Thursday, 30 June 2016

Orange Is The New Black, S4 - Episode Seven: 'It Sounded Nicer In My Head'

AKA the fall of Piper Chapman. 

Okay, so Piper's not really around that much this episode, but boy do her scenes count. Before we get to that ending, lets get through the other stuff.

On the bright side, we do get Nicky back, and an awkward scene where Piper has to introduce her to her skinhead flunkies.

Taystee, Cindy, Susan and Alison are still trying to get a picture of Judy King. This happens to coincide with the release of a video of a extremely racist puppet show that King made decades ago. Already on edge, King becomes terrified when Cindy, Susan and Alison keep turning up. 

Oh, and on the Caputo side of things: Linda's a corporate gargoyle -- HOLY SHIT. Didn't see that one coming. 

Now back to the meat.

This whole episode -- excluding Lolly's storyline -- was about racism, the power it creates and removes. The racial tensions Piper and the new guards have started have been stoking up for a while now, and it was about time they blew up. And that doesn't include Judy King's puppets.

It's not hard to see Piper's dilemma as the same one the GOP finds itself in now. After decades of tacitly prompting race to get votes, their chickens have come home to roost.

The finale to this episode was sad and cathartic at the same time. On the one hand, Piper realised that she was all alone and acknowledged what she had done to her brow-beaten bunkmate, Hapakuka (Jolene Purdy, who I just discovered was Cherita Chen in Donnie Darko). And then she gets jumped by the Dominicans and gets branded with a Swastika.

On the other hand, it felt like Piper had just hit rock bottom. Hopefully the branding is the final straw that forces her out of this mindset of being the 'boss'.

Best zinger: "I can't help you but I'm rooting for you" -- Piper 

Flashback: Lolly Whitehill (Lori Petty) is another character who has been in the background, and used for a little colour and humour. 

Now, with Lolly get more involved in storylines, we are finally getting some backstory.

Starting as a journalist for a free weekly newsletter, Lolly's voices mean she is soon living on the streets and selling home made coffee. Frankly she seems more functional on the outside -- she likes to help people, and wards off her voices with the noise from a stick covered in jangly metal. Sadly, that implement gets her in trouble with the law. Boom. Prison. 

In the present, Lolly has built a time machine in the laundry to act as her refuge -- this leads to another good moment for Healey (can't believe I'm writing this), and a genuine breakthrough for both of them. Lolly might have found an anchor to reality, while Healey is beginning to expose a little of the pain that makes him such a prick.

In an episode filled with people at their worst (even Nicky -- by the end of the episode, she's found a new drug source), it is rare moment of shared empathy.

Final thoughts: After half a season of mounting tension, this episode marks the breaking point. And what a payoff!

For previous episodes

Episode 1 

Episode 2

Episode 3

Episode 4

Episode 5

Episode 6

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Orange Is The New Black, S4 - Episode Six: 'Piece of Sh*t'

This episode was dark. All the forces which have been converging thus far are starting to come to a head: 
  • Piper's 'taskforce' is basically a white power gang working with the new, brutal CO to crack down on the new Spanish inmates 
  • On a brighter note, Brooke and Poussey seem to have cemented their bond and moved beyond the awkwardness of a few episodes ago.
  • Overcrowding is really starting to cause headaches for everybody

The main action of the episode is based around stoner/CO/assholeJoel Luschek (Matt Peters). Luschek   starts getting notes with single sentence insults -- it turns out they are the work of Natasha Lyonne's Nicky Nicholls. Since we last saw her, Nicholls has completed rehab and is sleepwalking through life in max. 

Enlisting the counsel of Judy King, Luschek tries to get rid of the guilt he feels about what happened. This culminates in a visit to max, which goes as expected: Nicholls lets him have it and falls into a deeper funk. Clued in by casual lover Stella Carlin (Ruby Rose), she also falls back into drugs. 

Ironically, this regression takes place just as Caputo is signing off on her return to Litchfield. This action has been engineered by Judy King's lawyers, and she uses this power to force Luschek into a sexual relationship. Ewww. At least we found what her motives were, I guess?

On the Maria front, the Latinas start in celebration at the launch of their new venture. Fresh of her last minute save last episode, Maritza gets rewarded for helping Maria's business get off the ground, and gets a new Bond-inspired nickname, Pants-y Galore. This season looks like it's about to get EXTREMELY dark, so any pinprick of levity would be much appreciated. More Guerrero, please. 

However, nothing is as rosy as it seems.

