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As Scene on TV: "Orange Is the New Black"

Orange is the New Black: “Thirsty Bird” – Piper’s Transferred

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Season one of Orange is the New Black ended on a nail-biter of a cliffhanger.  Series protagonist Piper was assaulted by the meth-head Jesus Freak Pennsatucky, leaving Piper to defend herself in a violently bloody brawl.  The season ended with the audience uncertain whether Pennsatucky lived or died, and what consequences would fall upon Piper.   After nearly eleven months, the second season premiered, only to further delay answers. 

http://youtu.be/MzS7msRMNck

Throughout the series, Piper has served as the “every man” eyes and ears inside the US prison system.  As a college educated, middle class career woman, Piper has more in common with many Netflix viewers than the uneducated blue-collar woman who comprise the majority of the prison population.  Throughout the season, we’ve been astonished with her as she’s navigated the prison world.

The premiere episode of season two brings us even more intimately to Piper’s state of mind, as her time spent wondering what fate will befall her for her actions mirrors the fan frenzy that has swirled since season one.  We can see that her time in solitary has allowed Piper to sink into a troubled state, where her only comfort comes from creating art from her breakfast eggs.

When the guards arrive and order Piper out, she’s as confused as we.  Neither the audience, nor Piper, knows Pennsatucky’s fate.  While Piper struggles with her guilt, the audience yearns for an answer.  When she’s transferred, Piper assumes this is a reaction to Pennsatucky’s likely death, inferring her information from minimal exposition, just as the television-savvy audiences are wont to do.

It’s not until well into the episode that we learn the real reason for Piper’s transfer, and it’s not until the start of the second episode that we learn what happened to Pennsatucky, and how their violent confrontation will impact Piper’s sentence.  In some shows, stringing out these reveals could feel like a cheap attempt to maintain dramatic tension.  In Orange is the New Black, however, the lack of information leads to greater empathy for Piper, and by extension, all of the prison population who face regular dehumanization in a variety of ways, including the withholding of pertinent information.  By withholding catharsis from the audience, Orange is the New Black symbolically helps us identify with the prisoner characters.

Angela Jorgensen originally hails from Iowa. She currently resides in Los Angeles and aspires to write for hour-long television dramas. She’s currently producing a documentary called The Longest Straw [www.thelongeststraw.wordpress.com].

As Scene On TV: "Game of Thrones"

Game of Thrones: “Viper and the Mountain” – Sansa’s Testimony

A few weeks ago, we took a look at a Game of Thrones episode, touching on how the scene used implication and insinuation to paint a more vivid picture than an explicit conversation could have conveyed.  Today, we’ll take a look at a different Game of Thrones scene, in which Sansa shows unusual character development by lying to cover for her aunt’s murderer during Petyr Baelish’s trial.

http://www.hbo.com/video/video.html/?autoplay=true&vid=1381053&filter=game-of-thrones&view=null#/

Prior to this point, Sansa has been a captive, passive, frightened character.  Amidst badasses and independent women, Sansa has served as an unlikeable, simpering girl who’s too frightened to become a woman.  While her characterization is consistent, and while Sansa’s had her reasons to be passive, particularly after seeing much of her immediate family killed for stepping out of line, Sansa’s character trajectory has not given any indication that she’s developed the sort of cunning necessary to lie on the witness stand, as she does on this scene.

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Ironically, in this scene, Sansa’s prior passivity is her greatest strength here.  She plays at being traumatized by her aunt’s “suicide,” a wide-eyed bystander in a series of unfortunate but innocent mistakes on the part of Petyr.  A known plotter like Petyr can’t be taken at his word, but sweet, young Sansa can be believed, a fact that Sansa exploits to her advantage as she corroborates Petyr’s story, then demonstrates her own power over him.  

Her final look up at him, while clichéd and somewhat choreographed, still serves as a power-move on Sansa’s part, an acknowledgement that while she helped Petyr, it is ultimately she who holds the power in this circumstance, and she’s aware of that fact and willing to exploit it.

Like the last post covering Game of Thrones, this scene doesn’t happen in the books, and is a whole-cloth invention of the show.  However, as the show doesn’t have the benefit of giving viewers a first-hand look at each character’s thought process, scenes like this, that demonstrate character change, are necessary.  After nearly three full seasons of being used as a pawn at King’s Landing, it’s time for Sansa to take initiate, as she does at her first opportunity.

Angela Jorgensen originally hails from Iowa. She currently resides in Los Angeles and aspires to write for hour-long television dramas. She’s currently producing a documentary called The Longest Straw [www.thelongeststraw.wordpress.com].