Orange Is the New Black, Episodes 201-213
Original airdate: June 6, 2014 on Netflix
Spoiler warning: This page may contain descriptions of events in this season.
Yes, critics reviewed season 2 of the Netflix hit Orange Is the New Black back in early June when all 13 episodes became available on the streaming service, but those reviews were only based on the first six episodes (which were provided to critics in advance). Now that critics have had a chance to watch the entire season of Jenji Kohan's dramedy, and the show has picked up a dozen Emmy nominations (albeit for last year's first season), it's time to check back in with reviewers to see how they felt about the season finale and the season as a whole.
Below are comments from a variety of TV critics (including additional sources beyond our usual roster of reviewers) about OITNB's entire second season and/or its final episode; click on any publication name to read the full review/article. Reviews are grouped loosely into categories based on how much critics liked the series, but scores are only displayed if a publication provided an exact score or grade for the season as a whole.
Extremely positive reviews
Orange Is The New Black remains one of the most engaging series on the air even if it would be tough to label it as the most precise or consistent. It introduced a character [Lorraine Toussaint's Vee] that risked stabilizing its storytelling, but pulled it off with strong casting and a satisfying "resolution" with plenty of long-term consequences.
Did it take the leap into true greatness? I sure think so. It's time to start mentioning this right up there with "Mad Men" and "House of Cards" and "Game of Thrones" and all the other great drama shows that television has turned out recently. This second season was a flawless, fascinating masterpiece of television drama, and the wait for next year's release is going to be particularly excruciating.
Orange Is the New Black's stunning second season manages to be ambitiously large and somehow intimate. It's the equivalent of a pointillist painting: From up close each dash and dot has its own individual identity and meaning, but when viewed at a distance, they coalesce into something altogether different and dependent on its parts.
The Daily Beast
From beginning to end, I think I enjoyed this season of OITNB more than any other series on TV ... But I couldn't shake the feeling that there was way too much plot the writers needed to tie up by the time it ended, to the point that I could also see them ticking boxes off a check list as they got to each story line.
Orange Is the New Black might be the closest thing we have to Charles Dickens right now: a sharp denunciation of an arcane system, driven by hardscrabble characters with whimsical names that define who they are and what they like.
It was hilarious at times, heartbreaking at others, sometimes scary, sometimes moving, always watchable and often brilliant. It was, in other words, "Orange Is the New Black," and I'm so glad it remains such a prominent part of the TV landscape.
It's billed as a comedy for certain awards purposes and it's a deft mixture of comedy, drama and melodrama, but the underlying anger was especially apparent in "OITNB's" tremendously satisfying second season. ... Even more than "The Wire" -- a very complex and deep deconstruction of that old TV standby, the cop show -- "OITNB" has found ways to make its animating fury extraordinarily palatable and attractive.
New York Observer
More daring than the first season, which stuck only to the characters directly in contact with (ostensible) protagonist Piper Chapman, the new OITNB is even more of an ensemble piece, allowing almost every other inmate at Litchfield Prison a chance to eclipse the world's most intolerably entitled inmate.
The New Yorker
By the finale, Season 2 is stronger than Season 1, largely because it's more uncompromising about its characters, at once more nuanced and more damning. ... Season 2 is also more efficient about its storytelling: small details planted early on—the head cook Gloria's ability to curse her enemies with candles, for instance—pay off wittily, and there's a fable-like wholeness that the first season lacked.
Orange is simply loaded with marvelously drawn characters that are different from any to be found in pop culture. ... Other fine TV series succeed by populating a limited setting with an engaging few characters and telling entertaining stories; Orange creates an entire world, one as likely to be hilarious as heart-stopping. Even where a given plotline is subpar (Daya spending much of the season wanting Bennett to admit his paternity and go to jail himself never made much sense, and no one needed the Larry/Polly romance), the overall scale of Kohan's creation is remarkable.
What an extraordinary piece of work Kohan has created: a show that is brimming with rich, complex characters, and that looks and sounds like nothing else on TV (or Netflix) right now.
The second season [is] darker, deeper, more ambitious ... Like many great ensemble shows before it–Deadwood, The Wire–the show is dedicated to the idea that just about any supporting character in one episode could be the lead another time. Or almost any. If there was one universal criticism of the second season, it was that Larry–and by extension, every element of Piper's life and family outside the prison–needs to go.
Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez
Tom + Lorenzo
If you'd asked us after the final episode, we'd have said the season ended on an up note. Maybe that's because it was so finely crafted and we more or less got a definitive ending out of it, which is rare enough in television that it should be treasured. There's plenty to come for next season, but we ended this one very satisfied, as if we were closing the cover on a book we enjoyed.
Overall, there's very little to dislike about the newest from OITNB and much to love.
It was better than Season 1 in almost every way imaginable. ... I'm still concerned for the future of the series and worried that Orange Is the New Black will become one big clown car of ridiculousness, but for 13 Season 2 episodes, the series got it right.
The first season took a little bit too sharp a turn towards the dark and dramatic, with Pornstache and Pennsatucky injecting over-the-top ugliness into this sweet show. The second season introduced its troublesome complications in a more convincing, watchable way, by having Vee subtly manipulate the prison environment so that it became a more dangerous place. I liked that. Still, there's something hollow about this ending. ... The fact that every single one of [the characters'] gambles more or less worked out not only seems a bit too convenient—it makes the show less serious.
Overall, OITNB did falter a bit in its sophomore year, but it was consistent in its faltering. Basically, anytime the show moved away from depicting the stories of the female prisoners, besides Piper, it lost its footing. ... Unfortunately, this season also spent inordinate amount of time focusing on the men who work at Litchfield. ... But when OITNB was focused on the politics of prison it was as electric as it's always been.
The Daily Beast
Up until the final handful of episodes, OITNB was a bit of a letdown, but the final few really redeemed the season and tied things up nicely.
I wasn't fully crazy about the final two episodes of the season. A mixed bag, at best. Some things worked wonderfully, while others felt too neatly wrapped up. Compared to Season 1's ending, Season 2 felt like it had hospital corners. ... [But] Orange continued its strong tradition of being both heartbreaking and hilarious.
What do you think?
What did you think of OITNB's second season? Let us know in the comments section below.