There have been whisperings online about Season Two of OITNB being “meh,” and/or “not as good as the first season.” I’ve been trying to ignore the tweets and Facebook statuses as much as possible, especially because the first three episodes were, in my opinion, highly captivating. But “Low Self Esteem City” is a letdown and I can only hope that the next episode will do more with these characters we’ve come to adore.
First we have Gloria’s backstory, which is not as complicated as some others we’ve experienced and is, sadly, not especially uncommon for women of her demographic. She finds herself stealing from the government via food stamp fraud, and she’s also a victim of domestic violence. It feels like there’s a story behind this story—behind her abusive relationship—but we never get to that.
There is an attempt to connect her past with her present, as she takes on the tough guy position with the shower situation. The Latinas cannot use their own showers due to plumbing issues that we know will never be resolved (not at $80,000 a pop), and so they head in for the takeover. Seeing the women face off is complicated by the scenes where we watch Gloria cower before her boyfriend. In prison, she is in charge and people answer to her. But on the outside she was a battered woman—afraid to fight back and afraid to leave. This works to align her with all of the other Litchfield inmates who, ultimately, ended up in prison because they were afraid of something (poverty, rejection, hate), and that fear led them to their various crimes.
But even this connection isn’t especially powerful, and everything else in the episode feels entirely too fluffy—some stuff happens but, really, what happens? Prison guard Healy seeks advice from Red about his Russian doll… er… wife. Healy also ends up granting Piper that furlough, though we can only imagine what he has up his sleeve. Vee tricks Gloria into opening up positions in her kitchen and custodial staff. That scene between the two of them had so much potential! But it was clear from the beginning that Vee was playin’ possum with her fake tears and fake quivering lips, so the payoff was not especially strong. And we still don’t what her master plan is, since now the black women are taking 30-second showers. There’s also a sex contest going on. Obviously.
And, strangely enough, I really missed seeing Larry and Polly together. What’s that all about?
“Fuck Clive Owen. Don’t ever let go.” (Red)
“I hate talking to women about women’s issues. It’s… creepy.” (Healy)
Eff Yeah Sideboob Tuesdays.
Shannon M. Houston is Assistant TV Editor at Paste, and a New York-based freelance writer with probably more babies than you. You can follow her on Twitter.