Despite its founder's escape, Piper's internal police force is working exactly as it was supposed to -- screw shit up and raise ethnic tensions between the inmates. Ironically, this bunch of moronic racists stumble upon Piper's panty business.

In order to save herself, Piper leaves evidence under Maria's bunk and tips off the guards, who then finger her as the panty kingpin. Threatened with more years on her sentence, and the prospect that she will miss more of her daughter's life, Maria goes nuclear. With nothing to lose, she revokes her previous ban on dealing hard drugs. If Chapman wants a war, she's going to get one.

Best zinger: "You are a straight white man. You don't get to be the victim, sweetie" -- Judy King

Flashback: Interesting. No flashback this episode -- just the miserable present. The structure of the story doesn't really permit it, plus the lack of cutaways forces the viewer to really experience the sense of entrapment all the characters are feeling. In the end, they are just like the characters in that Twilight Zone episode CO Healy describes -- just small people in a world they do not recognise, and powerless to escape it.

Final thoughts: Easily the most depressing ending to an episode this season, Episode Five sees the tensions between Piper and Maria escalate, while old favourite Nicholls is cursed to repeat the cycle that got her sent to max in the first place. And then there's Sophia -- nothing in her cell but blood on the walls. Ugh.  

A few episodes back, I mentioned that one of the key themes of the show is the idea that even a good person will do things which are ostensibly selfless for selfish reasons. Well, this episode gets rid of the 'good'  part and just focuses on the selfishness. Everyone is out for themselves. Luschek just wants to stop feeling guilty, Judy King wants a stooge, Piper wants to retain her status. Ironically the only people who are not out for themselves are Brooke and Poussey -- which means they're probably going to get in the way, somehow.

Next episode is going to be interesting...

For previous episodes

Episode 1 

Episode 2

Episode 3

Episode 4

Episode 5

Orange Is The New Black, S4 - Episode Five: 'We'll Always Have Baltimore'

Events are really coming to a head now.

Caputo goes to a conference with Linda, where we meet her nemesis, Kip Carnighan -- this was a real treat, because he's played by one of my favourite actors, Chris Sarandon. Sadly, he's not in it much, but we do get to see MCC scion Danny Pearson (Mike Birbiglia) again. Now a full-time protestor, he starts an altercation during Linda's panel, and warns Caputo that Linda is even worse than his dad. Caputo ignores the advice and complete his descent into full-on douchebag, as he gets down with Linda.

Flaca's bestie Maritza Ramos (Diane Guerrero) has been in the background for the last couple seasons, generally popping in for comic relief, but in this episode Guerrero gets to stretch a bit. Now responsible for driving the prison van, she tries to help Maria get her new product out of the prison.

Meanwhile, Taystee takes Caputo's absence as an opportunity to surf the web, while Susan and Morello try to solve the mystery of the 'squatter' who keeps defecating in the showers.

On the Piper front, she forms a relationship with Piscatella (Brad William Henke), the new CO in order to thwart the Spanish, playing on his fear of gangs to get the COs to racially profile Maria's girls. Piper then tries to organise a massive snitch against her competition, and inadvertently creates a 'White Power' gang. Great job blondie! 

Best one-liner: "You know what gets me so hot, is when guys compare me to breakfast. And when they talk about me like I'm not even here. How 'bout you call me 'that oatmeal in the front seat' and I'll be so yours" -- Maritza Ramos

Flashback: Maritza Ramos (Diane Guerrero). As stated in the beginning, she's been minor comic relief since Season One, and this is the first time we get some real insight into her character. Thankfully, after the rather dark flashbacks we've had in the last few episodes (even Soso's, while funny, is really dark), this is a nice respite, and a good showcase for Guerrero's comedic chops.

Starting as a cocktail waitress who engages in small time grifting, Maritza gets involved with a team of professional con men.

They run a scam where she has to pretend to be a salesperson at a high-class car dealership so she can get clients (preferably horny old rich guys) to give her their information. She then pretends to be their spouse, gets permission to take the car for a spin and then boosts the car.

Everything goes off without a hitch, except the salesperson she gives the ID to jumps in the backseat to explain the car's features. Instant SNAFU. The back-and-forth in the car is excruciating. I wound up pausing as the clueless salesman asks them about their 'relationship'.

Funny and tense, it is more of a caper, with a hilariously random conclusion. It also dovetails nicely with Maritza in the present: treated like a silly child, it is her idea to get Maria's product out of the prison, and her quick thinking which saves the operation when it nearly goes tits up. She is not the dumb not-blonde people think she is.

