Friday 14 March 2014

Orange is the New Black – It’s a good day.

Orange is the New Black: 1x08 Moscow Mule. 

Moscow Mule is about the kind of relationships that are meant to survive the pressure of being imprisoned, the things that the people inside count on for their survival, because if they couldn’t, they’d be utterly lost. Nicky relies on the fact that Red is her family, the person who looks out for her like an adoptive mother, since her biological one is so useless – and is profoundly, desperately disappointed when Red drops Tricia, who is going through withdrawal because Pornstache no longer has a venue to smuggle drugs into prison, to make herself less vulnerable to Pornstache. Alex relies on Larry, because he is the normal life she will return to when her term is over, but now that he has started to cash in on her very personal experience, it’s impossible to find the things that they have in common anymore – he gets her wrong in an article he’s written about her in the NY Times, an article that makes him a published writer and a person somewhat famous, but her, even more lonely in prison, and finally in a place where the memories she shares with Alex become more important than the future she has with Larry, if only for the fact that Alex shares this particular place with her, and understands. Taystee and Poussey, who’ve used their friendship to survive their prison terms, find themselves faced with the prospect of one of them getting released. 
The thing is that intimacy and being able to rely on someone is absolutely essential to these characters, in the precarious and horrible circumstances they are in. Piper needs to be able to rely on Larry to take herself seriously, and instead, he undermines her one very turn, without realizing it, just by insisting that his experience of her being in prison is just as serious as her own – while the highpoint of her day is guessing the date of delivery correctly for a fellow inmate to win a twix bar, and he has a party with all their mutual friends to look forward to. Instead, she reconnects with Alex, even if that experience is unlikely: she is sent out to fix a drier, something far beyond her experience (because everyone is sick with the flu, with only her and Nicky left), somehow, Alex ends up getting locked in the drier because of Pennsatucky’s vendetta against her and Piper, and they are forced to confront their feelings for each other, the resentment over Piper’s abandonment and the general questions about Alex’ character. 
The more serious issue this episode is Red, though: who, we see, laid the path to having a way to smuggle goods into prison years ago, when she proposed to the shady Russian friends that they look into legitimate and safe government contracts (finally, being the one at the table who is taken seriously for her merit, rather than her husband). She can’t afford to support Tricia against all odds, as she goes through withdrawal, and Nicky – who sees Red as a mother, someone she absolutely relies on – is shocked to see how quickly Red is willing to drop one of her “daughters” for a political advantage against her opponents. It’s what makes Nicky tell Pornstache, desperate to find a new road for his drugs business, about how Red smuggles in illicit goods. 
What is the point in having kids if they end up like the Diaz family? What is the point of having a fiancé, outside, if he can’t provide Piper with the support she needs and instead uses her very personal story to  make something of himself, without ever comprehending how much of a violation it is to write about her like her story isn’t her own? It’s enough of a violation to make all the shared history between Piper and Alex seem more relevant, more essential, than anything that lies in the future of Piper and Larry. She and Alex share this place, and the reason why both of them ended up there – like Piper says, it wasn’t a game that landed them there, but their life, back in the day, the choices both of them made. They hold hands for all the things they lost. 

Random notes: 

Moscow Rules is a good episode, but it works best at setting up all the things that will happen in the future; but it’s also the first time that you get an inkling of where the season, and the show as a whole, is going in terms of ambition.

Another good contrast: the horror of seeing the mother return to prison without a child, while Larry, enthusiastically, recounts the tale of Piper’s best friend giving birth (and the flashback of Piper hoping that she’s pregnant, so she could really make her time in prison count).  

Larry’s “not that I’d insist” about Piper having an abortion. JFC. The worst. 

Diaz doesn’t have the flu. 

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