Sunday, July 6, 2014

Piper Chapman is Not the Center of the Universe

Piper's "I'm back from a scarier prison so don't fck with me" Face

The great difference--some call it an improvement--between the first and second season of Orange is the New Black is Piper's participation. In season 1, almost all storylines were tied up to Piper's trials and tribulations both inside and outside prison. In season 2, Piper starts off her journey to another prison after beating Pennsatuckey to near-death. The entire first episode shows us how this new prison and its inmates differ from Litchfield. We realize that her drama--Hello, Alex cheated on her again after Piper lied for her!--is just one of the many dramas this world has, and no one fcking cares. Sometimes, finding a cigarette-toting roach is more important.

Piper back to orange scrubs.

The world, in fact, does not stop when Piper's world does. Her sick grandmother continues to die--and in fact dies--without waiting for her to get out. Her father doesn't even visit her at all. Larry and Polly (Piper's best supporters) moving on, and moving in together, is the best manifestation of this truth.

Larry: We want your blessing. LARRY. SUCKS.

Further, the second episode shows us that the Litchfield girls don't even think about Piper being gone. They even fear her return, and have, in fact, raided her bunk and apportioned her stuff for themselves. We are given a glimpse of how great (or little) Piper has affected these girls, despite her believing otherwise. Even Crazy Eyes has moved on, realizing (thanks to the troublesome Vee) that Dandelion is a grass, and that she is a fcking flower! Season 1's "I threw my pie for you!" has changed to throwing cake at Piper when she gets furlough.

I threw my pie at you.

This dissociation from Piper's story paved the way for the exploration of other inmates' stories--Taystee's unconventional family, Morello's disillusion, Crazy Eyes' unconventional family, Gloria's battered past, Cindy's daughter/sister, Sister Ingalls' knack for publicized protests, Poussey's (sort of) military upbringing, Rosa's loves (men and the thrill caused by stealing) and Ruiz' tattooed boyfriend (and cute baby!). We also realize (no thanks to Piper's Big House Bugle) that Litchfield's staff are people, too. We are introduced to Caputo's after work band called Sideboob, Figueroa's gay husband, and the prison guard pairings (Fisher-Luschek and O'Neill-Bell). We are (painfully) subjected to watch Bennett's struggle to balance his desire to be a good father-to-be and be good at his job.

Morello's story broke my heart more than anyone else's.

Season 2 also gives us an opportunity to see Season's 1 bad guys (okay, not-so-good guys) in a different light. Season 1's biggest bad, Mr. Healy, is transformed to a more relatable person. His frustrations with his mail-order wife and his anger management issues make us sort of forgive him (well, not really) for turning a blind eye to Pennsatuckey and Piper beating the living daylights out of each other.

Just in case anyone needed reminding what went down last Christmas at Litchfield.

In the end, as Mr. Healy walks out of Safe Place with disappointment and a little anger, we realize that he is just like any other human being--he wants to feel needed. To be a person who matters.

No place is safe as long as you're in it, Mr. Healy.

We are also shown a different side of Pennsatuckey, my most hated inmate in Season 1. Her need to be included--either in Mr. Healy's Safe Place, Big Boo's Gay Agenda, or the meth heads' group--show us that beneath all her meth teeth and hateful words or name-calling lie a person who wants to be accepted...and be listened to. To be honest, I pitied Figueroa and Pornstache for a minute--somewhere between the last episodes--until I remembered their embezzling and cunning ways.

Pennsatuckey on being friends with lesbians:
I would never finger her and I would never let her finger me.

I guess, my pity and understanding of Season 1's baddest bads, was greatly influenced by Vee's arrival. Vee is the epitome of manipulation. Morello was correct when she said that Vee made prison shit real. Yes, Litchfield is not a five-star hotel but, at least, before Vee, everyone didn't want to kill each other. To say that I abhor Vee is an understatement, and I do not wish to speak of her again.

Scary Vee
Dead Vee

Finally, I think Season 2's overall message is that: Prison changes people--not only the inmates but their families and friends as well. Piper realizes this as she observes and interacts with newbie inmate Brooke Soso. Inmate Soso has the same romanticized idea of prison as Piper had, but as the season progressed, Soso realized the truth that she was not the same person she was going in. It was an unfortunate, bitter truth that every inmate (and even all prison staff) has to live with. Piper nearly punched an inmate to death, perjured for her scheming ex, and willingly traded a person for a blanket.

You tried to trade me for a blanket!

What to look forward to in Season 3: How Nicky, Crazy Eyes, Big Boo, Poussey, Maritza, Blanca and Flaca got into prison? What will happen to Crazy Eyes now that Vee is gone? Will Nicky go back to being a junkie? Will Watson stop her monthly "visits" to the SHU? Will Red's tunnel be discovered? Will Pornstache come back? Will Daya and Bennett break up? Will Caputo last more than a month as Assistant Warden?

Caputo: Oh, fuck.


You may want to read my other Orange related blog entries:

Orange is the New Black Season 1
Orange is the New Black Season 4

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