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Monday, June 9, 2014

Orange Is The New Black Review: "Looks Blue, Tastes Red"

Orange Is The New Black (Netflix), Episode 2 of Season 2
"Looks Blue, Tastes Red"
Written By: Jenji Kohan
Directed By: Michael Trim
Flashback Of: Taystee


Brief Description: After spending the first episode of Season 2 of OITNB of essentially just Piper, we get an entire episode that's Piper free. Piper Chapman was our introduction into Litchfield, but now that we've had 13 episodes to fully see what Litchfield is like, it's nice to have an episode without Piper. We're in, now let's explore. As shown through "Thirsty Bird", and frankly all of Season 1, Piper surprisingly is one of the least interesting inmates in prison. That's not an indication of Taylor Schilling's acting, it's just the way this role is written. However, after having no Piper for a full hour, I almost feel like I'm in withdrawal. I need a little Piper in my life.

The main story of "Looks Blue, Tastes Red" centers around the Job Fair that the prison is holding for the inmates. Taystee, among other prisoners we've grown to enjoy like Sophia and Nichols compete for a chance to, as Taystee puts it, get a real job once their sentence is complete. Taystee ends up competing with one of the Hispanic inmates (outside of Daya, Gloria, and Daya's mom, I have no idea who the other Hispanic inmates actually are. I can recognize their faces, but they haven't been fully developed as three dimensional characters as other white and Black inmates have been) and through a little hard work and acting like a professional, Taystee wins it all.

How strong a contender Taystee is at the job fair shows a strong correlation to her flashbacks. We see how strongly Tasha just wanted a normal life with a family, and she only finally joined the gang life when she had absolutely nowhere else to turn. If this was "The Wire" we'd get an even more in depth experience about how institutions determine how behavior, but seeing as this is the upbeat "Orange Is The New Black" we get just the perfect amount of realistic glimpses of the moments in Taystee's life that make up who she is.

Danielle Brooks's was incredible in Season 1, and while I'm pretty sure her character was never supposed to be anything more than a random inmate, Kohan, Brooks and the rest of the OITNB staff turned Taystee into a character we grew to love and that makes her back story an excellent one to really start off the season with. In fact, Brooks and her character were so compelling, she got a promotion in Season 2 as a full time cast member.

Starting off with a Taystee flashback also gave us insight into Vee, the mother of the neighborhood and the criminal kingpin of New York. Vee is extremely charismatic and has a way of pulling you onto her side, despite the actual words coming out of her mouth seemingly saying the contrary. She's smart and a natural leader, so her introduction back into Litchfield seems to make her the natural Queen Bee. The excellent trailer for Season 2 certainly makes Vee out to become the Big Bad of the show, but we only get a glimpse of her in this episode. We'll just have to see what's in store for her a little later.

However, as wonderful as it is to have a Taystee-centric episode, the episode as whole felt rudderless. While I enjoy spending time with all of these prisoners in Litchfield, I feel like there needs to be SOME driving force for everything that was lacking in "Looks Blue, Tastes Red." My guess was that this episode was meant to be the true Season 2 Opener, but then Jenji Kohan decided to fuck with its fans and create a Piper-centric episode instead.


*The one main concern I had the with adding Vee into Taystee's flashbacks was that I was reminded of the time Taystee was released from prison and had absolutely nowhere to turn. Not only was Vee nowhere to be found to help Taystee, but it certainly didn't appear that Taystee's first thought was to call Vee either. I'm confident the writers added Vee into Taystee's back story AFTER Season 1 had completed.

*Michael J. Harney does a fine job as Counselor Healy, but he hasn't had a whole lot to do now he and Piper are enemies. He has a nice scene with Pennsatucky where he colludes with her to get her new teeth in exchange for keeping her mouth shut about him being at the scene of the crime the night Piper beat the ever-loving snot out of her.

*Speaking of Pennsatucky, I have no idea if the show itself couldn't afford to spend too much money on mouth prosthetics for Taryn Manning or if Piper beat up Pennsatucky so much that it permanently messed with her jaw, but something was seriously wrong with the bottom half of her face this episode- so much so that it seemed like Taryn Manning's words had to be dubbed later in post-production.

*Oh, Red, how the mighty have fallen. I understand that losing the kitchen meant losing a lot of her power (both inside Litchfield and out), but I'm still confused why her prison family is giving her the cold shoulder. At least her actual son is keeping her company.

*I predicted a few weeks ago that Natalie would wind up a prisoner in Litchfield herself. The show is seemingly steering the ship in that direction as we see a reporter snooping around the embezzlement scheme without getting satisfactory answers from Natalie herself.

*I feel like the wardrobe consultant critiquing the inmates fashion choices on stage during the Job Fair was meant to be played for laughs on paper, but it came across as so mean, that I wished one of the prisoners had just punched her in the face.

*There's a hilarious SNL digital short that helps explain why there's so much nudity on Game of Thrones. Andy Samberg plays a 13 year old boy whose sole job it is is to add as much nudity as possible to scenes. It certainly felt like a reversal of that when Larry and his father have a nice schvitz in a gay bathhouse because Larry's dad had a Groupon.

*Daya's story line continues to be the least interesting and I could care less that Gloria and Aleida were fighting over her.

*PORNSTACHE UPDATE: Still no sign of him or mention of him through two episodes.

Click here for my thoughts on Episode 1, "Thirsty Bird"


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