Orange is the New Black season two, episode one: Netflix prison comedy is better than ever

Stock up your fridge and cancel your weekend plans. Netflix’s prison dark comedy is back – and it’s even better

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The Independent Culture

Let the binging begin. The second season of Orange is the New Black is now on Netflix and judging by episode one it is twice as witty as season one - but also twice as dark.

Featuring cigarette-carrying cockroaches, Chicago and (best of all) boy prisoners, ‘Thirsty Bird’ sees Piper Chapman deal with the consequences of her bloody assault on fellow inmate Pennsatucky and fall deeper into the world of crime.

We knew season two of Jenji Kohan’s drama would have its bleak moments and within the first 20 minutes of episode one we see an inmate with a swastika tattoo on their forehead, learn about “pee pads” and watch a guard take a razor blade out of prisoner’s mouth, only to be told: “that’s not mine”. But none of that compares to the moment Piper exchanges a pair of prison “panties” she has been wearing for four days in return for a favour from a fellow inmate.

The writing is, if anything, sharper than season one and this episode features several zingers, my favourite being when Piper says of the inmate she swapped panties with: “He's a hitman? I thought he was a rapist. I'm so relieved.” A male guard explaining to a colleague they call women hoochies as you “can’t say bitches no more - it’s degrading” was a close second.

(Spoiler warning starts). It’s not all witty barbs and razor blades, ‘Thirsty Bird’ also helps set up the plot for this season. First of all, Piper did not kill Pennsatucky despite hitting her hard enough to “feel the bones crack” in her face - but that doesn’t mean she is out of trouble.

In season two a Piper whose sanity is rapidly dwindling after four weeks in solitary is suddenly transported to a Chicago prison to participate in the trial of former girlfriend Alex Vause ’s drug-trafficker boss, Kubra. Along the way we learn more about Piper through flashbacks to her childhood, which mostly involve her being told to keep quiet and hide her feelings. Alex (who lest we forget was very, very angry at Piper last season for choosing fiancée Larry over her) is also in Chicago for the trial and tells Piper to deny ever meeting Kubra for fear of retribution.

Piper discusses this with her lawyer, Harold, who also happens to be Larry’s father, and decides honesty is the best policy. But on the stand she catches a glimpse of Alex and changes her mind, lying in court and breaking the law again.


Harold tells Piper he’s done - she’s on a “slippery slope” and she’s doing a raindance. Suddenly Alex walks by Piper’s cell and she’s not wearing a jumpsuit. Alex didn’t lie and it looks like she is out of prison, while Piper languishes inside. We’re left right where Netflix wants us: so eager to watch episode two and find out why and how and if Alex has really betrayed Piper (again) it’s almost painful. (end spoilers)

There’s another reason why we’re itching to see more - and it’s to do with the only thing the season opener was missing, an update on the fate of Daya, Bennett, Boo and the other inmates and workers at Lichfield prison. Our verdict? Stock your fridge and block out 13 hours of your weekend - this is so good you’re going to want to watch it all in one sitting.

Read more: Season one recap
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