At the end of Season 1 of Netflix's “Orange Is the New Black” — the story of an entitled, well-off woman put behind bars for a 10-year-old crime — our protagonist, Piper (Taylor Schilling) has seemingly adjusted to the harsh realities of prison life. She is last seen pummeling another inmate.
When Season 2 begins, the pretty blond, blue-eyed Piper is feeling safely cocooned in solitary, when she is removed from her cell to be transported to another facility.
No one will tell her where she is going or why, as if it's a state secret. The reason has more to do with the usual petty tyrant tactics and lack of communication that plague any bureaucracy than some overarching conspiracy.
It's enough to drive anyone crazy, and “Orange” from Jenji Cohan (“Weeds”) is very much about women of sorts — mostly minorities and/or from lower class backgrounds — being put on the edge in the dehumanizing prison system. Suddenly a minority herself, Piper is surrounded by a shifting world of allegiances, as inmates try to carve out mini-kingdoms or havens to survive. And, like a pack of wild animals, they know when someone is weak.
But as Piper says in the first season, the scariest part of prison is not the other inmates or guards but coming face to face with “who you really are.”
In flashbacks in the first episode of Season 2, Piper remembers seeing her father kissing another woman, and when she tells her mother, she is punished. We lie to protect ourselves, she learns.
It is best not to give too much away about Season 2, especially since all 13 episodes become available after midnight on Friday, and fans are likely to binge watch most of them by Monday anyway. The Peabody Award-winning “Orange” is the most-watched Netflix original series of 2013, besting even “House of Cards,” and already has been renewed for a third year.
But here are a few tidbits: Piper's trip will be something of a diversion, introducing her to a number of other colorful inmates, including a couple who use cockroaches to transport smokes. She will briefly — and disturbingly — be re-united with Alex (Laura Prepon), her ex-lover and the woman whose criminal activities got her into trouble.
Eventually, Piper will return to Litchfield Prison, where most of the first season inmates still roil in their own problems. New cons will be introduced. But now they view her differently after she beat down Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning), the weird religious fanatic.
Obviously, “Orange Is the New Black” has plenty of stories to tell, and Cohan and her crew can be wildly entertaining at times even when going to the darkest places. Someday, the show might seem claustrophobic, but for now, the possibilities are wide open.
ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK
What: Second season of prison dramedy. Starring Taylor Schilling.
When: All episodes available after midnight Friday.