HELLO LOYAL READERS. All four of you. Since I’ve laid out most of the important characters, storylines, and themes in my previous two posts, I figured I’d just take the casual route with this last Season 1 post. We’ll just check in with the major characters, what they’re up to, and maybe drop a little minimalist analysis. Think of this as a cheat-sheet – something to come back to as a reference if you get confused while bingeing the second season. Cool? Cool.
INMATES (and their outside lives):
Piper: As she settles into life at Litchfield, the lens of the show moves away from its early focus on Piper in order to follow the rest of the cast around. In a lot of contexts, she just becomes a background character, a “type,” the prissy blonde college girl, inducing eyerolls with her know-it-all attitude. But as she is still nominally our protagonist, she is still one of the biggest cogs in the plot machine. She takes a backseat for a while, until Healy throws her in SHU for “lesbianing” (dancing with) Alex at a going-away party. After 48 torturous hours in solitary, Piper gets back to Litchfield, drags Alex into the chapel, and they have their way with each other.
Her relationship with Silverman gets pretty rocky – Piper is lying about fooling around with Alex, and that would be enough to strain any engagement. But in addition, Silverman’s started to use his status as “partner of a prisoner” to bloster his flagging journalism career. He gets an article in the New York Times, and a guest spot on an NPR program that is MOST CERTAINLY NOT This American Life, as hosted by a bespectacled dude who is MOST CERTAINLY NOT Ira Glass. All without waiting for Piper’s permission. The entire prison listens, and her unflattering opinions about Miss Claudette and Crazy Eyes are broadcast. Both are extremely hurt.
Things come to a head when Silverman comes to Litchfield to visit Alex, and learns that not only are the two sleeping together, but that Piper was the instigator. She calls, they argue, it gets emotional. He uses his final bullet at the climax of the argument: he lied about Alex. She really did give Piper’s name to the feds. They decide to “take a break.” Piper at least owns up to her actions. Silverman seems to think he’s some type of victim. As if the fact that he’s lied, exploited Piper’s experiences to advance his own career, divulged her secrets without permission, and put her well-being in danger at more than one point is completely erased by the fact that she cheated on him. Jesus tapdancing Christ, do I hate that guy. Piper is kind of an asshole, but I think even she deserves beter than this clown. She at least deserves a hotter asshole, like Alex. Too bad she’s burned that bridge – Alex is sick of getting jerked around, and cuts herself off completely.
Things go back and forth with Pennsatucky all season. Tucky was the one who tattled on Piper to Healy and got her thrown in SHU, Piper’s crew retaliates by getting her sent to psych, you know, the usual. All you need to know for now is that Piper closes out the finale beating the shit out of Tucky, who is still in her angel costume from the Christmas pageant. Fade to black.
Tricia: A former junkie, Pornstache gets her hooked on dope again, and uses that to manipulate her into moving drugs for him. This does not go well. She dies. The white prisoners hold a sort of memorial party for Tricia in her former cubicle, and there’s a very sweet sequence where representatives from the other groups come by to offer condolences and gifts – oranges from the Gold Girls, junk food and commissary junk food and toilet hooch from the Black inmates, microwave nachos from the Latina prisoners.
Red: Continues on as kitchen-based queen bee. We learn that she brings of contraband in through her produce orders – everything from vanilla for Miss Claudette’s famous coconut cake to electric toothbrushes, which are generally not used for teeth, wink wink. One thing she does not bring through her kitchen under any circumstances is drugs.
Daya: Her diabetes-inducing courtship with Bennett continues. He leaves her sticks of gum at their secret spot in the prison yard, she leaves him little anime drawings. Eventually they get around to doing the nasty, and, of course, Daya ends up pregnant. The only upside of this crisis is that it finally has her and her mother working as a team She decides she wants to keep the baby, but doesn’t want Bennett to get found out and charged as a sex offender. Red’s got the solution: have sex with Pornstache, call rape, get Pornstache fired. What could go wrong? Lots of stuff goes wrong: Pornstache uses a condom the first time, Bennett gets pissed when he finds out. But it actually does work in the end. Sort of.
Taystee: One of the best things about this show is the rapport between Taystee and her partner in crime Poussey (Poo-SAY – accent a droite, bitch). Seriously, it makes me so happy. You definitely need to go back and watch them together, particularly their white person impressions. Anyway, armed with a killer letter of appeal, and a non-threatening Hollywood-Black-best-friend hairdo, Taystee gets out of Litchfield. Once out, her storyline flips from comic relief to straight drama: she finds that she has no family, no friends, no way to get a job, and a parole officer breathing down her neck. Taystee gets herself sent back to Litchfield, in the end.