Final thoughts: A fun episode that ends with a blackly comic punchline. A previously minor character gets some solid character development, and our lunk-headed lead starts a race war. Bring on Episode Six!

For previous episodes

Episode 1 

Episode 2

Episode 3

Episode 4

Friday, 24 June 2016

Bond 25 speculation: Directors

When Tom Hiddleston’s turn in The Night Manager put him in the spotlight for 007’s tux, it came as no surprise that the helmer of the series, Susanne Bier was briefly floated as a potential candidate to direct Bond 25. 

Last year, I wrote a post about offbeat directors I would like to see tackle a Bond movie. With plans for the next movie up in the air, and no firm idea of who will ultimately sit in the chair, let’s engage in a little speculation. 

Denis Villeneuve  

A self-proclaimed Bond fan, Villeneuve has made a name for himself with some truly incredible thrillers. While his facility with lighter material has not been tested, he could be a logical choice if the producers want to go even darker. He might also be able to bring Skyfall DOP Roger Deakins back as cinematographer. They have collaborated several times, and Spectre lacked that special magic Deakins brings to the table. This choice might seem a bit too high brow, but after Sam Mendes and Marc Forster, it seems like the days of competent journeymen directors helming Bond films might be over.

Paul Feig

Spy was one of the best comedies of last year, and represented Feig’s long-held desire to helm a Bond movie. If the series’ backers decide to shift tone back toward the camp and silly, Feig is the perfect chaperone to manage the transition.

Shane Black

Like Ian Fleming, Shane Black was born and raised on pulp detective thrillers. He has no shame about staying in genre pictures, but has the intelligence and talent to elevate such material above the formulaic into brutal poetry. He would also bring the funny. And probably set it at Christmas.

John Michael McDonagh

The ‘other’ McDonagh made his name with the terrific buddy comedy The Guard, turning Brendan Gleeson into the world’s least likely badass. I already brought him up in my last post, but I really think he would be a great choice. Combining terrific repartee with a great collection of oddball characters and inspired set pieces, The Guard is a truly terrific piece of work. Despite good notices, McDonagh remains an underrated talent. He hasn’t quite attained the same level of fame as brother Martin (In Bruges), and might be a good pick for either writing or directing a future Bond picture.

Alex Garland

Garland enjoys genre-hopping so this might not be entirely out of the realm of possibility. He has a talent for constructing tight, claustrophobic genre pictures (Dredd, Ex Machina) with deft touches of character and humour. Spectre cost about 250 million dollars -- scaling things back might be on the producers’ minds, and Garland would be perfect for this. Plus Bond could use a good dance scene

Gareth Evans

Might as well throw his name in because it's a pretty obvious choice. Evans has proven himself as a master of action, and might be able to bring another level of visceral impact and dynamism to the action. Aside from the train fight, Spectre was a little leaden in its set pieces, and Evans could provide a much needed dose of adrenaline to the aging franchise. There are a few minor caveats: Evans  hasn’t quite proved his dramatic chops yet, and the Raids aren’t exactly a barrel of laughs. That kind of b-movie intensity might be a little out-of-place.  

Christopher McQuarrie

This is a bit of wish fulfilment, but after his great work on M:I 5 (see my review from last year), McQuarrie has proved his chops as a great maker of smart big budget entertainment. He can do the style and set pieces in his sleep, but could add genuine depth to Bond 25 without making it feel pretentious or too serious. In many ways, Rogue Nation captured the tone of the best Bonds of yesteryear, and combined with his work on Jack Reacher and Edge of Tomorrow, is an excellent resume if the Broccoli-Wilson camp start looking in his direction. 

Jaume Collet-Serra

Probably the most likely choice to actually a) want the gig and b) get the job, Collet-Serra has proven himself as a smart, technically stylish genre filmmaker. Having made the stronger entries in the Liam Neeson 'action man' cycle, Collet-Serra knows his way around action, and as showcased in his underrated House of Wax and terrific child horror Orphan, he can handle suspense and horror with flair. He might be a bit dark, but he knows how to make enjoyable popcorn fare that manages to stay the right side of silly -- which is pretty much the recipe for a good Bond flick. Plus he would probably be cheaper than some of the other choices on this list.

Bonus dark horse favourite

Martin Campbell

Nothing would be more poetic than for the Bond braintrust to go back to the man who saved the franchise twice before. The director of Brosnan and Craig’s debuts (as well as the swashbuckling Mask of Zorro), Campbell combines a respect for the franchise with a willingness to throw the formula away. Casino Royale remains one of the best action films of the last 20 years, and it could be argued that without Campbell, Bond’s post-Cold War  resurgence would never have happened. Bringing him back to usher a new Bond in, or give Craig a worthy exit, would not be a bad idea.

