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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Orange Is The New Black Review: We Have Manners, We're Polite

Orange Is The New Black (Netflix), Episode 13 of Season 2
"We Have Manners, We're Polite"
Written By: Jenji Kohan
Directed By: Constantine Marks
Flashback Of: N/A


Brief Description: My general take on season finales is that one episode can't change a season. A great finale to a terrible season (a la Season 2 of House of Cards) is still a terrible season and a terrible finale to a great season (a la Season 1 of Homeland) is still a great season. The season finale of Orange Is The New Black is the exception to the rule so to speak. The first half of this season was incredible, while the second half stumbled a bit, the 90 minute season finale tied up almost every loose end. "We Have Manners, We're Polite" was the reason we saw the previous 12 episodes and it capped an excellent end to an excellent season.

Piper: My point is, that you're a good person... And Ms. Figueroa? She isn't.
Caputo: Is she embezzeling?
Piper: You seem like someone who cares about his job. And frankly, you know, I think this would be a better place if you were in charge.
Caputo: Get to the fucking point. You're in SAG kid, I'd be more than happy to leave you in here. Now tell me exactly what you were planning.
Piper: I was going to take her out
I'd bet you dollars to donuts that most T.V. critics would focus on Rosa's line at the beginning where she tells the SIS officers, "Rude, that Vee, she is a very rude person... I don't like rude" as the quote, and that's the one I was going to use, but I like the very next scene where Caputo visits Piper in solitary. While their interaction specifically deals with Caputo and Figueroa, I believe you can apply it to all the power struggles that goes on in Litchfield in this episode. This is an episode where many players make their power move. Caputo screws over Figueroa to take her job, Vee tries to pin her Red attack on Crazy Eyes, and Piper tattles on Alex to get her back to Litchfield (which you should have seen coming seeing as Laura Prepon is signed on to do all 13 episodes of Season 3 of OITNB).

However, the reason "We Have Manners, We're Polite" works so well is because every character who had flashback episode this season plays a part in one way or another to the Vee story line. We'll start with the most minor and go from there.

The only Hispanic character's flashback we saw this season was Gloria's. Gloria is a character who is a lot of talk and very little action. She did very little when she was getting beaten up by her boyfriend (which can be expected and understandable), but also did very little to improve the quality of her life in general outside of using religious candles and tchotchkes. We've seen how often the other Hispanic kitchen staff do their own thing or disobey Gloria's orders, something no one in Red's kitchen would do. Gloria sees Lorna trying to make a homemade poison in the kitchen out of apple seeds- which actually seems practical and realistic on paper, but it's absolutely unrealistic in practice. Instead, Lorna and Gloria make their own religious tchotchke to exact their revenge on Vee. However, similar to Gloria's abusive boyfriend burning alive in a fire, Vee does get hers in the end. While the process may seem silly, the results are still the same.

Next, we'll move on to Sister Ingalls. While her role in the hunger strike and back story happened way too late in the season, she does end up in the hospital bed next to Red during this episode. Red acts like an "O.G." and tells the SIS agents nothing when they originally question her. However, Sister Ingalls is Red's conscience, and she finally breaks Red down to "snitch" on Vee.

This idea of "not snitching" is featured very prominently in this episode and it's nice to hear because Orange Is The New Black is great at subverting traditional prison cliches. If this was "Oz" or really any other prison drama, the compulsion to not snitch would be strong, but since this is Orange Is The New Black, it flips the script. Poussey is all about snitching and even comments on the fact that the only people who believe in not snitching are the only ones who benefit from it. In the end, Poussey gets Taystee to come around and eventually Cindy and Watson follow suit. By the end of this season, Vee shows her true colors which in turn alienates everybody. Vee first kicked out Taystee because of the actions of Poussey and after telling Cindy and Watson to pin everything on Crazy Eyes (along with some coincidental corroborating evidence form the Hispanic members as they've seen Suzanne be violent and haven't seen Vee's dark side) the loyalty of Vee's crew starts to dwindle.

Suzanne was the first domino to fall in the beginning for Vee to begin her rise to prominence and Suzanne was the only person who would have stayed loyal to Vee until the end. Vee uses that loyalty (along with Suzanne's poor mental state) to help her out in the short term, but it hurts her in the long term. With Suzanne going to maximum security as she's taking the fall for Vee's crime, Vee is free to stay in Litchfield and continue her tobacco game. But the cold, cold move to sell out Suzanne as well as physically attacking Cindy causes the dominoes to again fall, but this time on top of Vee. Vee ends up shooting herself in the foot by disenfranchising her entire crew which forces her to escape using Red's sewer system.

Before we get to Morello and Rosa, the last two prisoners who had back stories this season, we'll discuss Healy and Pennsatucky. Healy has had a strange journey this season along with promoted cast member Taryn Manning's Pennsatucky. Towards the beginning of this season, Healy takes Caputo's words to truly help these prisoners to heart and he ends up starting a prison support group. When that (obviously) backfires in his face, he uses, shall we say, less traditional methods to help out these prisoners- mainly Red. Red has been absolutely great to Healy during her stay in Litchfield, and Healy does what he can to help her (thanks to some words of wisdom from Pennsatucky) and he makes sure Vee goes down for the crime she obviously committed. Luschek forges a work order for Healy to say that Suzanne was in the electrical unit during Red's attack, which is straw that breaks the camel's back to cause the SIS agents to exonerate Suzanne and focus their attention on Vee. While Watson and Cindy asking to recant their story (aka snitch) didn't help as much as they thought it would, Healy's move certainly does. None of this excuses the amount of time we've spent on Healy (and to a lesser extent Pennsatucky) this season, but at least their arc concludes.

