Well, here we are at the end, my friends, and look how far we’ve come. Orange Is the New Black wraps up Season 2 by tying up most of its major plot threads: the rise and reign of Vee Parker, the war between Vee and Red, Piper’s attempts to bring down Fig, the upheaval between Taystee and Poussey, the transformation of Crazy Eyes into Vee’s enforcer, and Healy’s attempts to turn Pennsatucky into his sidekick. And more. Much more. The show does some of this well, but I have to be honest and report that this is, in many ways, the weakest episode of the season.
Of course, most of the main stories this year have involved Vee. After brutally attacking Red at the end of Episode 12, Vee now has to cover her tracks. With Red in the hospital and an outside investigation into the attack already underway, Vee gets Black Cindy and Janae to shift the blame onto Crazy Eyes. Red isn’t talking about who attacked her, of course. (In true Red fashion, she’s plotting her revenge.) Vee, meanwhile, convinces Crazy Eyes that she actually did attack Red. Since Crazy Eyes has only a passing hold on reality, this is not hard to do.
This all unfolds in interesting ways, though I do feel compelled to point out two flaws here. One: to recap from my last post, it’s impossible to think that Red would not have killed Vee when she had the chance. (Vee had, after all, threatened to kill Red’s son.) Two: perhaps even more unbelievably, Vee did not kill Red when she had the chance. I’m not saying I wanted to see Red die. She’s one of my favorite characters on the show. But, c’mon, Vee would have killed Red. Vee’s a killer. She banged and then whacked her own quasi-son. And when she attacks Red, Vee has just survived a second attempt on her own life by this woman. She would have beat Red to death in that greenhouse and then choked her corpse for a few minutes more just to be sure. The only reason that neither Red nor Vee killed the other is that the show a) wanted to save Vee’s death for the end of the season, and b) wanted to keep Red around because, well, we all love Red.
These quibbles aside, the episode resolves the Vee plot in some interesting ways. After a season of shifting allegiances, the girls in Vee’s crew finally turn on her. Poussey, Taystee, Black Cindy, and Janae finally come back together as a unit. The sole remaining outcast is still Crazy Eyes. Next season, it will be interesting to see how she handles the loss of her psychotic mother figure.
Elsewhere, things are shaking up. After finding out that her husband is cheating on her, Figueroa is distraught. She has bigger problems, though. Once Piper gives Caputo the dirt on Fig’s financial indiscretions (in exchange for Caputo stopping her transfer to Virginia), he goes in to gloat to Fig that he’s about to get her fired. This leads to a scene between Caputo and Fig that, frankly, made me feel queasy. In an attempt to stop Caputo from giving the files to the warden, Fig gives him a blow job. Afterwards, he tells her that he’s actually already given the files to the warden.
This is all played as a dark joke, but—god—it made me wince. If this scene had been written/directed/played as drama, it would have an ugly kind of impact in which we would see that Caputo was deeply flawed and that even someone as deeply flawed as Fig was capable of being victimized. But I don’t think that’s what it does. The scene is played in such a way that it invites us to laugh at Fig’s comeuppance. Yes, she’s a bad person. Yes, they hate each other. Yes, she has only ever been completely horrible to him. But the joke is here is that he sexually humiliates her. (And sexually humiliates her, by the way, on top of her marriage and career and life falling apart.) So…not funny.
The show wraps up the Piper storyline in better fashion. She has a showdown with Polly and Larry that will, one hopes, bring her relationship with them to an end. As much as Polly/Larry (Parry? Lolly?) have been a distraction this season, it’s hard to see how they could become even less essential next season. Meanwhile, Piper has a meeting with Alex in which she learns that Alex is in danger from the drug lord they used to work for. She contacts Parry and gives them one job to do: contact Alex’s parole officer and let him know that she’s planning to run. Guess who’s coming back to Litchfield next season?
Speaking of next season, where is the series going? The show’s three villains—Vee, Pornstache, Fig—have all been deposed in one form or another, so it’s hard to predict where the tension will come from next year. Of course, Nichols still has a giant stash of heroin, Big Boo is still on the outs with Red, and Alex will soon be returning to Litchfield (and I doubt she’ll be bringing Piper a hug). If “We Have Manners. We’re Polite.” isn’t the strongest episode this year, it still wraps up an unusually strong season of television. Vee, Morello, and Poussey were all breakouts, and Piper, Rosa, and Taystee all had great moments. Hopefully next year will see more developments for characters—like Sophia—who were rather underused this year, and surely next year will give us the Big Boo back story we’ve all been waiting for. I have faith that it will. If Jenji Kohan and her crew have proven anything, it’s that they know how to create trouble.
Read all posts by Jake Hinkson for Criminal Element.