What do you get when a preppy, timid white chick enters prison and ends up beating the living daylights out of an evangelist inmate? The cliffhanger leading us to the second season of Netflix's Orange Is the New Black, which begins June 6.
The show that made viewers (including myself) binge watch an entire season in a weekend is about more than a women's minimum-security correctional facility. That's merely the setting. What the show is ultimately about is the struggle for power in the prison fishbowl swimming with ladies of disparate backgrounds and levels of mental stability. For inmates, power comes from being head cook, thus having the authority to decide who eats and who gets served a tampon McMuffin on her way to being starved out. For the loyal fiancé on the outside, power comes from using public radio to broadcast your suspicions of infidelity. And for the prison workers -- those on top of the food chain -- power, and the flagrant abuse of it, comes from simply having the authority to send an inmate to the SHU as part of a personal "lesbian witch hunt."
Questions abound: Will Piper do extra time for her prison yard fight? Will Larry stop brooding and realize how being a single guy in Brooklyn makes him a kid in a candy shop (dude, just get on Tinder already)? Will Pennsatucky use her divine healing powers to fix her own meth-tinted teeth?
The following are six predictions for Season Two. Full disclosure: I haven't read the memoir that beget the show. This is mere speculation based off the Season One episodes and the trailer for Season Two. Of course, spoilers from Season One follow.
6. The Fight for Queen Bee
Amongst inmates, she who rules the kitchen rules the prison. That was Red until corrections officer George "Pornstache" Mendez set her up as part of his drug smuggling operation. When this caused her to lose her position as head cook -- and Queen Bee status -- she sabotaged the kitchen, inadvertently burning another inmate in the process. Not only did her "prison daughters" turned their backs on her, but the new head cook, Mendoza, gave Red a taste of her own medicine by starving her out.
In the trailer for Season Two, we're introduced to a new inmate named V. Red says "a woman I knew a long, long time ago came back in yesterday," then the trailer cuts to Red and V squaring off, a shot reminiscent of a Western stand-off.
Historically, Red isn't one to back down. However, how will she regain her Queen Bee status against this new V?
Another reason the new Red conflict is highly likely is because Season One's overarching conflict (Piper vs. Alex) has already been told. They hated, then loved, then hated each other. Frankly, if the show relies on this for Season Two, it'll get old quickly.
As corrections officer and social worker Sam Healey said, "women fight with gossip and rumors," so we'll likely see some good ol' female conniving during the struggle.
5. Pornstache will step up as Daddy, Bennett will continue prioritizing his government job
Daya's still pregnant -- a big problem that's only getting bigger. We know that corrections officer John Bennett sowed his seed but because such relations with an inmate are illegal, this would eventually incarcerate him as a sex offender. What could Daya do but seduce another prison guard and frame him for rape? And the obvious, low-hanging fruit was Pornstache. Not only did this cause Pornstache to fall in love with Daya, but it also created a love triangle with Bennett.
But that still doesn't solve the problem of what will happen to the little bundle of responsibility when it's born. As demonstrated in Episode Eight, inmates that give birth have their baby taken from them.
And Bennett's not quite the sensitive mensch that he seemed. When Daya first confided her pregnancy, his thoughtless reaction was "Is there a pill you can take?" We also learned that he lost his leg not in combat, but via a flesh-eating bacteria from a trashy hot tub in Orlando.
So, under the fog of one-sided love, Porntstache will man up to take care of the baby... only to learn that Bennett is the father. Because Piper's sentence is only 15 months, the show moves at a slow pace (the first season took place over a few months). Don't expect nine months to fly by -- Daya won't be giving birth just yet.
4. Less Piper
Maybe this is more of a prayer than a prediction, but judging how much more time the trailer devotes to the other inmates than to Piper, it looks like series creator Jenji Kohan can finally start ditching her "Trojan Horse" and make it more of an ensemble show. Dislike of Piper's character has popped up on the web as many times as in my Facebook feed. Sometimes I wonder if Piper was intentionally made annoying so the viewer is completely relieved when another inmate's backstory flashes on the screen.
