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.
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