Well, as is Jenji Kohan is wont to do, Orange is The New Black‘s second season put everything up in the air — literally and figuratively speaking, natch. After season one left us with uncertain fates for several of the ladies of the Litchfield Penitentiary: particularly Piper Chapman and target of her ire, Pennsatucky. And there are a heck of a lot of cockroaches.
But if you were hoping to get an understanding of where this second season was going — ha! — you were surely, most certainly, mistaken. OITNB will not give it to you that easy. In fact we, as well as Piper, weren’t even clued into the where and why she was in transit for the first half of the episode: from van to bus to plane (so on the nose!) she went, kept wholly unaware all the while.
Truth is that season two finds Piper in Chicago, awaiting her turn in the witness chair in the trial of international drug kingpin and Alex Vause’s old boss, Cubra Balac (we really hope we spelled that correctly). And in a surprising turn, it is revealed that Alex, too, is there — What odds! Actually pretty good. Pretty much 100%. — though in another cell block far away. Still, the duo manage to meet up for a short moment thanks to Piper’s newfound ally, Dig who is a hitman, not a rapist (much to Piper’s relief?) and used underoo enthusiast (eugh). It is there that Piper was given the line to toe by Alex: lie that you knew him or suffer the consequences. Something Ms. Goody-Good the Former was less than keen to do. Because, y’know, federal offenses are a thing.
What’s interesting to see was just how conflicting Piper’s own rules for self-governing were in the face of those to whom she consistently relinquishes so much emotional control. She’s always allowing herself to believe that other people know better, even when in her heart she knows what’s what. But Alex isn’t the only one with that sort of control, as evidenced through the several flashbacks to Piper the Wee One. Her mother, father, and grandmother had a tight grasp on those strings, too. As a child, she abided by their cautionary tales — to be wholly obedient, shut up about it, don’t feel things, and make sure it’s better for everyone. But especially avoid the topic at all costs if possible.
But all of this is conflicting information. Her dad, for example, told her simultaneously to never be a lemming, but to also never take unnecessary risk: two ideas that feel more diametrically opposed than similar. (And it’s all quite rich coming from a man whom Piper saw cheating on her mother in broad daylight.) In the case of the Lady Chapman of the House — tut tut! — the rules ran a much more severe route. Oh, that tried-and-true Connecticut attitude (calm down; we can say it ‘cuz we’re from there), the idea that one must always make “a choice that will cause the least amount of pain to people.” Which, just to clue you in, often implies lying for poor, dear temperament of others. And it doesn’t matter what you feel because the only answer is to stop feeling. To the more well-adjusted out there, that sounds pretty awful: like eating food made from a recipe for disaster on the train to resentmentville (because it is!) — and as evidenced by her actions, Piper’s yet to really learn that. When will you learn, Piper. When will you LEARN?!
Not on that day, as she ultimately was swayed by Alex’s implorations to lie to the court. All over a completely unsubstantiated, amateur claim of “protection.” Piper. Piper! Why do you do the dumb, bad things? Why are you so unwilling to live your own life using your own brain?
And guess what happens. What was, of course, always going to happen: Alex told the truth and got out. “It all just happened so fast!” See, Piper: the time to learn and think for yourself… was a long, long time ago, but in absence of that: the time is now! You’ve got all the moral goods inside of you, Pipes, but you’ve got to learn to trust them without the superfluous validation of an outside source.
Piper is the cockroach: not to big, not too fast, and easily persuaded into doing mindless, dumb things (like walking somewhere with a cigarette on your back). But she’s simultaneously too smart and too dumb and too willing to give up her opinions for others to do anything to make it better. She’s got to start taking control of her life and her actions — her years of bumbling around obediently has only ever benefitted others. How about instead of moving beyond stress and “into something more deeply disturbing,” make decisions (ones you actually believe in) for once. Don’t give that power to anyone else: particularly not in a maximum security prison where you’re surrounded by super-murderers. And hitmen.
What’d you think of the return of Orange is The New Black? Watched the episode? Let’s discuss it in the comments (or on Twitter)!