Random observation I didn't make last time: the credits include all the episode-specific info as well, so you never have credits going over the show. Huh.
So, before I get into the season as a whole, I have to say that "The Tip" is so much like "A Trip to the Dentist" it's not even funny. This was rather unexpected, because, you know, the riot was so last season. I figured the season premiere would pay lip service to the aftermath and then move on to something new. But no, they spend the entire season premiere talking about the events of the season finale. And how do they do it? They get someone to go around asking people what they remember. By piecing together the various accounts and seeing through the lies and withheld information, he discovers the truth is darker than he imagined.
Sound familiar? The kicker comes at the end, when the final verdict on the death of Scott Ross is that no one is to blame. Just like Veronica's rape, no one person could be held responsible. Hill comes to the same conclusion Veronica seems to: "If no one's to blame, then nothing bad happened." But Oz takes the notion one step darker: "If no one's to blame, nothing happened at all."
Holy shit, dude. Both episodes are about the fluid nature of truth, how you often have to make your own truth to move past whatever the actual truth may or may not have been. How the concept of blame is so important, so paramount in our justice system, that it can itself define what the truth is. Veronica has no legal recourse for the loss of her virginity, and the murder of Scott Ross will go down in the history books as an accidental death. This episode is...damn. Glynn, the man who a few episodes ago wanted to keep Groves alive so he could be executed as per the letter of the law, is now completely in favor of sweeping this murder under the rug. I really loved Charles S. Dutton (and apparently he won an Emmy, so go him), and even though he pulled the old "Who told you?"/"You just did" trick, I couldn't be too disappointed: it's a classic for a reason. Plus, Beecher bites off someone's dick.
"The Tip" kind of broke from the usual format (another way it resembled "A Trip to the Dentist," down to my pacing issues) in that there was a very direct plotline running through the episode. I'm still kind of enchanted with the way Oz works. Each episode still defines itself as an episode by centering on very specific themes (and Hill's narration can be both entertaining and annoying, with its blatant, Sex and the City-style metaphors), but rarely is there any sort of plot that begins in the beginning and ends in the end. If anything, there's a plot that begins in the middle and ends in the middle.
With that being said, I was kind of disappointed with some of the subplots in the second season. Shirley Bellinger just confused me at first, because she showed up at the ends of two consecutive episodes randomly, as if she were important. And I liked the scene where she came on to Father Ray and he was totally turned on. Then there was the random love note plotline, which culminated in...nothing, really. I didn't mind the whole thing so much because there aren't a lot of females on the show and she's kinda hot, but I didn't see what the point was. ohimesamamama tells me that she sets off some sort of chain reaction that becomes important later, so okay. Doesn't make it any more fulfilling in the short term.
And then what was up with Sister Peter Marie and the crazy guy who saw her husband being murdered? Did we even know her husband was pushed off a truck before now? And how could you hear the words "Sick, Amore, Street" and not immediately come up with "Sycamore Street"? This plotline was stretched out for like eleventy billion episodes, and I appreciate multi-episode plotlines, but I like them to be, you know, interesting. And have some sort of important resolution. The man gets toothpaste, yay. And Sister Peter Marie gets closure? Or something?
And the hole! Not the Hole, but the hole! I was really enjoying Rebadow's and the Mole's efforts to dig their retro hole out of Oz, and what happens at the end? THEY DON'T EVEN GET TO FUCKING USE IT. Sure, they kill some Nazis, good for them, but I felt gypped.
One thing that's bugged me hasn't changed: the use of flashbacks. I'm not talking about the normal ones that provide new information; those are cool and also remind me of Veronica Mars with their different coloring. I'm talking about all the exposition-y ones they throw at us as if we don't remember what happened in the last episode. One out of ten of those actually refreshes my memory in a positive way; most are just obtrusive and gratuitous. You don't have to show us what they're referring to, we can glean it from the dialogue, thank you.
Now that I've taken care of my major complaints, let's get to the characters. Because Oz isn't a show about things happening, it's a show about things happening to characters.
McManus: I think McManus gets a bad rap, and my opinion of him goes up and down, but I like him for the most part. I think we both share that sense of cynical idealism. He has such grand plans for Em City, and he's always trying something new. But what kind of cockamamie plan is it to deliberately segregate the inmates? To officially label groups as "the Muslims," "the Homeboys," "the Gays," and, for Christ's sake, actually having a group of "Others." Way to foster peace, love, and understanding, McManus. The education idea, though? Golden. And I like that he grows a backbone this season. Getting shot made him realize he doesn't need to take so much shit from everyone.
Another highlight is his relationship with Said. I like the conflict between them, and Said's reaction when McManus asks him for a favor. They both need each other, but they won't deign to admit that fact.
And then there's all the aftermath from "The Tip," which pervades the entire season, as he carries Whittlesey's secret around like an albatross. He hasn't yet spilled, and I can't wait to see what happens in the next season. I almost found it annoying that the issue kept coming up, but I think it's realistic, especially when Schillinger keeps holding onto it as leverage. Mmm, power struggles. Knowledge is power, my friend.
