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Orange Is the New Black “It Was the Change” Review (2×12)

29 Jun

"Orange is the New Black" Season 2 Episode 12 (Screengrab)

Some people simply belong in prison. It’s been established that Vee’s a heartless and conniving woman, but this week’s flashbacks ramp it up to a whole new level, turning our hatred of her into a flaming ball of ‘willingness to push her off a cliff’; you see, she not only seduced RJ–the guy who was shot at the end of Taystee’s flashback episode–but she also had him killed when she found out he was going solo and competing with her business in her area.

Vee’s tale is, quite simply put, one of old age, but twisted into something absolutely vile. Menopause is a signifier of diminishing youth and vitality, and for Vee, it’s a symbol of weakness. She’s someone who has to constantly assert herself, and while she’ll take people like Taystee and RJ in, if she loses control over them, she has to get it back; she doesn’t care who she knocks down the ladder on her way back up. Her home is a warm, inviting place to two kids who need someone to care for them and support them, but it’s also a prison of sorts. When their kid grows up, some parents try to hold onto what’s left of his or her childhood, but they eventually have to let go. Vee, on the other hand, orders a murder! How nice.

Ultimately, it’s all about her, and selfish behavior has been a very common theme throughout the season. This behavior is wrapped up under the guise of group benefit, but really, was Red’s “family dinner” in the greenhouse a few episodes back as much about inspiring a sense of community as it was about feeling on top again, wanted and included? Red’s current vendetta against Vee is about recapturing her sense of self-worth, and she knows that as long as Vee’s still breathing, her own attempts to move to the top will always be quenched. Both women know that the other is the biggest threat to whatever they want to implement in the prison, and there’s a mutual respect and understanding of what makes each person so dangerous; taking each other out requires strategy.

Of course, at the end, it all comes to down to Vee and Red outside in the rain. Setting this episode during a storm is an obvious set-up for that violent, cathartic confrontation between the two, and much like a storm slowly fades away, so does the bloodshed (for now, now being about 5 minutes of episode time). Red has Vee right where she wants her to be: laying on her back, the life draining out of her, staring up into the eyes of the person she wronged all those years back. And yet, she can’t go through with it; it really is all meaningless, isn’t it, merely a desire for revenge rearing its ugly head? It’s a significant detail that the fight is set outside of the prison because outside those walls, what does this conflict really entail? Both women realize this, and a truce is set.

However, when the clouds clear and the hurricane relinquishes its grasp on Litchfield, Red’s the one laying on her back, the life draining out of her, staring into the eyes of the woman who wronged her. You can stand up with your chin held high all you want, but when you lower your guard, someone will knock you down. Red acquiesces to her enemy, and within the prison walls, that’s something that simply cannot be done.

GRADE: A-

OTHER THOUGHTS:

-Even given the high grade, I’m not sure this episode works as well as it should. The moments of levity are nice–Boo and Pennsatucky discussing the gay agenda, the prison sing-a-long, etc.–but the big, dramatic moments don’t resonate as much as they’re supposed to because, as I said before, things rest too much on the Vee-Red conflict. Vee as a one-dimensional villain is the entire point, but it takes away from the general character development.

-Taystee and Poussey finally start to reconcile a bit, ending up crying together on the floor of the library after their confrontation threatens to turn violent.

-The storm is a nice microcosm of the prison arc this season: someone’s coming in and ripping apart the status quo while implementing a new one, and everyone–administration and prisoners–has to find whatever stopgap he or she can. And Fig, fittingly, is away from it all at some fancy cocktail party.

-Leanne and Angie attempt to get high off nutmeg. Good for them.

-Piper and Caputo, here is your opportunity to take down Fig. Godspeed.

-Anyone notice how Daya shifts from thinking of her child as a boy to thinking of her child as a girl? Maybe this has something to do with Bennett’s inability to truly take care of her; he’s just standing on the sidelines as she calms down, all due to a suggestion from a guard who barely knows her.

-Healy and Pennsatucky have a conversation, wherein it becomes even clearer that the very world that Healy fears is the world he’s living in right now.

-Oh, hi, Tiki Barber.

-Is Red dead? It looks like it’s time for me to click “play” on the finale to find out. I’ll see you all in a few days with my final review of the season.

Photo credit: Netflix, Orange Is the New Black

 

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