Last but not least, we have Morello's and Rosa's story line as it intersects with the war between Red and Vee. Normally, the heavy addition of Rosa in this season should have been a terrible detour in this already crowded cast, but for some reason it worked. This former bank robber who was dying of cancer was so engaging and wonderful, that I would have watched an entire Netflix show just on her. While she barely interacted with Vee this season (I can only remember two moments, one where Suzanne pours water on Rosa's food in the cafeteria because Vee wanted the table to herself and the other where Vee tries to sell her drugs at the AA/NA meeting) neither meeting was very pleasant for Rosa. But most importantly to Rosa, she just didn't want to die in prison. Dying is terrible, but dying in prison is just downright tragic (and singing "Breakfast at Tiffany's" doesn't help anything either). In order to help out her dying brethren, Morella lets Rosa have her Thelma and Louise moment and drive out into the sunset using the prison van (While the appropriate "Don't Fear The Reaper" plays in the background).

The exact moment that Vee escapes from the forest is the exact moment where Rosa is driving the prison van, and without hesitation, Rosa runs over Vee with the van. It's such a satisfying, yet unsatisfying moment. It's great in the sense that Vee finally gets her comeuppance, but this moment should have come from Red, or someone in Red's crew, or even someone in Vee's former crew. Hell, I got super excited when I thought that AARP member had shanked Vee to death in the shower a few episodes back was the end of her. But Vee is finally dead, and that's all that matters.

The main power move throughout Season 1 was Red vs. Vee, but the one hanging out in the background was the power moves between Caputo and Figueroa. I thought all season that Fig would end up wearing her own orange uniform for her embezzlement and fraud, but she instead admits her wrongdoing to the warden and resigns with dignity. In order to avoid another scandal, Fig's crimes get swept under the rug, but Caputo gets the promotion he wanted (and a nice blow job out of it). Figueroa warns Caputo about how his idealism will go out the window thanks to the pressures of this job. These words come up faster on Caputo than he realizes, as Bennett admits to Caputo (on his second fucking day on the job) that he's the father of Daya's baby, and not Mendez. Similar to what Caputo did in the appropriately titled "Take A Break From Your Values", he quickly throws out his values and tells Bennett to shut his trap about how he's Daya's baby daddy. If word had gotten out that Bennett, and not Mendez, was Daya's father, then Caputo would never lose his "interim" title. However, all of that will become irrelevant in Season 3 thanks to two prisoners escaping, and one killing the other.

"We Have Manners, We're Polite" was an excellent season finale that concluded a shit ton of story lines. It didn't make up for the fact that there was just way too many subplots and unnecessary scenes in every single episode, especially in episodes down the stretch (and the fact the show didn't get to the Red/Vee war sooner in the season was a huge minus), but with all of that being said, it was still one of the best television shows of 2014.


* I spent this entire review without ever mentioning the specifics of Piper and Alex. Kind of symbolic of this season as a whole. Even still, everything with Piper and Larry and Polly and Alex concluded in this episode as well. In order to make it up to Piper for being a couple, Larry and Polly snitch on Alex's probation officer that she's going to run, which in turn will bring Alex back into Litchfield.

* I never for one second believed that Piper was ever leaving Litchfield. It was a dumb plot device to create, and at least this episode got it out of the way early.

* C.O.'s O'Neill and Wanda have been some of my favorite characters this season, and O'Neill's discussion and songs in front of the protesting nuns was fucking great. (as well as symbolism!)

* There was a lot of players conspiring to attack Vee this episode, and two of them were Nicky and Big Boo. Nicky steals all of Vee's heroin in an attempt to get Vee punished for having heroin in prison. While the plan in itself was pretty dumb (as Big Boo even says so much) it did cause Vee to attack Cindy which in turn was Vee's downfall.

* I love this show, yet even I have a lot of trouble knowing the names of all of these prisoners without IMDB. It's great to know that these prisoners also don't know the names of everybody (especially from the Hispanic inmates, which is great because I don't know the names of the Hispanic inmates).

* Uzo Aduba, the actress who plays Suzanne, was eligible for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series at the 2014's Emmy's. Not only did she get a promotion to the main cast in Season 2, but she did some great freaking acting in this episode as she went absolutely bonkers during her interview.

* Soso was by far and away the worst character we prominently followed around this year, and with her story line getting absolutely no resolution whatsoever, it made things even worse.

Click here for my thoughts on Episode 1 - "Thirsty Bird"
Click here for my thoughts on Episode 2 - "Looks Blue, Tastes Red"
Click here for my thoughts on Episode 3 - "Hugs Can Be Deceiving"
Click here for my thoughts on Episode 4 - "A Whole Other Hole"
Click here for my thoughts on Episode 5 - "Low Self Esteem City"
Click here for my thoughts on Episode 6 - "You Also Have A Pizza"
Click here for my thoughts on Episode 7 - "Comic Sans"
Click here for my thoughts on Episode 8 - "Appropriately Sized Pots"
Click here for my thoughts on Episode 9 - "40oz of Furlough"
Click here for my thoughts on Episode 10- "Little Mustachioed Shit"
Click here for my thoughts on Episode 11 - "Take A Break From Your Values"
Click here for my thoughts on Episode 12 - "It Was The Change"


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