Eminently skippable aside: Seemed like someone in the writers' room had been watching American Horror Story: Asylum while working on this episode, no? The impending storm, the mention of electroshock therapy, the sassy nuns, the '60s-ness ... it has me thinking about the similarities and difference between these two campy-fun-crazy TV depictions of incarceration. A think piece for another day: Is Pornstache worse than a secret nazi doctor who performs human experiments?
Back to the episode. What to say about Taslitz stabbing the wrong black woman, or Piper’s scheduled transfer to another prison, or Alex being stalked by the guy she’d ratted out? Well, they’re fascinating through the pure power of plot—suspenseful to watch, not that interesting to talk about. But that might change. Click!
Best banter: The writers have yet to undermine our initial impression of Soso as being an airheaded stereotype, but you’ve got to laugh at some of her lines and the commitment of actress Kimiko Glenn. On screen this is much funnier than on the page: “Thank you Chapman! History will remember you for this, though I still don’t trust you personally.”
Episode 12: "It Was the Change"
So, Vee is bad. Very bad. She had us, and Red, and everyone else, fooled for a bit there. In this episode, the show made its greatest rejection yet of the idea that everyone behind bars is equally flawed and equally victimized. What makes Vee the kind of person who has sex with a boy she raised from childhood and then murders him, or who calls a truce while pointing out the pettiness of jailhouse rivalry and then immediately tries to kill her rival? The show doesn’t say. All we know is that her conniving seems to go beyond necessary hustle into villainy.
It is not, however, entirely unique villainy. “Something's gonna fuck you, you know,” Watson tells Poussey. “The system, the man, Vee. Can't do nothing about it. At least Vee gives you back 10 percent.” The entire show has been about people dealing with the first two forces she names. Now, we’re focused on the third: predatory criminality incarnate. Poussey fights back, Taystee goes along, Red cowers and schemes. Those three characters, some of the most sympathetic of the ensemble cast, are now awake to this season’s big bad. The finale—whether or not Red survives—could be them taking revenge.
By the way, jailhouse flooding and power outages during storms are a real thing, a few seconds of Googling “prison” and “Hurricane Sandy” will tell you. It’s unclear, though, whether real-life storms necessitate toilet buckets, appearances of blockbuster nonfiction books by Atlantic editors, or amazing explanations of the gay agenda to a seriously misinformed person.
On that last one: It can be frustrating, sometimes, to see the show trade in caricature. Yes, the corrupt contractor is fat, talks crassly about benefiting from natural disasters, and slaps the corrupt female administrator’s ass! Yes, that administrator’s politically conniving husband is not-so-secretly sleeping with his campaign manager! But Pennsatucky this season, as played by Taryn Manning, has gone past the point of cartoonishness to a be a kind of zen, self-aware, confident, quick, hilarious figure who skewers the idea that ignorance is the same thing as dullness. “Would I have to do anything disgusting against the word of God?” she asks Boo with genuine curiosity. “I'm talking about eating pussy, if you catch my drift.”