Wednesday 3 December 2014

Orange is the New Black - I’m gonna die here.

Orange is the New Black: 2x04 A Whole Other Hole.

Lorna is one of the characters on this show that the viewer is likely to underestimate: constantly nice and seemingly balanced, she gave Piper the warmest welcome she could possibly expect. She has the rest of her life all mapped out, breaking things off with Nicky, who genuinely cared about her, because she was going to get married to her fiancé in the outside world. Every morning, she puts on her make-up – a tedious process that involves bartering, a lot of work in an economy like Litchfield. 
It’s all about keeping up appearances. We’ve seen before how desperately the inmates stick to their routines to keep up a pretence of normalcy inside prison walls, but it’s more than that for Lorna. She isn’t as much fooling everyone else as fooling herself, walking through the motions towards a life that she was never going to have, that, if anything, has moved even further away from her. 
She has only two years left, but she’s recently found out that Christopher is getting married to someone else. This is all we know so far, that her fiancé has moved on to someone else. But now the episode sheds light on the whole story. Lorna has always attempted to keep up appearances, once even professionally, in running a mail scan that afforded her all the best shoes and clothes, but things with Christopher never worked out. They went on one date after bumping into each other in a post office, and then he lost interest. But she – sticking to everything that is always true in love songs and romantic movies – started to make up the perfect relationship in her head. It’s not about lying to her family to appear more successful than she is, it’s a story that exists for her, for her own happiness, and she falls so completely into it that she stops being able to tell apart reality from fiction. The show doesn’t delve deeply into how far it goes – we see the trial, mentions of the stalking, eventually, a bomb placed under Christopher new girlfriend’s car – and instead just follows Lorna around, portraying what it means for her to lose the one thing she’s been able to hold on to. It’s what made her survive prison (it’s also what got her into prison in the first place), and now that it’s about to go away, she just loses every bit of normalcy she’s managed to build. She severely endangers herself when she chooses to take the car to Christopher’s house while waiting for Rosa to finish her cancer treatment. 

The main story this episode is about the terrible effects that misplaced love can have – it’s an extreme version of course, through the eyes of someone with a very precarious connection to reality – but the most heart-breaking story (maybe all season) starts here as well. Vee is building her empire, just as Red is plotting to get hers back (when she realizes she will not win her friends back, lacking the perks that her friendship once brought, she discovers that the abandoned glasshouse comes with advantages of its own, a way to the outside). She finds out from Taystee that Poussey is brewing alcohol, a promising business venture, except Poussey isn’t like everyone else: she isn’t a pragmatist. In a show and an environment that profoundly favours pragmatism over idealism, Poussey is an idealist, someone who would never sell her booze, but only makes it for her friends. This idealism is what allows Poussey to survive, because it means remaining being herself, but it’s profoundly at odds with Vee’s ideology, and her plans for the future. Vee’s power comes from knowing what people want, finding their weaknesses, and she finds Poussey’s weakness soon enough: It’s being in love with Taystee, her best friend. The show hints that Taystee has been well aware of that fact for a long time, and dictated a way for both of them to deal with it – setting boundaries, because she cares about Poussey, but not in that way, which means that she always keeps her close enough for Poussey to not ever be able to get over it. Poussey, putting all the hope in the world into one kiss, being turned down nicely (always, the difference between kindness and niceness), and Taystee, suggesting they just “cuddle for a minute”, not realizing the toll that it takes on her friend (and at the same time, the fact that they are friends, and both can’t imagine being without each other, regardless of what that relationship looks like). And of course, Vee walks by in the best moment to see it as something she use against Poussey and to bind Taystee closer to her, threatening that this reputation will follow Taystee outside the prison walls, threatening that Poussey isn’t a true friend because she wants more. 
She takes away the one thing that Poussey needs to stay alive in there. The same way that Red struggles to get hers back, the same way that Lorna fights against the fallout of losing hers: having the security of a friend who looks out for her, and who she looks out for. Taking that for granted. Taystee no longer reserves her a space, so Poussey doesn’t have one anymore. 

Random notes: 

The perfect contrast, right there in the beginning: Lorna putting up her make-up for nobody but herself, Rosa predicting that she has no life outside left, that she will die in prison, that this is all she has left. 
Lorna: You never talk about your life.
Rosa: Nobody cares. 
Except, she is still so proud of that story. She is dying to tell that story to someone who will listen, and the kid in the cancer treatment centre will listen. 

Talking about pragmatism: Piper, often the worst, tries to sell Brook for a blanket this episode. (Brook-Piper works because Brook IS Piper, one season ago, a fact that Piper is very desperate to deny).

Brook: Kinda reminds me of camp, you know.

Sophia, teaching the girls about female anatomy: this show is perfect sometimes. 

Nicky: It’s not an addiction, it’s a collection. I collect orgasms. It’s alla bout giving. I am like a bean flicking mother Teresa. 

Gosh, Samira Wiley in this scene, and the whole season, really. 

Big Boo: You know, she’s right, Chapman. You’re a horrible person. 

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