Starring: Taylor Schilling, Kate Mulgrew, Natasha Lyonne, Lorraine Toussaint, Danielle Brooks, Uzo Aduba, Samira Wiley, Dascha Polanco, Jason Biggs, Michael Harney, Selenis Leyva, Taryn Manning, Yael Stone, Laura Prepon, Lea DeLaria, Matt McGorry, Laverne Cox, Nick Sandow, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Emma Myles, Constance Shulman, Beth Fowler, Adrienne C Moore
There will be (mild) spoilers!
So, the first season of Orange was good, and the second season is a different kind of good. It has a different set of objectives, and they play out in a completely different way than the first season. It has a clear big bad in Vee (Toussaint), and the majority of the season plays out around her and increased roles for Tastee (Brooks), Poussey (Wiley), and Crazy Eyes (Aduba). Not only is Toussaint an incredibly pronounced presence, who will almost certainly land a nomination next year, but Wiley has been elevated this season to allow for a much stronger performance. I wonder if she too can be remembered next year at Emmy time. Aduba continues to do a strong job as Crazy Eyes, but it’s a different kind of Crazy Eyes.
A side story is Mulgrew’s Red trying to regain her status after losing the kitchen last season. At first, she feels old, but after seeing Vee, she gets her act together. Mulgrew is great again this season as she works her way through being a solid rival to Vee.
Now… there’s some bizarre side story involving Larry (Biggs) hooking up with Polly. It’s such a waste. Who the fuck cares about Larry? Is there a less likeable character on the show? Also, Laverne Cox is completely sidelined this season. One of last years biggest breakouts is relegated to one brief storyline where her son visits in one episode. Also, watching Dayanara (Polanco) and Bennett (McGorry) squabble the whole season, was so annoying.
If there was one really good thing about Season 2, it was that we saw minor characters from Season 1 get fleshed out much more. Now, with the mix of Season 1 and 2, I feel like we have a really strong and balanced ensemble for the 3rd season. Much like Meredith Grey, Piper Chapman is quickly becoming outplayed by her ensemble. Not that she’s doing a bad job, it’s just that she was sidelined by boring storylines while her supporting cast carried the season.
Some shows have clearly defined differences in quality between their seasons, but with Orange Is The New Black, this season was just different. It’s hard to decide which season is better, because they are just so different, and Vee was just such a great villain. If you liked the first season, you have to see the second season.
FINAL GRADE: A-