That said, as irritating as Piper is, she's so far the only character we see completely change throughout the season. Season One began with her tip-toeing through prison life (even being mocked for studying for prison) and manipulating others into offering her physical protection and emotional comfort. It concluded with her completely abandoned and viciously fighting Pennsatucky when cornered in the prison yard.
Kohen seems to love main characters that are pretty, white "emotionally manipulative narcissist(s)" who break bad (think of Nancy Botwin from Weeds). What's great about Orange Is the New Black is that this egotistical protagonist is surrounded by secondary and tertiary characters (Alex, Crazy Eyes, Miss Claudette and Larry) calling her out on her bullshit and then ditching her. In Weeds, I can remember only U-Turn telling entitled and whining Nancy to "get a job" to pay off her debt to him.
3. Another Checkhov's gun
One thing I love is that despite the show giving us clues about how the plot would unfold, it never failed to surprise me. The biggest left turn came with the screwdriver, which was the show's overarching Chekhov's gun. In Episode Four, Piper was sent to her new job as an electrician. She absent-mindedly removed the screwdriver from the tool room -- but this particular tool is "considered a deadly weapon." Any inmate caught with it would receive another five years added onto her sentence. Even worse, if another inmate found it and used it for murder, Piper would become an accomplice. The episode zig-zagged around Piper trying to return the screwdriver to its home without being noticed, among random room and body checks that almost revealed her secret.
The show tricked us viewers in to thinking that this built-up threat had become merely a self-pleasuring "tool." However, the screwdriver resurfaced in the season finale, given to Piper as a weapon against Pennsatucky. The left turn suddenly made a sharp right.
Stay on the lookout for another scenario like the screwdriver -- the show will use more shock value to distract us from the fact that such a tool is still ultimately a deadly weapon.
2. More DIY feminine products
Who knew the million and one uses for tampons and maxipads aside from, ahem, their intended purpose. Beginning with the series premiere's declaration of "We clean everything with maxipads," we saw feminine products used to wipe up Crazy Eye's urine, as a surgical mask during a flu outbreak, as shower slippers to prevent foot fungus, as an instrument of psychological revenge (Tampon McMuffin), and subtly as ears and antlers for Norma's role as the Lamb of Jerusalem in the Christmas pageant (which is actually rather adorable). Piper also used a pair of panties to strain the capsaicin from her chewed-up jalapeno peppers. Much as male prison drama lingers with the threat of forced penetration, ladies' genitals are also constantly present here. Maybe this season Piper will show us how a bra can be used as a planter.
1. The Law will start to go down
The saying goes that absolute power corrupts absolutely and no one is more powerful -- and more criminal -- in the Litchfield fishbowl than those in charge. Healey phoned Piper's fiancé to tell him she's in the SHU for "lesbian activity" and later ignored her screams for help when Pennsatucky tried to kill her. Whether smuggling in drugs, masking an overdose as a suicide, or having sex with inmates, Pornstache practically committed a crime in every episode. He used the world's oldest profession for his personal amusement: "Some of these bitches would suck it for half a cigarette." Romantic Bennett knocked up his inmate girlfriend.
But there's no one worse than the administrative Queen Bee, Natalie Figueroa, the assistant warden. She dipped into the prison's budget to bankroll her Mercedes and designer wardrobe. Always avoiding a scandal, she covered up an inmate suicide and gave Bennet a raise to silence his discovery of drugs being smuggled into the facility. And when Daya accused Pornstache of rape, Figueroa's response was "We are not using the r-word... Did she scream? Was she crying?"
The media are starting to probe and though Figueroa does her best to keep the prison -- and her reputation -- scandal-free, that place is a powder keg. And this season, it's gonna burst.
Of course, other backstories remain to be revealed, including Morello, Norma, Crazy Eyes, Big Boo, V and Poussey. Hopefully the show will still walk the line between sucker tit-punch hilarity and poignant vulnerability.
Do you agree or disagree? What are your predictions for the upcoming season?
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