'Orange is the New Black' Season 2 Premiere Review: Piper Blurs the Line Between Right and Wrong
'Orange is the New Black' Season 2 Premiere Review: Piper Blurs the Line Between Right and Wrong
Jennifer Lind-Westbrook
Jennifer Lind-Westbrook
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
After months of waiting for the second season of Orange is the New Black and to see what happens after Piper came unglued and possibly beat religious zealot Pennsatuckey to death, much of the season two premiere leaves viewers as discombobulated as Piper. Piper spends a large part of the episode clueless as to what's happening to her. While season one focuses on the singular incidents that put these women in their current predicaments, this episode emphasizes that under even the most adverse of conditions every individual has control over how they act.   

Her stint in solitary has left her unhinged. After all, this is a woman who cannot be alone, and barely survived her last stint in SHU (which didn't even last 24 hours). She's rousted out of a sound sleep, put on a bus and then an airplane and can't get anyone to tell her where she's going. Piper can only assume that this is all part of a forced penitence for what she's done to Pennsatuckey. She confides in another prisoner named Lolly (Lori Petty) what she's done. She's not repentant so much as scared about what she's capable of. The tears she sheds aren't for the victim but for herself. Piper is distraught by the idea that her time in prison has made her develop a frightening capability to inflict pain but even more concerned that this darker side of her has always existed and now she's just embracing it.

While Orange is the New Black season 1 focuses more on the singular incident that lands Piper in jail, the season two premiere, "Thirsty Bird,"  takes a broader look at how Piper evolves from a young girl with a black and white attitude towards morality, truth and justice into someone with a more ambiguous outlook on right and wrong. 

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From an early age, Piper took her cues on how to behave from her father, who as it turns out, wasn't exactly practicing what he preached. In Piper's household, honesty wasn't considered the best policy. Forthrightness could even result in punishment. This hypocrisy was only complicated by advice that Piper receives from her grandmother, "Sometimes it's not a matter of right and wrong. It's about making a choice that will cause the least amount of pain to others; keeping things to yourself; sitting on information and feelings and living with your secrets."

So, when one of Piper's new cell mates shares her theory that most people who wind up in prison are "led astray by a powerful force," viewers realize that there were multiple influences at work on Piper since childhood that continues to shape her "strength of character."

Her parents' actions, her grandmother's words, along with Alex's dogma that there is no justice, and they have to look out for themselves, cause Piper to make a monumental error in judgment.

The show still spends a good deal of time exploring the day-to-day degradation faced by by inmates. Piper spends the first 10 minutes trying to get a guard to let her go to the bathroom, and once she does, she has an audience of two men, one who even dictates at what speed she should be expelling urine. She barters four-day-old panties for a favor, finds herself witnessing the multiple daily bowel movements of a cell mate and crawling on the floor looking for cockroaches. Her outburst with Pennsatuckey aside, she remains doe eyed but a little less far removed from the unwashed masses. 

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It's a bleak beginning to the new season as viewers witness women victimizing one another and turning their backs on their own humanity. Even under the these restrictive conditions, the women fail to realize that they can still exercise free will. They can be determined to rise above the fray, to redeem themselves instead of sinking deeper into the muck. Even Piper has an innate sycophantic desire to do what she needs to do to survive in any situation, including ignoring a violent attack on another inmate.

Piper's situation has gone from bad to worse, and she still has to return to Litchfield and deal with the ramifications of her confrontation with Pennsatuckey, and Alex's betrayal. The bigger question is when will Piper learn to make good choices for herself; to do the right things for a change? 

Orange is the New Black season 2 is available to stream on Netflix. 

(Image courtesy of Netflix)