Orange Is the New Black Season 2 delivers on everything the cast and crew had promised. It's bigger, crazier, and more emotional than the already stellar first season, and embraces its ensemble nature even further.
The Netflix hit’s sophomore season covers a lot of ground in 13 episodes, deftly mixing twisting plots with small character moments, creating a compelling tapestry that is part comedy, part drama, part social commentary, part beautiful character piece.
We can't possibly recap every moment of the season here, but for those of you who need help processing everything that happened, we've got the rundown on all the biggest plots in one place. Enjoy!
The Life and Times of Piper Chapman
Let's start with Piper (Taylor Schilling), who is, after all, still ostensibly the protagonist of this thing, and does get more focus than any of the other characters, though by a much narrower margin than last season.
The season premiere is actually entirely Piper focused, as she's hauled off to Chicago to testify against Kubra, Alex's (Laura Prepon) old drug kingpin. The Chicago prison is a whole new kettle of fish, full of seasoned murderers, and Piper is vastly out of her depths. Fortunately, she doesn't have to stick around for long, and there is one friendly(ish) face there: Alex. Alex, who convinces Piper to lie and claim she never met Kubra at the trial — only to turn around and testify against him, screwing Piper over while allowing herself to go free. Lovely.
The good news is that Piper didn't kill Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning) in their fight at the end of last season. Plus, as we find out in a quick flashback, Crazy Eyes (Uzo Aduba) actually showed up and punched Piper during a moment of dissociated anger after her failed attempt to sing at the Christmas pageant, so it looked like the fight was even. Conclusion: after she's returned to Litchfield, Pipes is allowed back into general pop.
After that, her story actually takes a turn for the undramatic. She spends most of the season reacting to other characters' drama and working on a newsletter written for the prisoners, by the prisoners — a project that mostly serves to create some comedic relief. Her biggest move, plot wise, comes near the end of the season, and we'll get to that later.
Unfortunately for Piper, Larry's (Jason Biggs) life on the outside wasn't so routine. In fact, he hooks up with Polly (Maria Dizzia). Yes, as in Piper's married best friend. When Piper gets a surprise 48-hour release — furlough, as they call it — to attend her grandmother's funeral, Larry fesses up to sleeping with someone else as they are having the world's worst attempt at sex in the bathroom at granny's wake. They declare their relationship officially over, which works out for Larry, who decides to be with Polly (sorry, Polly's hot Australian husband). They awkwardly break the news to Piper in prison. Surprise, surprise: she's not pleased.
In fact, she's so upset that she decides to call Alex, who has been writing her letters. Despite being totally pissed about the whole screwing her over in Chicago thing, Piper freaks when she learns that Kubra didn't get convicted, and Alex is now top of his hit list for testifying against him. Alex is planning to skip town, but Piper has other ideas: she sucks it up and calls Larry and Polly and asks for a favor. She wants them to tip Alex's parole officer off to her escape plans. It works; Alex is caught with a gun, which means she's going back to jail.
Did Piper do it because she wanted revenge? Was it to keep Alex safe? Did she want Alex's company in prison again? At this point, it's hard to know.
Corruption Gets Caught
Near the end of last season we learned that assistant warden Fig (Alysia Reiner) had been embezzling from the prison and, thanks to Larry's radio piece about the prison, a reporter is on her tail. That plot remains a throughline this season; the reporter even contacts Piper, through Larry, and asks her to help him find the evidence he needs to prove that Fig has been siphoning money into her own hands using shell corporations and vendors.
We also learn more about Fig’s life outside the prison. It turns out she isn't just taking money for her fancy cars and nice shoes — she was using her ill-gotten gains to help fund her husband's senate campaign. They both justify this corruption by agreeing that once he gets into office, he'll make real changes to help fix the broken criminal justice system on a more fundamental level.
In an ironic twist of fate, Fig's corruption is the very thing that eventually gets her caught. When a storm hits the prison late in the season, the electricity goes out, because that's what happens when you put about zero dollars into maintaining a building. In the ensuing chaos, Piper is able to sneak into Fig's office and find files proving the corruption, which she passes over to Caputo (Nick Sandow) after he catches her with them.
The end result? Justice is... kinda served. Fig is ousted from her job, but she's allowed to say she resigned to focus on politics, instead of being hit with criminal charges like she deserves. On the other hand, she also catches her husband cheating on her with a man, so she's not exactly in a happy place. Karma.
