Warning: Orange Is the New Black Season 1 and minor Season 2 spoilers ahead.
Three instances of something makes for a trend, so it's official: Great TV shows of 2013 are avoiding sophomore slumps in 2014. Both Bates Motel and The Americans recently completed second seasons that not only successfully followed up on the promise of their freshman seasons, but surpassed it. And now there's the slump-avoiding Orange Is the New Black. Six episodes into Season 2 (don't scoff, there's a seven-hour, season-finishing marathon in our immediate future) and we're ready to declare this one a winner.
No worries for those of you who didn't stay up the past two nights to pound out all 13 episodes; we're not spoiling anything major to tell you that Season 2 opens with a Jodie Foster-directed installment that takes its sweet time catching us up on the current happenings of Piper Chapman, last seen beating the bejeezus out of Pennsatucky in the Season 1 finale. Again, without ruining any of the important details, we'll tease that the season premiere unfolds in a manner that's a departure from the series' usual format, but it pays off in ways big and small, including a crucial backstory reveal.
Oh, and the backstories. They were, after the delight of simply being introduced to great characters like Crazy Eyes, Red, and Pornstache, our favorite part of Season 1, and they are what will possibly put Season 2 over the top. Suzanne (don't you feel kinda bad about referring to her as "Crazy Eyes"?), Taystee, and Gloria all get the prequel treatment in the first six eps, and whatever you had imagined them to be, they're better.
[Photos: Hollywood Ladies Sporting Orange]
The best backstory of the series so far, though, comes with a flashback to the pre-Litchfield Lorna Morello, which epitomizes the writers' penchants for making all the inmates relatable in some way.
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The show's off-the-wall humor continues in the new season, too, from the cafeteria antics of BFFs Taystee and Poussey to a raunchy game of one-up(wo)manship between Nicky and Big Boo. And an awkward, but hilarious collective sex ed lesson will have you flashing back to sixth grade, when boys and girls were sent to separate classrooms, and girls were shown a giggle-inducing film and given little booklets that contained cute drawings about impending body changes (like menstruation, spelled out phonetically as "menstrooation").
Anything we're not digging about Season 2? Oh, hello, Larry. A little Larry equals a lot of Larry, and after just six episodes (and he isn't even in all of those), we've had enough Larry. Some new info on Piper sheds light on why she would have chosen to run off on an adventurous life with Alex, and then why she would have settled in for a quieter life with Larry. Purpose served, Larry. Besides, your screen time could be better spent on Pornstache. Who else is dying to see how the Bennett/Daya/'Stache triangle is, inevitably, going to blow up in Season 2?
But back to what we're loving about Season 2: The premiere also introduces a character, played by a familiar face, we really hope to see more of this season (you'll know who we're talking about).
And another new Season 2 face: Any Day Now alum Lorraine Toussaint as Vee, whose surprising connections and backstory threaten to shake up the current power structure inside Litchfield. If orange is the new black, Vee may be the new Red.
Orange Is the New Black Season 2 is available on Netflix.