Tuesday, June 17, 2014

REVIEW: 'Orange Is the New Black' - The Hunger Strike Faces Off with the Administration in 'Take a Break From Your Values'

Netflix's Orange Is the New Black - Episode 2.11 "Take a Break From Your Values"

Piper is shocked at an unexpected change in her status. Soso's hunger strike attracts new support that takes on a religious fervor.

Sister Ingalls is in prison as penance for not remaining humble during her work out in the work. Her entire life she's been expecting God to start talking to her. She is always talking to him but it's just a one-sided conversation. She's expecting him to talk back - but that is in no way a given for anyone. She needs to work on herself and than be open and willing to hear God and whatever God has to say. Throughout her life, she's been trying to make a difference in the world - attending protest after protest in order to enact change. She has had successes. But the work has also gone to her head.

When the hunger strike first presented itself to her, she was disinterested in joining. They were disorganized and had no clue what their ultimate goals should be. They were fighting for cosmetic reasons. Soso wants the B bathroom fixed and Jones wants Janae outside of solitary. They had nothing to do with the ultimate fixing of either of those situations and yet they were happy with the change they caused. As someone who has seen real change, Ingalls just couldn't sit back anymore and just had to take over the cause - with a declaration to fight for elderly rights. Compassionate release is a horrible way for the government to just get rid of their problems without having to do any extra work. None of these women are getting any younger. Some have sentences that will last a very long time. How they are being cared for is a really big issue. The system doesn't think they need any kind of support like this because they are criminals. But criminals are human beings too. They deserve some level of basic human respect. Fig feels like she can walk into any room and talk down to the inmates simply because she has the power and they are criminals. She demands respect even though it hasn't been earned - plus she's a criminal too. Caputo has more of a heart but there's only so far he's willing to go. He wants better conditions for the inmates but the bureaucracy won't let him effect the change. That leaves him as the day-to-day bad guy. The inmates see him much more than they see Fig. He can't fix the system though. So, he has to stand firm when Sister Ingalls continues going strong with her strike - despite the physical consequences.

Every single person in Litchfield has values. The question that arises from being in prison is when to act on those values and when to just blend into the background. Healy wants "Safe Place" to be a support group where any inmate can talk about her feelings without any fear of repercussions. But Healy has not created a safe place. Poussey needs to talk about her feelings. She is clearly hurting and in pain and unsure about everything in her life. But she doesn't feel safe here. Healy's only doing whatever he read in self-help books and advice he gets from his therapist. Poussey is afraid of Suzanne. The Blacks are being very cocky at the top. Vee is keeping a level head because she knows there's unrest elsewhere at Litchfield. Caught in the middle of all of this is Poussey's friendship with Taystee. They both genuinely care for the other but the business has come between them. Poussey hates what Vee is doing and is strong enough to actually stand up to it - but also completely terrified of what Vee might do to her. Taystee will go to bat for Poussey every single time - but that kind of faith could ultimately break her friendship with Vee. It's all tragic but it's also about character and their choices.

Also, Piper has worked so much better this season as part of the supporting ensemble. Sure, the premiere was all about her and that's a very powerful showcase episode. But I'm also glad that the show has largely been about Piper interacting with various people in prison but isn't tangentially connected to the main plot of the season. I didn't realize how little I actually cared about the Piper-Alex-Larry love triangle thing until Laura Prepon was barely in this season. Piper is still the series' lead character though. I can still enjoy an episode where she is a big part of the A-story. But I like Piper so much more as an independent character - and not best defined through her relationships with Larry, Alex or her family. Talking to Alex again and being afraid that she could get hurt out there seems like such a backpedaling for the character. I'm willing to see where it goes. But right now, I'm so disinterested in it.

Lastly, the war between Red and Vee takes another drastic turn. Not willing to open up her smuggling business to Vee, Red has decided to shut it down altogether. Getting flak in the bathroom by Cindy was such a powerful if somewhat misguided realization. The Blacks really don't need any more power to go to their heads but the racial lines of this conflict do run so personally deep. The fellow elderly inmates take action and wrongly attack a woman one thought was Vee. Those old eyes may have been wrong but you can bet the race card to come roaring out in the next episode.

A storm is indeed coming.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Take a Break From Your Values" is written by Nick Jones and directed by Constantine Makris.
  • I like cranky Yoga Jones. But please don't let this be the end of the Jones-Janae friendship. That was truly special and much more complex than how Janae described it here.
  • The reveal that Sister Ingalls was excommunicated from the church wasn't as surprising as the Morello reveal - but it definitely belongs in the same conversation.
  • Why in the world are we still spending valuable screentime on the Larry-Polly relationship? It's so frustrating. I understand the necessary set up of the story for what it meant when Piper got out on furlough. But now? I see absolutely no point why we should still be following it.
  • Big Boo is also all by herself now. She's been shunned from both Red and Vee's groups. She claims all she needs is herself but deep done she wants to belong somewhere.
  • The guards playing with the new equipment was quite fun. I was worried they would have to use it as the hunger strike gained support but thankfully that did not occur.
  • Also, Piper is being transferred to a Virginia prison. No real reason. Just overcrowding. I don't think the show will get rid of its main character but it theoretically could - there's a lot more enjoyable and watchable stuff than Piper.