Let’s talk about Red. When you think about it, the scarlet-haired Russian began this series as villain. Way back in the first episode of the show, Piper—unaware that Red ran the kitchen— accidently insulted her by pointing out, not incorrectly, that the food at Litchfield is atrocious crap. Red retaliated by nearly starving her to death. That was way back when. Now here we are in the penultimate episode of Season 2, and Red is the person we’re all counting on to destroy Vee.
This transformation owes a lot to the evolution of the character of Red, of course, but it also owes something to the fact that, of all the characters on Orange Is the New Black, Vee is the closest we’ve come to a full on bad guy. Even despicable characters like Pornstache and Fig have some admirable qualities. Pornstache is ready to go to jail for (he thinks) knocking up Diaz, while Fig dreams of one day acquiring power to do great things. Now, these commendable traits don’t absolve Pornstache and Fig of their sins, but it does show that, at least in their own minds, they are operating from good intentions. Vee, though…Vee is a goddamn super villain. She has about as many good intentions as Professor Moriarty.
All season long, we’ve watched as she’s consolidated power, and in Episode 12 we see her become a serious threat. After the failed attempt by Red’s crew to assassinate her, Vee declares war—threatening not just Red’s life on the inside, but the life of her son in the outside world. This woman is serious business.
Vee’s going into battle, though, without one of her most trusted lieutenants. After a drunk Poussey destroys Vee’s merchandise, the crime lord strikes back—by expelling Taystee from her crew. This leads to the scene we’ve all hoped was coming for a while, the reunion of Taystee and Poussey. When a storm threatens to flood the prison, all the inmates are moved into a makeshift communal space upstairs. Various factions stake out various parts of the room—Red’s crew here, Vee’s crew there, ect.—while Taystee and Poussey (the two outcasts from Vee’s group) are sent to secure the books in the library. The women finally hash out all that has happened between them—the betrayal, the love—and they end up tearfully making up. This scene is beautifully played by Danielle Brooks and Samira Wiley, and it’s also nicely restrained. A dedicated viewer of the show might half expect this set up to jump to a sex scene, but the writers here are smart to take one thing at a time. Whatever else may or may not happen between them, Taystee and Poussey love each other. Seeing them together again warms the heart.
Of course, Vee doesn’t have a heart. She could care less about friendship, family, and love—a reality we see dramatized in the episode’s flashback. We see Vee and Taystee in their days before Litchfield, when Vee was running a crew of drug dealers, including a handsome young man named RJ. Taystee loved RJ like a brother and Vee like a mother. They were—in the only way that Taystee had ever known—her family. “It Was The Change” shows that behind this family façade there was always Vee’s manipulation. When she learned that RJ was attempting to strike out on his own, she goes to his apartment, seduces him, and then has him killed. So, for those taking notes, the lesson here is to not trust Vee.
Which brings us, I’m afraid, to the episode’s one big misstep. During the storm, the inmates are sent to the roof to urinate into a bucket. Red follows Vee outside and attacks her. After a struggle, she gets the upper hand and is on the brink of killing Vee when…she stops. Some sense of decency gets the better of her or something. This is a misstep because virtually everyone watching the show is screaming “What are you doing? Kill her!” Now, understand, I’m not saying that Red should have killed Vee to satisfy the audience’s bloodlust. In fact, Vee is such a dynamic character that I’ll hate to see her go when someone does eventually whack her. No, the reason that Red should have killed Vee is that it is the only thing that makes sense. Red, more than anyone, knows that Vee is straight up Lex Luthor-level super bad. I’m going to venture out on a limb here and say that no one watching this show believes Vee when she declares a truce after the attack. Red should know better, damn it. This makes the final moments of the episode all the more frustrating. C’mon, Red, how did you not see that coming? I’m not even a Russian badass, and I saw it coming.
In other news: Piper sneaks into Fig’s office during the storm to find some dirt on all the financial shenanigans. Caputo catches her, but he lets her sneak out with the files. Meanwhile, Fig is at a fancy fundraiser and catches her husband—drum roll please—making out with his male campaign staffer. Diaz is mad at Bennett, which is getting a little tiresome. Best of all, Pennsatucky and Big Boo (another two outcasts) strike up a friendship when Pennsatucky starts pressing Boo for the inside skinny on the homosexual agenda. Please, god, let this friendship continue to blossom.
Read all posts by Jake Hinkson for Criminal Element.