When I first watched Orange is the New Black last summer, I wrote about how much I loved Poussey and Taystee. One of the main reasons I looked forward to Season Two was the opportunity to get their back stories. Episode two started Taystee’s story. This episode has the added benefit of no Piper, though the disappointment that is Larry.
“Looks Blue, Tastes Red” opens with a young Tasha (Taystee) trying to find a family. Rather than meet some nice adoptive parents, Taystee gets an offer from the season’s Big Bad, Vee. In this episode, we follow Taystee through childhood encounters with Vee and through her present plot device, winning the job fair. I haven’t decided how I feel about OINTB having a Big Bad each season (Pornstache was last season’s person we love to hate). On the one hand, I really enjoy the poignant day-to-day interactions between the characters, especially the portrayal of empowering female friendships. Vee’s arrival detracts from this. On the other hand, Vee is a deliciously evil villain.
If you didn’t love Taystee enough, you’ll love her even more knowing that she’s not just kind and funny, she’s also brilliant with numbers. Continuing their writing of depth into characters, the writers’ characterization of Taystee shows that even people with marketable skills can end up in a lifetime of imprisonment. Emotionally, Taystee’s story really hit home. Watching her disappointment upon learning that winning the job fair doesn’t actually get you a job really made me sad. Here is a person with the know-how for a steady job, but the prison industrial complex can only provide punishment masquerading as opportunity. To add salt to the wound, Fig treats Taystee like she doesn’t even matter when she complains about the mock job fair not actually providing a job for someone. Fig just does not give a fuck about anyone but herself.
An important device for social commentary in this episode is the friendship among Black Cindy, Poussey, and Taystee. In one interaction, Black Cindy takes on Big Pharma and Monsanto, showing that well-written satire often says more than serious speeches.
In the B-plot, we see Red’s continued decent from glory. Not only has has she lost the kitchen, she also discovers that she has no commissary money thanks to the fact that her family on the outside doesn’t have two dimes to rub together. Red’s walk-of-shame through the dining hall slayed me. When her son shows up and they talk about what’s going on, you recognize that Red is a nice person who merely puts on a tough persona. She truly loves her family, both biological and prison.
The one character I don’t necessarily care about is Pennsatucky. She was Piper’s nemesis last season, but I frankly didn’t feel like backing either horse. I don’t necessarily like how Healy treats her in this episode, but that’s as far as my like for her goes. Watching her former associates assert themselves is heartening, though.
Larry did some shit and no one cares. Didn’t we get enough of his terribleness last season? I wish there was a special “No Larry” edition of OITNB.
At the end of the episode, we see Taystee react to seeing Vee in prison for the first time. That looks tells us that no good can come of this. I am cautiously hopeful for this season. My one request is more everyone else, less Piper and Larry.