t discuss it at all right now since it had nothing to do with the small ‘p’ plot of episode 2, ‘Looks Blue, Tastes Red’. (This fact, by the way, is distinctly to this episode’s benefit.)
Instead we got a clinic in non-verbal acting from Danielle Brooks as Taystee and Lorraine Toussaint as her pre-prison surrogate mother. In the flashbacks, we see that Tasha was… let’s go with precocious from an early age. But more importantly she wanted to belong, to have a family, to be loved. And damn – not in a cheesy, movie-of-the-week, possibly breaking out into song kind of way. As with most flashbacks in OITNB the pre-prison versions of the characters are still strong, layered performances. The younger versions of Taystee we encounter shows, scene after scene, a heartbreaking – and I don’t use that word lightly – hope for a good life.
That idea of hope and especially hopes dashed is a sneaky theme running beneath the entire episode. Both Taystee and several other characters get slapped down from their dreams and (sometimes overreaching) expectations in a manner that elegantly shows the disconnect between the world they defensively build for themselves and the reality the ‘corrections system’ imposes around them. Little touches like Leanne getting set up to be a bad example in the interview fashion show had me saying ‘That’s not fair!’ out loud several times. This episode didn’t need any too-obvious narrative parallels; it just used the looks on Taystee’s face. A closing moment where she on the surface shrugs off a true, deep wound inflicted by the assistant warden2 show us the gap between the people and the system better than any discourse could ever have told.
And a side note that fits nowhere else: The montage of different inmates trying to work on resumes with a coach was hysterical and added a smidge to several characters. I won’t mind seeing that technique used again.
After the first episode of this new season, I immediately wanted to watch more. The Plot was intriguing. After the second episode, I’m of the mind that these seasons are too short. I’d happily sign on for 22 episodes a clip if it meant we’d get to sit with these characters as they step through their individual storylines, and sometimes crash into one another as the Plot advances.
Tomorrow: Mike returns from Texas and gives his thoughts on episode 3, ‘Hugs Can Be Deceiving’.