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Orange Is the New Black “Thirsty Bird” Review (2×01)

6 Jun

orange-is-the-new-black-01

The brilliant first season of Orange Is the New Black opened with Piper going to prison due to a drug/money bust that resulted from her infatuation with Alex, from her willingness to trust her. It’s the same situation at the end of “Thirsty Bird”, but at the same time, it’s in an entirely different context.

For, the Metropolitan Detention Center in Chicago is nothing like Litchfield; there are men inmates, for one, and we see anything from panty-swapping to cockroaches delivering cigarettes to Hannibal Lecter masks on the plane. It’s an unsettling, dangerous, and terrifying situation to be placed into, and the show emphasizes this right from the opening minutes of the premiere: Piper’s whisked away from the SHU without explanation and promptly placed onto a bus and then a plane, and the audience is just as much in the dark as she is. What a wonderful building up of tension right there, and what an inversion of season one’s opening, which involved Piper going to prison on, relatively speaking, her own terms.

Yet, for as much as the MDC is more restrictive and more dangerous, Piper’s also changed. She’s adjusted to the prison way of life now, able to stand up to her fellow inmates and keep her head down when she needs to. She’s become hardened by her way of life, and that sense of entitlement that was very grating at times last year is starting to disappear; she’s aware of how privileged she is, and that now influences her outlook on her situation. Simply, prison changes you.

Piper now has a reputation–after nearly beating Pennsatucky to death–that benefits her in the MDC, and the other inmates both hate and admire her, in their own twisted ways (that’s mainly due to the racial and class impressions they get, which is something the show handles so well). At the same time, even with a clearer vision of herself and a greater ability to handle prison life, prison is still disorienting at times, and Piper can still make poor decisions.

At the end of the episode, she’s once again duped by Alex, left dazed (and confused? Ha…ha…) as the love of her life walks away in street clothes. What’s next for Piper Chapman? It’s certainly not looking up, but maybe that’s the norm now.

GRADE: A-

OTHER THOUGHTS:

-The show makes good use of the Netflix model by spending the entire premiere focusing on Piper; we want the full ensemble, but the fact that we can watch the next episode right away doesn’t make the idea behind “Thirsty Bird” problematic in the slightest.

-Piper seeing Alex in the yard is similar to her seeing Alex back in season 1.

-The flashbacks are probably the weakest part of the episode, and this is nothing we haven’t seen before in a similar context, but the point is clear: Piper lived in an environment that fostered deception as a form of necessity, and that ties into how she acts in the present day.

-I know people rag on Piper a lot, but one thing’s for sure: Taylor Schilling does some excellent work with the character, especially in that plane monologue to Lolly.

– “Oh, I thought he was a rapist! I’m so relieved!” Hilarious, but also a comment on the way Piper’s changed.

-What I love about this show is that it knows when it needs to be funny. It’s not too dark, and it’s not too light; they’ve stuck a perfect balance.

-I’ll be covering every episode this season, but there’s no set schedule; reviews will drop when they drop, and I’m not one to binge watch. I hope you’ll join me! Next up, we get back to the ensemble with “Looks Blue, Tastes Red”.

Photo credit: Netflix, Orange Is the New Black

 

 

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4 Responses to “Orange Is the New Black “Thirsty Bird” Review (2×01)”

  1. JustMeMike June 6, 2014 at 2:08 pm #

    So the second season begins.

    On the radio today – there was a broadcast on the NPR Fresh Air radio show. The showrunner of OITNB, Jenji Kohna was interview by Fresh Air’s host Terry Gross. I’ve provided you with a link to that show, as well as the earlier show which featured Gross talking with Piper Kerman whose real life memoir became the basis for Orange is the New Black series.

    If you are going to cover the series, – you will probably find these interviews wirthwhile as well as illuminating.

    http://www.npr.org/2013/08/13/211639989/orange-creator-jenji-kohan-piper-was-my-trojan-horse

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