Sunday, June 8, 2014

REVIEW: 'Orange Is the New Black' - Taystee Works to Get a Job & Then Sees a Familiar Face in 'Looks Blue, Tastes Red'

Netflix's Orange Is the New Black - Episode 2.02 "Looks Blue, Tastes Red"

A mock Job Fair provides Taystee with a chance to show off her business smarts. Red feels isolated from her prison family.

Jenji Kohan made it distinctly important to open the second season with an all-Piper episode. Yes, this show has one of the most impressive ensemble casts out there. But it had to recommit to the story of Piper. The show very easily could have opened with "Looks Blue, Tastes Red." Danielle Brooks probably was the biggest breakout character from the first season - even though her story didn't really get interesting until her parole arc towards the end. So, rightfully she gets the first focus episode once the show returns to Litchfield - while Piper is still stuck in Chicago lockup.

And it just feels so good to be surrounded by all of these characters again and how weirdly smart yet comedic and emotionally investing the show is with all of them. There are so many great little moments throughout this episode. The mock job fair was all about Taystee trying to win the prize and the future job on the outside but it also allowed for great quick sound bites by a couple of characters. Suzanne wants to work with mentally damaged kids - and round things. Nicky is quick to point out the irony in the test saying she should be a correctional officer. And then, there's Big Boo who got weirdly sexual with the dog. That's disturbing and yet wildly fascinating - and something this show is so confident in just doing unashamedly.

But Taystee has always known a criminal life. That's why she broke her parole and got back into lockup. She didn't know how to live any other life once she was out. Her determination to win the fabled prize was her ticket to a better live once she did get out again. She put all the hard work into making sure she impressed the interviewer during the pretend job interview. She impressed everyone in that room. It was marvelous watching her do so well while Poussey and Black Cindy were in the crowd supporting her. She rightfully won over Flaca, who just wanted to use her same old tricks to seduce the interview to her side. It's a wonderful and uplifting moment for Taystee that is then immediately undercut once Fig blatantly states that no such prize exists. It's devastating but Taystee proudly just takes the 10 dollars added to her commissary funds - a wholly insignificant amount. She's strong on the outside but purely defeated on the inside. And it's in that low moment where she first sees her old mother figure Vee is now in Litchfield as well.

The flashbacks in "Looks Blue, Tastes Red" have much more poignancy than the premiere because it showed us a Taystee that had aspirations of a normal life. All she wanted was for a nice family to adopt her and when that didn't work just some blue shaved ice. Enter Vee. She's clearly a bad influence that sets Taystee on her criminal path. But she's also the only person who's ever cared about her. She provided the family lifestyle that Taystee craved - and even gave her her famous nickname. And once again, Vee is going to be there for Taystee during another very low point in her life. The circle begins again even though Taystee deserves so much more.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Looks Blue, Tastes Red" was written by Jenji Kohan and directed by Michael Trim.
  • Oh, Larry. He's by far the most annoying character. His reaction to learning Piper's in lockup in Chicago - "She hates deep dish pizza."
  • Larry and his father go to a gay bathhouse because his dad had a groupon. Isn't that a good enough reason to do anything?
  • Piper is nowhere in this episode but people are still talking about her - including Larry, Pennsatucky and Polly. And Polly with her breasts out all the time was just awkward.
  • Red is still being froze out by most of the inmates because of her actions following the loss of her kitchen. She's being served food but she's still weak and disheveled. However, she does find solace amongst the older ladies of the prison.
  • So, Pennsatucky is alive and out of solitary with nothing more than some scrapes and even worse teeth. She seems calmer and much more aware of how to play the game. She manages to negotiate a trip to the oral surgeon in order to keep quiet about Healy's presence during the fight.
  • The latin community is having a lot of fun running the kitchen but I really enjoyed Aleida and Gloria fighting to be the one maternal figure in Daya's life.