Sophia: Does manage to get her estrogen back. Her friendship with Sister Ingalls continues, and helps her deal with the fact that her wife is slowly drifting away.
Pennsatucky: Convinced she is a genuine prophet of the Lord Jesus Christ, Tucky believes she is destined to be voted to a (bullshit) council of prison advisors to Healy. When he rigs the election and gets Piper the spot, Piper ends up on Tucky’s shit list in the worst way. She sets about tormenting Piper and her gang in any way possible, including but not limited to threatening her in the shower with a razor blade. Fed up with this shit, Alex, Watson, Piper and a couple others conspire to convince Joan of Upstate New York that she’s got actual faith-healing powers, which eventually gets her sent to psych, where she is “treated” inside a cage, and tied down to her bed. She returns a different woman – considerably less cocky. She and Piper make up, briefly, before Piper refuses to get baptized. Then, well, see above.
Suzanne (“Crazy Eyes”): Drops out of the spotlight for a few episodes, so we don’t see how hard she takes getting “dumped” by Piper. She gets her day in the limelight in episode 11, “Tall Men with Feelings” (if you want to rewatch the highlights of the season I definitely recommend this one, for character work and stellar performances if not so much plot). In this episode, we learn that she is one of the only inmates who moves back and forth between psych and Litchfield, due to a deal her rich parents managed to finagle. Uzo Aduba gives a killer performance, especially in terms of body language, and all the monologues describing Suzanne’s mental state (way involved, way not pretty). Favorite moment by far is the heart-wrencher where she asks “Why does everyone call me ‘Crazy Eyes?’” She gets to be one of the first to confront Piper and tell her straight to her face that she is not a “nice person,” and it feels like a huge relief when she does.
Miss Claudette: Throughout the series, her relationship with Piper warms up considerably. Sure, everyone’s still scared of her, but we get to see that a lot of the residents of Litchfield respect and seek out her opinion. She has a cool-old-lady friendship with Red, that I wish got a little more play. Miss Claudette gets a spot of false hope, when she sees her friend Baptiste for the first time in a decade and believes she might have a shot at getting her appeal. The entire thing is, of course, ruined. Her appeal goes south and she attacks a CO and gets send down the hill to maximum security, probably for life.
Pornstache: He’s already gotten Tricia hooked again, now Pornstache just needs a steady supply of product. After threatening and harassing Red for a good long time, she still won’t move drugs for him. He hits the jackpot when a disgruntled Nicky gives him the name of the supplier that smuggles for them. He gives Tricia a bag of pills to move, but she chooses that inconvenient point to die. He frantically frames it as a suicide. The prison sweeps Tricia’s death under the rug, accepting suicide as an easy answer and it doesn’t get traced back to him.
When Daya seduces him, he falls in, like, actual love, and is blindsided by the rape accusation. Fig, not interested in a media circus, sweeps the whole thing under the rug, electing to send Pornstache on extended unpaid leave.
Healy: If there are any true villains in this series, I’d definitely peg Healy and Fig, but for completely different reasons. Sam Healy, for starters, thinks he’s helping the inmates, Piper in particular. I think you can best get the gist of Sam Healy from the following exchange, between him and Piper, through the door of her cell in SHU:
“So, you’re teaching me a lesson?”
“You should be thanking me. Alex Vause is sick. I get you. You’re not like her.”
“The only sicko here is you. And under different circumstances? What? I’d be your girlfriend? Is that it? Did I make you jealous? You put me in this hellhole for no reason. Wake up, Healy. Girls like me? We don’t fuck ignorant, pretentious old men with weird lesbian obsessions. We go for tall, hot girls. And we fucking love it! So that leaves you on the outside, living your sad, sad, little life. You don’t get me! Ever! So go fuck yourself!”
Fig: Fig, on the other hand, doesn’t give a shit if she’s helping the inmates or not. Her main concerns are sweeping scandal under the rug and doing as little other work as possible. By the end of the season, it’s implied pretty heavily that the “Budget Cuts” she’s been talking about all season are bullshit, and that she’s embezzling.
Caputo: Continues to bluster about, occasionally seeming like a vindictive, self-involved prick, but sometimes looking like a reasonable authority figure. Well, maybe just in contrast to Fig.
Luschek: Little to no development. I think Luschek is kind of a dead end in terms of emotion and plot. Thinking about him too hard makes me kind of depressed.
Ok, there you have it. Check back tomorrow (hopefully) for my first regular season 2 recap.