Check back in for more speculation, rumours and nonsense when Bond 25 enters pre-production later this year.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Orange Is The New Black, S4 - Episode 4: 'Doctor Psycho'

First things first: Sofia's back! 

While she isn't in a lot of the episode, Lavern Cox's return is certainly memorable -- will she get revenge on Caputo? More importantly, will she get her saloon up and running again?

And now to the meat -- two story-lines that don't seem that related and then end up weaving their way together.

On the one hand, you have Sam Healy (Michael Harney) trying to kill two birds with one stone -- forcing celebrity inmate Judy King to start a cooking class strips her of status while also providing a venue for the increased number of inmates with nothing to do. 

On the other, you have the car-crash-in-slow-motion which is Lolly (Lori Petty). Paranoid after spying a drone hovering in the yard, she believes the NSA have discovered the dismembered corpse in the garden and proceeds to lose her mind. Meanwhile Alex and Red are trying to stop Frieda (Dale Soules) from killing Lolly. 

Other plot lines do get a look-in: Piper continues to try and thwart Maria's rival panty business. Aleida (Elizabeth Rodriguez) learns that she is eligible for early parole, and has to deal with the dual tasks of learning how to live in the outside world AND try to get her kids AND Dya's baby back. 

Tiffany's confrontation with Charlie Coates has been a long time coming. Coates is a twisted little shit, and watching him to try to justify his actions is... extremely uncomfortable. Thankfully Tiffany stays her ground. Amazing how much her character has changed over the course of the series -- it was only a couple years back that she was a religious zealot trying to exorcise a kid.

Best one-liner: “Outside he’s in Side Boob. In here, he’s the head boob.” Sam Healy, master of the dud joke, finally lands one. And no one cares.

Flashback: Sam Healy. 
For such a shit, I can't help but feel a little empathy for him. 

Every time we learn a little bit more about his past, you really get a sense of how lost he is. Every time he tries to one-up somebody, or even when he tries to do something good, he can't help but get in his own way.

This flashback was particularly poignant. We learn that his mother ran away because she was sick of the electro-shock treatment she was getting. We then jump to the mid-nineties (signaled by a poster for Welcome To The Dollhouse), where Healy, a social worker, tries to form a relationship with one of his clients by taking her to a movie. You realize how trapped and stunted this guy is that he feels he has to abuse his position to try and make a connection with the opposite sex. 

The  night ends with him treating a homeless woman to a meal, thinking she is his long lost mother. When he realizes his mistake, he tries to force the woman to stay to keep him company. In the end, Healy is alone. 

Final thoughts: Really interesting episode. The Alex-Lolly story line was pretty tense, especially when Freida and Red become involved, but the heart of the episode was Healy's past. He's a terrible human being in so many respects, and yet every now and then, as with this episode, he manages to act like the man he clearly wants to be. 

The scene at the end when he helps Lolly evade the psych ward is unexpected, but makes sense when placed against the scene with the homeless woman. Underneath it all, Healy is just a scared little boy waiting for his mom to come home. 

That's a mawkish way to end this review, so back to Sophia. She floods her cell, starts a fire and BOOM. Back in gen pop. And we get a cameo from Natasha Lyonne's Nicky Nicholls. Yay! On to Episode Five!

For previous episodes

Episode 1 

Episode 2

Episode 3

Independence Day Resurgence: Megasplosions yo!

There was a point about 20-30 minutes into this movie when I realised Roland Emmerich had achieved the apex of his destructo-vision:

As the alien ship crosses the planet for touchdown on the Atlantic ("Where?" "All of it!"), its gravitational field tears up the skyline of Shanghai. When the ship finally lands, all of the debris and buildings its collected are shown dropping onto famous London landmarks.

Emmerich just destroyed one iconic skyline with another iconic skyline.

Independence Day Resurgence is exactly the movie you think it is. You want a hundred different subplots featuring thin characters all trying to deal with a part of the disaster? Done. You want every character to have a comedic sidekick? You got it.

Roland Emmerich hasn't changed. He's exactly the same guy he was back in 1996. He's like the AC/DC of movie directors -- he knows how to do one thing, and he's going to keep doing that one thing for as long as he can. Unlike Michael Bay, he doesn't chop everything up -- you can tell what's going on -- and he has a very vague understanding of dramatic build-up. Plus, unlike Bay, he doesn't make you feel like walking in front of a bus after you leave the theatre.

