OITNB Season 2: And You’ve Got Time

Orange is the New Black (Photo: Netflix)
Orange is the New Black (Photo: Netflix)

It took us a little more than two weeks to finish up Orange is the New Black‘s second season. Why have we been taking our time with last year’s binge show?

One of the things I warn new writers on the site about is that doing any sort of detailed coverage about a show is going to change your relationship with a program. In some ways this is a positive consequence: I have a much greater appreciation for Survivor while accepting that trying to stick it out with The Tomorrow People was a fool’s errand. What changed about my relationship with Orange is the New Black this season is that I found myself paying quite a bit of attention to the concept of time.

First, I want to see if my pregame thoughts about the season came to pass. Piper’s story became increasingly irrelevant and decreasingly interesting as the story went on. Ryan footnoted yesterday in his obituary for Vee “Can you name a single important character that remained untouched by [Vee’s] influence?” I would say Piper, as I am struggling to come up with an instance where their stories intersected. Perhaps Chapman and company are supposed to be comic relief from the prison story, demonstrating that life outside of prison isn’t all that great either. I disagree with that thesis, but that’s not really the point of this post. I’m sure the topic will come up again in Season 3.

The flashback motif continued to work this season and managed to explore character depth without exploitation. Suzanne’s backstory caused me to reconsider her entire character, Poussey demonstrated that old habits never go away, and Sister Ingall’s history of radicalism inspired me to rethink my Twitter bio. Some of the flashbacks came across as heavy-handed, particularly Gloria’s and Rosa’s, but I still found myself coming out of their respective episodes with the feeling of “OMG she’s my new favorite character.” What intrigued me about the finale (which I did not care for as much as Ryan did) was that the flashback motif was not used.1 There are still some characters whose history I’d like to see2, but if the show is moving away from that storytelling mechanism, I can understand.

What I find most intriguing about this season was the lack of binge-watching that seemed to take place, at least in the TV circles where I rotate. Unlike last year, I did not watch more than one episode at a time.3 Others seem to be taking their time as well, as I see progress reports on various social media outlets from people I would have expected to be on their third time through the season by this point. The World Cup can’t be that much of a draw, so I’m curious as to the reason for slowing down. One theory is that everyone is savoring the show, as we know it’s going to be a year until we get more episodes.

My theory is that the stakes of the show, and the show’s treatment of time, do not require immediate attention. Compare this to Netflix’s other darling House of Cards. That show’s second season was equally bingeable as its first, partly because in the world of politics time is the enemy and actions have immediate consequences. Consider how long it took for the officials to investigate Red’s beatdown in the finale. There was the beating, then Red’s hospitalization, then interviewing all the other inmates until Suzanne’s name came up, then (at least) two interviews with Suzanne, and there was still more paperwork to fill out before the next steps. Consider this: we are two seasons in and are only just now at about the halfway point of Piper’s sentence.

If you are reading this, first off Hi! Second, I would like to know how long it took you to get through the season and how it compares to how you consumed the first season of OITNB. Any theories or reasons for why there may be a difference?

  1. Yes, there was the Rosa morph in the last moments, but that doesn’t really count.  
  2. Soso!  
  3. Granted, part of that was because of this blog and I didn’t want to watch beyond an episode I was writing about.  

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About Mike McComb 931 Articles
Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it "TV Camp." After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail: mike@whatelseison.tv