This leaves Caputo in charge... for now. He has to prove he's up to the job, and given the chaos of the last two episodes, we're not sure the warden is going to be impressed.
Rather than continue to fight to regain the kitchens, which we expected, Red (Kate Mulgrew) takes another path this season. She befriends the Golden Oldies, who turn out to be pretty awesome. At first she only hangs with them out of desperation, because her family won't take her back. But this is Red we're talking about; she's too clever to be kept down for long.
She realizes that there's an abandoned greenhouse that can be used to sneak in contraband, so she appeals to Caputo's love of plants to get a "gardening club" created. She and her new friends turn the greenhouse around, her sons dig a tunnel to it, and Red is back in business!
She attempts to win her old family back with free treats, but what really does the trick is a family dinner in the greenhouse where she finally apologizes for getting Gina (Abigail Savage) hurt and the generally poor way she sometimes used to behave. All is forgiven...
Except not by Boo (Lea DeLaria), who apparently thinks she's never been given the respect she deserves. And that comes back to bite Red in the butt, big time, as we'll talk about in the next section.
The Vee Wars
If there is one defining character of the season, it's Vee (Lorraine Toussaint), a new villain whose entry onto the scene takes everything to a new level.
Vee has been to Litchfield before, and when she was last there, the black women ran the show. She's determined to turn back time — and she doesn't care who gets hurt in the process. She also has a history with Red, and they aren't exactly on friendly terms.
It doesn't take long for her to start accruing power. On the outside, Vee was a drug dealer and mother figure to Taystee (Danielle Brooks) (convenient), so she targets Taystee's group, determined to make them her minions. At first they're resistant, but they start to warm up to her after she shows them the kind of perks hanging with her can bring, such as delicious, delicious cake, which she gets Gloria (Selenis Leyva) to make her by trading some cigarettes she had stashed in the prison from during last stay. The woman is resourceful. She also quickly brings Crazy Eyes under her wing by, well, being nice to her. Sadly, it's that easy.
Things quickly escalate from there. When the Latinas’ bathroom has plumbing issues, Vee craftily connives to get what she wants, trading bathrooms in exchange for Gloria helping her get some spaces opened up on the janitorial staff. Why would she want that? So she can set up a drug operation in the warehouse, duh.
She starts by bringing in tobacco, and Crazy Eyes, Taystee, Black Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore), and Watson (Vicky Jeudy) are all happy to jump aboard the express train to more perks town. Poussey (Samira Wiley), on the other hand, is hesitant to join in; she doesn't trust Vee, which drives a wedge between her and Taystee — a wedge Vee is more than happy to exploit, especially after Poussey, who does briefly work as a seller for her, drops out of the ring altogether.
Things kick up a notch in the back half of the season, when Vee moves from selling cigs to hawking heroin. We get our first taste of exactly how sociopathic this woman is when Poussey, who has taken to drinking away her feelings of isolation, makes the mistake of speaking out against Vee's new merchandise and Vee literally sics Crazy Eyes on her. It's a heartbreaking scene. It hurts to see Poussey sobbing and bloody on the bathroom floor, and it's devastating to realize exactly how far Vee has warped Suzanne’s mind; she'll do an believe anything her new ruler tells her.
After that incident, Vee tells Taystee that Poussey is now her responsiblity; when Poussey drunkenly destroys Vee's tobacco stash, Vee kicks Taystee out of the group.
Even down two people, she's still large and in charge. Oh, and remember how we said Boo is pissed at Red? Yeah, well, she betrays her old friend, telling Vee exactly how Red is getting her contraband into the prison. That's bad news bears, because of course Vee wants to use Red's tunnel to bring in her drugs, and obviously Red isn't having that. First of all, she's not the type to share. More importantly, as we learned last season, she hates drugs and would never help bring them into the prison.
Surprisingly, the next act of violence isn't from Vee's camp, but Red's Golden Oldie friends. Just because these women are getting on in age doesn't mean they aren't in jail for a reason, and one of them decides the best move is to just plain kill Vee, which would be great — except thanks to her bad eyesight she shivs the wrong person. Whoops.
