Orange Is the New Black / Screen

Orange is the New Black finds its way back to Litchfield (and unfortunately, to Larry) in “Looks Blue, Tastes Red”

After the Piper-only first episode, “Looks Blue, Tastes Red” was a welcome relief, throwing us back into Litchfield where things are proceeding in their usual (that is hilarious and disorderly) fashion. This second episode functions more as a second-hour of the season premiere, picking up with all the characters who weren’t visible in the first episode, even some of the more minor inmates who regularly wouldn’t turn up, having to share their time with Piper. Like Maria who reunites with her baby during visiting hours, a constipated Daya and jealous Aleida and the other inmates who all gear up for a mock job fair.

The episode opens in 1992 at an adoption fair where Taystee is still going by Tasha and looking for a “forever family”. There she meets heroin dealer Vee (Lorraine Toussant) who gives her the nickname Taystee and who becomes the closest thing Taystee has to family. The death of a brother of sorts, killed during an encounter with cops, draws Taystee and Vee even closer together as Vee promises to protect Taystee. Danielle Brooks’ promotion to series regular was well-deserved even before this episode, but this one was a powerful addition to Taystee’s backstory and giving her more to do this season is already looking great.

This episode proved why the first episode failed in the flashback department as well. Taystee’s past searching for a family and talking about her ambitions to work on Wall Street was information that was moving and important whereas Piper’s flashbacks in the premiere felt as if the show was grasping for something thematic. Perhaps it’s because we already know what’s important about Piper. She generally follows the rules except when she loses herself in her affection for other people, but Taystee is an inmate who got little exploration last season. And Vee turning up at the episode’s end in an orange jumpsuit (and Taystee’s “Shit”) promises more in the way of future development than Piper’s flashbacks did, reminiscent of Alex turning up at Litchfield as an unwelcome reminder of Piper’s old life.

At the job fair, Taystee gets the opportunity to show off her abilities, reminding the audience why the show was both funny and heartwarming at once. Though there’s comedy sprinkled throughout from the inmates unfair lesson in appropriate interview attire to their unhelpful career aptitude tests, it’s also nice to see when Taystee excels at her mock interview and comes out the winner. She has a bunch of potential that she knows she has, and outside of prison she could have gone places. Like many of the other inmates, Taystee was put in the difficult position of being from a hard neighborhood with few opportunities. Vee notes that there are no careers for them, just jobs, and her drug dealing enterprise is one that pays dividends which is how Taystee gets caught up in it and apparently how she ends up in prison.

Taystee’s success at the job fair is a reminder of her real potential, but there’s still the reality that Litchfield is an insular place. For all its corruption (from Fig’s unbalanced budget to Healy being Healy) it’s a good place for Taystee, which is why she ended up back there after her release last season. Outside, Taystee will hardly see the chance to really live up to her potential because there’s a red flag next to her name marked felon and once she leaves again, she’ll be back in the same position as before. It doesn’t matter how talented or how ambitious many of these women are because their circumstances don’t allow them much mobility, and the “preparations” they undergo while in prison do little to actually prepare them.

Though the episode was focused on Taystee, the other inmates weren’t neglected. Still distanced from her prison family, even Red’s real family has trouble putting money into her commissary account, and Gloria thinks she’s so pathetic (with no kitchen, no friends and bad hair) that even they aren’t bothering her anymore so Red falls in with the other elderly inmates. Meanwhile Aleida and Gloria compete to see who can be the better mother figure to Daya, measuring their competition by who can offer the best remedy for her constipation.

Pennsatucky leaves solitary confinement with no teeth and claiming to be on the up-and-up regarding her mental health. We’ll have to wait and see if Pennsatucky decides to turn her ire on Piper in recompense for her beatdown in the finale, but for the moment Pennsatucky’s more occupied with blackmailing Healy into getting her new teeth. Making Healy her adversary could be the beginning of a redemption arc for her which would probably be more fun than watching her terrorize everyone with her bible-thumping for another thirteen episodes. Though the women of Litchfield often call each other enemies, they do have several in common, like the prison’s administration, and uniting them against them, like last season with the yet-to-be-seen-this-season Pornstache, is always more fun than watching the women fighting each other.

Stray Observations

  • I’d prefer not seeing Larry at all to seeing him in a gay bathhouse with his father talking about Piper or hinting at some kind of affair brewing between him and Polly.
  • Red’s son is hot.

Leave your thoughts in the comments.

 

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