The plot here is basically the same as before, with the slight caveat that in the twenty years since the 'war of '96', the world has become more unified and used the aliens' technology to rebuild society. With the input of David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), humanity has weaponised the moon, Saturn and other weapon systems based off of the alien tech, just in case they come back. Area 51 has become a prison for all the downed aliens left over from last time.

We get other glimpses of how the world changed after the invasion -- Levine goes to Africa, where one of the alien ships had landed and begun to drill into the earth. When the mothership blew up, the ship deactivated like the others. The locals then had to fight a ten year war against the surviving aliens. No offence to Emmerich, but that backstory already sounds better than the movie we got.

So basically big alien ship comes. Explosions. It destroys the moon base. Explosions. And the Star Wars satellites around the world. Slightly smaller explosions. And then it lands on the Atlantic Ocean ("Where?" "All of it!"). Explosions and a tidal wave that carries David's dad, Judd Hirsch, and his fishing boat, onto dry land.

Scene set. And then there's lots of fighting. President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) gives a speech. More explosions. And then we win.

The movie has the same issues as before -- too many characters without much in the way of character. No one changes. Everyone is right. And not enough of them die.

Liam Hemsworth is not that great an actor, but I enjoyed him in this (power of lowered expectations I guess?). Maika Monroe replaces Mae Whitman as Whitmore's daughter, and gets nothing really interesting to do -- apart from nearly shooting Hemsworth dead, which would have been great.

Jessie Usher plays Steven Hiller's (Will Smith) grown-up stepson. He gets nothing to do, except punch Hemsworth. Angelababy turns up to make sure the movie becomes a global hit. And Charlotte Gainsborough is also in this movie. Sela Ward plays the new president -- whose consistent strategy is to shoot first.

Most of the regulars pop in. Goldblum is a one man show here, which is sad -- he needs someone to bounce off. Pullman gets a chance to play crazy PTSD guy and have a Howard Hughes beard. Brent Spiner comes out of a coma to play Professor Okun again, and is exactly the same as before.

They do try to throw in some variations -- at one point, a couple of our heroes get trapped inside the mothership and have to evade alien patrols. President Whitmore allows himself to be taken over by the aliens so that the rest of the cast can find out what's going on. Judd Hirsch gets picked up by a bunch of teens led by Joey King from White House Down, and a mysterious alien arrives who looks like Marvin the robot's head from The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy (2005), but who can help them defeat the bad aliens.

The third act features a showdown at Area 51 (again) except that instead of just an alien ship, we get a giant rampaging queen alien as well. It's like Emmerich got bored writing the same movie and decided to watch a double bill of Aliens and Tarantula for ideas.

And then it all climaxes with the most gloriously blatant sequel baiting ending I've seen since Flash Gordon (1980).

In closing, it's a silly movie which I will probably forget by the weekend. But it knows it's silly, and it doesn't care. It has plot holes, too much CGI (even the aliens -- I really wished they stuck with the puppetry from the last movie), too much bad comedy, and too much of everything else really. But if you get a bunch of mates and some beer, it's a good time.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Orange Is The New Black, S4 - Episode 3: '(Don't) Say Anything'

This was a pretty cool episode, with a lot of neat strands to unravel. I'll go through my favourite parts in bullet points and then talk about the main story in the flashback section:
  • While we only get a few snippets, Taystee and Caputo's new work relationship is intriguing. His growing bond with the other corporate, Linda (Beth Dover) is starting to come into focus. She's basically enabling his turn into a selfish asshole -- the scene where he stares down his old CO is really sad. Caputo is the one character who balances likability and ass-holery in almost equal measure. 
  • Morello's marriage is a glorious train wreck. The telephone conversation is great. It's the moment where Morello and the audience really get a sense of what she has signed up for. The fact that Vince still lives at home makes so much sense. 
  • And while that scene is good, Morello and hubby's later make-up in the visitation room is better (and depraved). I don't know what to call it -- aural porn? -- but it's a pretty selfless gesture from Vince to engage in loud phone sex while dozens of people look on. In any other circumstance, it would be insane, but with Morello it feels right. It's sweet that she's finally found someone who is willing to indulge in her fantasies... We'll see how that goes, down the track.
  •  Soso's well-meaning but completely wrong-headed attempts to introduce Poussey to her idol Judy King go the way you'd expect -- down, and in flames.
  • I want to make this point now just incase something happens down the road. I find Blair Brown's Judy King very unsettling. She's always smiling, but never with her eyes. Something is going on. 
Best one-liner: 'I'm talking about crotches in front of 50 other women but for you it's awkward?' --Morello.