Vee and Red meet for a parley, and Red tries to claim the mistaken kill was a warning shot, but Vee isn't having it. She declares Red will tell her where the entrance to the tunnel is, or she'll have Red's sons killed. This woman does not mess around. Red — who was already betrayed, violently, by Vee in the past — knows this and decides not to wait around to see what Vee will do next. Instead, she takes matters into her own hands and tries to strangle her foe to death with plastic wrap. Vee throws her off, and somehow manages to convince her that they should kiss and make up. Red agrees to the truce, and Vee beats her almost to death with a lock for her trouble.
We said almost to death, not actually to death. So Red just needs to tell the authorities and Vee gets taken care of, right? Right... except Red is old school and refuses to point fingers, which means there's an investigation instead. And Vee has a plan for that: pin it on Crazy Eyes, with the help of Janae and Black Cindy.
Yep, you read the right. She's willing to let the mentally ill woman who is wholeheartedly devoted to her take the fall. In fact, she takes it a step further, actively convincing the confused and distressed Suzanne that she did it.
The plan almost works, until Red has a change of heart and tells Healy (Michael Harney) what really happened. Healy, doing the right thing for once, has paperwork forged that proves Crazy Eyes was otherwise occupied at the time of the attack; conveniently, Watson and Black Cindy also realize how toxic Vee is and recant, which totally clears Crazy Eyes.
That's all well and good, but Janae, Black Cindy, Poussey, and Taystee made the mistake of making their intentions known to Vee before turning on her, which gives her time to escape out of Red's tunnel.
But never fear! We've reached the end of the season here, and in an unrelated plot, Morello has allowed Rosa (Barbara Rosenblat), who has only a few weeks left to live, to steal the van. Vee stumbles out onto the road just as Rose is driving by, and Rosa runs her down for having committed the ultimate crime: rudeness.
Daya's Love Triangle
Daya's (Dascha Polanco) baby daddy drama doesn't let up this season. It all boils down to this basic problem: Daya doesn't feel like Bennett (Matt McGorry) is proving his love enough, which leads to him lashing out, which leads to her thinking he's not proving his love enough, rinse and repeat. He tries doing little things to show he cares, like smuggling prenatal vitamins into the prison in his prosthetic leg. Even that doesn't really resolve things, especially once he gets fed up with Daya's friends asking him to bring them contraband, too.
The ish really hits the fan when Pornstache (Pablo Schreiber) makes a brief but triumphant appearance thanks to Fig deciding that his particular brand of d-baggery is exactly what the prison needs to shape up. Daya wants to ignore the return, and is completely against the idea of pinning the pregnancy on him — he may deserve to have his life ruined, but not for that — but in a fit of anger Bennett turns him in. Pornstache is hauled off to jail, but not before screaming that he loves Daya and will support her once he's out.
That kicks her worry into overdrive. She doesn't want to confuse her child by having to pretend one guy is the father, while also having the real father in the picture. She comes up with an ultimatum: either Bennett claims the child as his own, does his time, and then they both raise the kid together after they're out of prison, or he just pretends like it never happened and leaves her alone.
While initially reluctant to do either, Bennett eventually does fess up — but it just so happens he picks Caputo's second day as assistant warden to do the deed, and Caputo isn't having it. He threatens to send Daya to max if Bennett tells anyone else. So much for that, then.
We Gotta Fight for Our Right to Have Basic Human Rights!
This season we meet new inmate Brook Soso (Kimiko Glenn), a chipper activist determined to keep up her world-changing, rah-rah feminist ways even in prison, much to the annoyance of almost everyone else.
Disheartened by, well, all the things one might be disheartened by in the rundown mess that is Litchfield, Soso starts a hunger strike. She eventually gains a few allies. First Leanne Taylor (Emma Myles) and one of her lackeys join her movement, more as a way to piss off Pennsatucky than anything else. Then Yoga Jones (Constance Shulman) gets in on the action after seeing Janae Watson hauled off to solitary as punishment once again.
Although initially dismissing Soso as ridiculous, Sister Ingalls (Beth Fowler) is moved to join the strike after an old, senile woman is given "compassionate release," which really translates to being left out on the street to die. She may have been reluctant to start, but once she does she refuses to stop, even after everyone else has given up. Sister is carried off to medical where she's force fed through tubes — but not before she manages to get some nuns to come help protest for her cause, causing more headaches for Caputo.
In the end, she does give in and eat, but only in exchange for Red agreeing to turn Vee in.
