“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings,” Cassius tells Brutus in William Shakespeare’s play, “Julius Ceasar.” That, too, seems to be a recurring theme in Season 2 of writer Jenji Kohan’s “Orange Is the New Black.”
The 13-episode second season of the highly anticipated prison drama — based on Piper Kerman’s memoir, “Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison” — was released for streaming on Netflix last Friday.
After serving months in the Litchfield Correctional Facility for her association with her former drug-dealing girlfriend, Alex Vause (Laura Prepon), Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) is transferred to a Chicago prison, where she awaits trial.
Her new bunkmate’s (Rebecca Drysdale) an astrology nut who believes destiny’s in the stars. “Typically, people in prison are led astray by a powerful outside force,” she tells Piper.
But these women dug their own graves.
Kohan’s episodes feature flashbacks into the lives of the Litchfield inmates. There’s Miss. Rosa (Barbara Rosenblat) — a terminally ill cancer patient who used to rob banks; Sister Ingalls (Beth Fowler) — an ex-communicated Catholic nun known for her activism; and Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson (Danielle Brooks) — an orphan whose closest person to a mother is Vee (Lorraine Toussaint), a conniving criminal who’s back in jail.
But even if these woman are underlings, their faces and voices aren’t forgotten. We fall in love with Kohan’s characters — played by a wonderfully diverse and talented ensemble cast. It’s a smart, calculated formula. Kohan can seamlessly introduce and kill off new characters like George R.R. Martin’s “Game of Thones.” And while we curse the injustice, we’ll still be binge-watching.
So it’s no coincidence, of course, that Season 2 of “Orange Is New Black” was released the same day as the film adaptation of John Green’s teen cancer novel, “The Fault in Our Stars.” Kohan (who also created Showtime’s “Weeds”) fills her script with pop culture references — from World of Warcraft to Mr. Miyagi from “The Karate Kid.” One of the inmates is even reading “The Fault In Our Stars.”
Like Green’s story, Kohan’s is hauntingly beautiful — filled with hope and heartbreak. Because no matter where the fault lies, prison’s supposed to be unjust.
“Orange Is the New Black” was written and created by Jenji Kohan.