Flashback: Brook Soso. When Soso first turned up, I really wanted to shove a pencil through my brain. But then, like Tiffany/Pennsatucky, she grew on me.

That was until we got to this nugget from her backstory: To slight her ex-boyfriend (and get a date with someone else), Brooke agrees to a bet wherein she will go to a convicted sex offender's house to get him to sign a petition for a new park.

As it turns out, the man is completely harmless -- he was convicted for having sex on a beach with his girlfriend (which was recorded by another party). Not so heinous. 

But when Brook shows her boyfriend the man's signature, he basically guesses what we have just learned. And so Brook makes up a story that the man was a child molester who tried to attack her. Lovely.

The flashback basically reaffirms the underlying theme of the show. Even a good person will do things which are ostensibly selfless for selfish reasons.

In the present, Brook tries to do something nice for her new friend by getting her to meet Judy King.  However, in telling Judy about Poussey, Brook makes a bunch of assumptions about her background that basically set her up to look like a total dingbat.

Whereas in the past, she got what she wanted, in the present, her story-telling got her in trouble. And so it makes it more rewarding when Brook owns up to her MO. 

Finally, Soso is starting to get some more character development -- and the fact that she finally recognises her own faults and patch up her only relationship is very cool.  


Until she screws it up again.

Final thoughts: A good episode with some great scenes. The flashbacks were terrifically dark, and add a nice level of shade to Soso. 

For previous episodes

Episode 1 

Episode 2

Monday, 20 June 2016

Orange Is The New Black, S4 - Episode 2: 'Power Suit'

And now we get to the meat.

The arrival of new inmates, specifically a massive influx of Dominicans, leads to new tensions, as previously side-lined characters like Maria Ruiz (Jessica Pimental) and Blanca Flores (Laura Gomez) to come to the fore.

The episode is peppered with great moments for individual characters:

Boo (Lea DeLaria) and Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning) try to watch over Maritza (Diane Guerrero) to make sure that rapist prison guard Charlie Coates (James McMenamin) doesn't assault her. 

Poussey and Soso have a sweet exchange in the cafeteria -- Samira Riley and Kimiko Glenn have good chemistry. Hopefully they get more scenes together. Poussey has always been one of my favourite characters on the show, and its nice to see her finally get a romantic partner. 

Meanwhile, on the outside, Caputo (Nick Sandow) has found a new friend/ally on the board of the company that owns Litchfield to get more guards. A new ally? A love interest? Since it's Caputo, shit will go wrong like it always does. He gets a new suit, which is nice.

 It's easy to forget, with all the other characters, that Piper (Taylor Schilling) is still the lead of the show. She makes her bunkmate a quasi-bodyguard, although I don't think that arrangement will last.

Alex (Laura Prepon) gets bored to tears by Morello's (Yael Stone) incessant rambling about her new husband. I'd say Morello needs to get a life, but then she's in prison. So...

 Blair Brown's Judy King remains an interesting enigma. I have a feeling she is going to become more of a power player, in a different way to how she has been perceived so far. 

Best one-liner: "If I hadn't buried my feelings so deep that they only come up when I watch Step Mom, I would totally be tearing up right now" -- Maritza Ramos.

Flashback: Maria Ruiz (Jessica Pimental). She's been a fairly major supporting character, with her pregnancy and the loss of her child, but this is the first time she gets some of her background. The arrival of the Dominicans triggers Maria's memories of her childhood. 

Growing up with her father's self-serving nationalism, she ultimately rejected his philosophy when it interfered with her blossoming romance with a local Cuban.

Initially, Maria is resistant to the new power dynamic in the prison, but after Blanca is beaten by a pair of racist white inmates, she takes charge.

This was an interesting turn for Maria, and a nice twist. I was expecting another, new, inmate to take charge ala Vee, but this is a nice evolution for her character. She's never been the centre of attention, she can no longer see her child and she is finally given a taste of what it feels like to be in the majority, and the power that goes with it.

While it may seem quick within a single episode, Maria's evolution to leadership feels like an inevitable culmination of all the BS she has had to deal with. A cool development.

Final thoughts:
Overall, this is a really good episode that manages to cover a variety of subplots and introduce a new storyline for the season. If Episode One was all set-dressing, then this is where it really takes off. 

For previous episodes