As always, nearly every episode featured the backstory of a different character. Here's a quick rundown.
Episode 1: Piper was once a rule-following little girl, and she comes from a family that would rather repress and lie than admit that things are wrong, as she learns when she tries to tell her mom she saw her dad cheating.
Episode 2: We learn about Taystee's life growing up in group homes. Despite trying to stay on the straight and narrow, she eventually fell in with Vee's drug dealing crowd, and Vee became a mother figure to her.
Episode 3: We get a look at Suzanne's past, where we see that, despite her supportive and loving family, she's always struggled with mental health issues.
Episode 4: You know how Morello (Yael Stone) has that fiancé she's obsessed with? Yeah, turns out she was actually a straight up crazed stalker; she literally only went on one date with the guy, and made the rest up.
Episode 5: We learn that Gloria was once stuck in an abusive relationship. Also, she went to jail for a low-level food stamp scam at the convenience store she owned.
Episode 6: We learn about Poussey's romance with a German girl she met while on an army base with her dad. Turns out the girl's dad was an army bigwig and, after he catches them hooking up, Poussey’s family is transferred away.
Episode 7: We get a glimpse into Black Cindy's past as a carefree, rule-breaking TSA agent whose daughter is being raised by her mother as her own, because Cindy is clearly not up to the task of caring for her child herself.
Episode 8: Rosa is a badass bank robber whose husbands have an unfortunate tendency to drop dead. She winds up behind bars after her thrill-seeking personality pushes her to try to take down a bank solo without properly casing the joint.
Episode 9: Instead of flashing back to the outside world, this episode gave us a taste of Vee and Red's history in jail, revealing that Vee is both very smart and very brutal, willing to turn on anyone as long as it increases her bottom line.
Episode 10: Piper and Alex; namely, Alex had a girlfriend when she first started seeing Piper. And we're surprised she didn't turn out to be the best significant other?
Episode 11: We learn about Sister Ingalls's past as an activist; it turns out she's been excommunicated from the church, where the higher-ups seem to think she cares more about promoting herself than doing good.
Episode 12: Vee is even more sociopathic than we thought — she even slept with a young man she's basically raised as a son and then had him killed, because he was starting to deal on his own.
Episode 13: No flashbacks.
Other Plotlines Worth Noting
- We didn't really talk about Gloria much in the Vee vs. Red wars after the first round, and there's a good reason for that: she's smart enough to keep her head down and stay out of it, as much as possible. We like her attitude. No contraband; she just wants to be in charge of the kitchen without breaking the rules, and keep the power the job affords her.
- The best subplot of the season revolves around Rosa bonding with a young cancer patient whose chemo appointments coincide with hers. They eventually pull off a mini-heist, swiping a nurse's wallet. The best part? Though Rosa herself is dying, her young friend's cancer goes into remission, making him the one man whose health actually improved after getting involved with her.
- Another big thread is Healy and Pennsatucky forming a bond when Healy attempts to start a therapy group, which doesn't quite pan out.
- In the leadup to the Vee plotline, we learned that Poussey does have romantic feelings for Taystee, but they aren't returned. That's pretty heartbreaking, but at this point Poussey seems content just to have her friend back.
- Sophia didn't have much to do this season, but she did see her son, and he warmed to her enough to play a card game with her.
- Morello learned that Christopher, her not really fiancé, is getting married. In response, she literally ran off with the van, broke into his house, and was a general creeper. He later visited and confronted her. While she doesn't seem to be in legal trouble over it, she was forced to finally admit that there's something very wrong with her. But it's OK, because Nicky still loves her!
- Maria Ruiz (Jessica Pimentel) had a nice throughline with her boyfriend/baby daddy, who remained mostly silent, but seemed to visit her every week with the baby. She was briefly devastated because she thought she was going to be transferred down south where she would no longer be able to see her child, but then Caputo cancelled all the transfers; we saw her meeting with the boyfriend once more after that, and for once he just talked and talked and talked about how happy he was that she was staying. It was pretty adorable.
- We have a feeling Nicky's heroin addiction is going to come back to haunt her. This season she was briefly tempted when given a "free sample" of Vee's stuff. She eventually handed the drugs over to Red, but then she stole Vee's whole stash. It was meant to mess with Vee, but we're worried about what she'll do with it now.
What did you think of the season? Let us know in the comments below!