So Orange Is The New Black Is Back. But Does The Second Season Live Up To The Hype?

We delve into the details. With a few spoilers thrown in so read with caution


by Hanna Hanra |
Published on

So, you’ve waited six months or two weeks or just a few hours – depending on the strength of your addiction – for the new season of* Orange Is The New Black* to launch on Netflix. And now it’s here. It’s different. And you might not like it.

The last season left so many questions begging like a dog to be answered. What happened to Pennsatucky? Is she dead or just toothless? What about Alex?

I almost began to sympathise with Piper by the end of the first episode, the suspense nearly killed me. We see Piper being taken somewhere she doesn’t know. Is that it? Sayonara Litchfield? I like the parallel to Season 1: she arrives at prison, squat and cough, new orange boiler suit, except this time she loses her shit.

But Season 2 just feels different. Storylines arc quicker and are referenced less later on. Remember in Season 1, Piper starts work in the electrical shop in episode three or four and it takes a whole 10 episodes for us to see how the narrative bloodily ends?

Season 2 sees things start and finish: wham bam, thank you mam. Yoda the cockroach has definitely not signed a Laura Prepon-style four-episodes-per-season contract. The writing is funny, yes; the acting is brilliant; but something just feels... different. Perhaps it’s because less of the story seems to have been cribbed from Piper Kerman’s real-life prison experience, as Season 1 was.

Much has been made of the fact that Orange is a show for women who like women, and Season 2 certainly plays into this much more, with Big Boo and Nicky having a finger-banging contest. Which is fine, but, as a woman who likes women myself, I preferred the frisson-turned-actual-romance of Season 1. Like, you could really believe that Alex blew Piper off her feet.

Speaking of which. Season 2 has really gone to town with flashbacks. We see Piper and Alex, both with token flashback hair extensions (really bad ones at that) sharing important little moments of their past. I guess these little nuances are important, but sometimes it’s just a little too much. Like, it’s cool that we find out why the Nun is behind bars, but gussying up Brooklyn as the swinging sixties for half the episode did feel a little much.

In the process of finding out about why everyone’s in there, you see some of the darker parts of their history. And that bit works. Part of why the show has been so successful is because the characters are really likeable, they’re all good people who have done something bad. Who can’t relate to that. But now we’re clearly seeing their true colours. I like that.

Which brings us to my final point. Season 2 broadens the cast a lot. Some of the new prisoners are beyond annoying – of the ‘please make it go away’ variety. Some of them are huge characters that change the dynamic between existing prisoners. Some of the existing characters are given bigger roles that involve stabbing people or beating them up in the showers, or selling drugs.

I really like the show. I loved Season 1. I’ll feel sad when I’ve finished it. I don’t know how I’m managing to pace the episodes out to one a day – but to be honest, I don't know if I love it as much as I did before.

Maybe it’s the lack of Alex? Maybe it’s the bad flashback hair extensions? Maybe it’s the fact that Larry has his own storyline – the nerve. Or maybe it’s just the fact that it feels like it knows what it’s doing and who it’s aimed at, whereas its naive, first go as a Netflix TV series, clunky charm was, indeed, part of its charm? Thoughts?

Follow Hanna on Twitter @hannahanra

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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