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TV Review: 'Orange Is the New Black,' Season 2

The 13 ladies of "Orange Is the New Black," Emmy nominee Taylor Schilling in the middle.

After binge-watching Orange Is the New Black, Season 2 over the summer, I’ve concluded that none of the first season’s fire has cooled. You’ll be hooked on the show’s many cliff hangers, plot twists and tearful back stories.

Along with great character development and method performances from Taylor Schilling as Piper Chapman, Natasha Lyonne as Nicky Nichols, Kate Mulgrew as “Red” Reznikov and Uzo Aduba as “Crazy Eyes” Warren, Season 2 of the hit Netflix series unleashes plenty of new ringers to chew up the set. Lorraine Toussaint leads the pack as prison badass, Yvonne “Vee” Parker, the pivotal figure in the sophomore season, with a third now on the way as well. 

Show creator Jenji Kohan continues to raise provocative questions about the good and evil in all of us, and crime and punishment and who is truly guilty or innocent, with a strong undercurrent of drugs. Vee, a master manipulator who could've been a Fortune 500 CEO in another life, sets up her own gang and smuggles heroin into the prison. Nicky struggles with addiction. The inmates sneak in contraband tobacco and roll their own cigarettes, which look like joints. Weed gets a mention every now and then, mostly as a benign friend instead of a threat to anybody.

Schilling’s Piper remains the main character, but she’s less prominent than in Season 1, as Vee's moves to stoke gang rivalries heat up the screen. Piper continues to struggle with finding her true identity in an insane, restrictive environment as her friends on the outside, including her ex-fiance ably played by Jason Biggs, grow more distant. Kohan brings in the super-chatty Brook Soso inmate played by Kimiko Glenn as the show’s token twentysomething who tries out sex with another female inmate and mentions the only time she’d ever done anything like that was once at the Bonnaroo Music Festival.

All in all, the cast of characters and stories grow exponentially and it’s hard at times to keep track of all the storylines. The season gets off to a bit of a slow start with an opening episode that takes place outside of the confines of Litchfield prison. But Season 2 of Orange Is the New Black slowly builds to a boil through its 13 episodes to remain one of the best shows out there, ready to take the mantle from Mad Men as the toast of TV. 

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Matt Chelsea

Matt Chelsea

Loves a nice morning buzz with his coffee as a bicycle commuter, counterculture scribe and dad.