Catching up? Check the tag.
My first thoughts on this episode is that it left me a little numb.
In a way that only OITNB (and possibly a handful of other shows) can, “Ching Chong Chang” was that bizarre mix of everything I wanted and nothing at all. The flashback seemed like a good way to fold in a backstory with a weekly theme, while also being a far too convenient story—that I fear will ultimately be dropped.
As we follow Chang around the prison, we’re treated to a look at her life before she arrived at Litchfield: the unwanted, “unattractive” sister who rose to power in a smuggling ring (I might’ve missed it, but I don’t think they ever actually said what position she held in the end?). It’s an interesting backstory, certainly colorful given the only intermittent flashes we’ve seen from Chang so far. It’s nice because it doesn’t seem to seek to explain much of Chang at any point; our view of her pre-prison life shows her trying to forget about the “ugly duckling” label she’s carried, but much of her activity in prison is purely observational. She makes Frito/pea balls in the microwave; she saves oranges; she reins herself in during an improv exercise.
All that is wrapped up tightly with an episodic discussion of what it means to be a woman, and perform feminity as a woman: Chang’s broken betrothal, the lingerie magazine (and all the intersectional privilege that comes with it), Marello’s creepy prison pen pal scheme. It’s as if OITNB is running through a list of boxes that allows it to facilitate a lot of important dialogue, but it also all feels a bit too neat.
Red hits it on the head when she’s confronting Healy, who’s still sour about her using him to get back in the kitchen. “I take advantage you get your feelings hurt. You forget that when I leave here, you lock me in behind you,” she spits at him. “You leave her with one coin—it’s tawdry and demeaning, but if she has to, she will spend it.”
The episode does a lot to advance several plots, actually. Red is (triumphantly) back in the kitchen. Piper has a new
flame friend. The prison’s privatization is starting to grind gears a bit. Poussey is longing for love in her life. But amidst the episode trying to do all that while also make compelling points about feminism (and, on the mid-back burner/not yet front-burner, the privatized prison complex) it left nothing with a lot of breathing room. They’re all there, and it’s arguably not even done poorly. But it’s so crowded that it’s hard to make out any nuance through the haze.
- Red velvet isn’t a thing. You heard it here folks.
- “God bless free market America of the United States” listening to Pennsatucky’s whole “viva la privatized prison” speech really through me for a loop. Strange to see how the other side (in this case southerners? Conservatives? People who are 100 percent behind this sort of thing?) lives. Also interested to see if Pennsatucky’s arc of acceptance continues through—what I’m predicting is—a rocky transition to the prison’s new owners.
- “All right, this is still prison, alright?”
- Cream in Carbonara sauce = vulgar. This week was filled with hot food takes.
- “We got the haircuts.”