Whittlesey: Whittlesey is a murderer and a bitch and needs to go. I don't want her to die, she doesn't deserve that, but she deserves to get fired the fuck out of Oz so I never have to see her again. There is way too much shit wrapped up in her motivations for shooting Scott Ross for her to make the case that it was simply because he shot Tim. She saw a way to kill two birds with one bullet. And then emotionally manipulating McManus into lying for her? "If you really love me"? Bitch, please. Do not pull that shit. Go the fuck away.
Glynn: Ernie Hudson rocks. He had some good plotlines this season, with his daughter's rape and his brother's incarceration. I find his strict adherence to the law interesting in light of his moral ambiguity. Of course, there's not a character in this place who's not morally ambiguous. Okay, the religious figures are probably close, and I think McManus is probably the best man in the place (he's got a hell of a conscience, for one). But everyone is tainted, just by being there. You can't survive in that place if you're not a little gray.
Father Ray: He didn't get to do as much this season as he did last season. I liked that he was obviously very disgusted and judge-y with the child molesting priest. A little chink in the armor there, compared to Sister Peter Marie. But aw, he took him as his assistant.
Sister Peter Marie: I already complained about her major plotline. But I love her relationship with Beecher, and the fact that she told him that if he started drinking again, she'd kick his ass. And this was without making him feel bad for slipping the first time; she's cool like that.
Metzger: He reminds me of someone who looks stupid and annoying, and I think he's stupid and annoying. And also a Nazi. Christ, are all the hacks corrupt? It's getting repetitive. It was interesting in the first season, cause we got to know a couple of them tangentially, and they were always the ones responsible until they got caught. But I don't like this guy, and neither does McManus anymore, so I hope he gets caught soon.
Dr. Nathan: It's good to have an attractive female every now and then. She got to have some strong storylines this season and added some depth to her character.
O'Reilly: He's like the Lord of the fucking Dance, man. He's got moves. Oh, man. Funny thing is, I hated him at first. He had that kind of skinny sneering white boy look (like Jason Dohring), and he was responsible for the death of Dino Ortolani. See, I was liking Ortolani. I thought he was going to be a major character; I had no idea who the actor was or anything. But then he gets SET ON FUCKING FIRE. All because of that two-timing bastard O'Reilly.
Now, I love him so much. He's like the Krycek of the show (or, for a more modern reference, the Sark), the way he plays all sides against each other, only ever looking out for his own ass. You can sum him up in this hilarious exchange:
"I want you to rat on someone."
Dean Winters said that one day Eamonn Walker randomly exclaimed to him, "I've got it! You're fucking Iago!" The man was responsible for every death in the first season.
The alliances he forms are shaky at best. But OMG HE GETS CANCER. And also, holy crap, Glynn won't even pay for a decent operation. And then he falls in love with Dr. Nathan, which, Christ, this whole cancer/love storyline could have turned out so incredibly suckass, but instead it's awesome. He has her fucking husband killed. "Family Bizness" is a great episode. His love for Dr. Nathan is pure and sick, even though he has a hot wife.
And now he is being redeemed by the power of his love OMG O'REILLY IS SPIKE OMG. Except in Oz, redemption doesn't come easy, and it doesn't come cheesy. It didn't even strike me at the time that I was watching a redemption story, because I didn't see O'Reilly going through this radical change. But he wants to be there for his brother, and he wants to make things right for Dr. Nathan. He's doing these things because he wants to. He doesn't want to be this sainted, better person. He simply has goals he needs to be fulfilled. This is a man who had a man killed out of love; redemption is not going to be all gooey and sweet. I sincerely doubt he's going to stop playing people against each other and arranging murders, as long as his brother and Dr. Nathan are safe.
Said: Said is another of my favorite characters, and he got even more complex this season. Now, I realize he definitely puts the self in self-righteous. Hill and McManus can both see it, too. He helps people, ostensibly for their own good, but in truth, he's helping his own cause. I like that he acknowledged his faith in Allah can be shaken at times, because when he doesn't have that, what does he have? He has to realize that he does things so often for himself and not for Allah. He reminds me of Locke, the way he knows what's best for you and then forces those beliefs onto you.
Yet, it's still fascinating that everything he does, he does with good intentions. He may be megalomaniacal about it, but he never comes across as a villain. I keep forgetting why the hell he's even in prison. Of course, now he's in Oz by choice, so he gets to play that card when the time comes.
Poet: Poet got a storyline! All those random scenes first season where he was showcased, and now he finally gets to be an actual character. Good stuff. It tied in with McManus's education program, and as I said earlier, I love how he had to ask Said for a favor, and Said is like jigga what?
I was surprised when Poet actually got out. And then, like, within a week, he's back in! Ha! Poor guy. DRUGS ARE BAD.
There's one scene where the only time you see Poet in the episode is for maybe two seconds on the television, on the right side of the screen as the camera pans. And Wangler says, "It's motherfuckin' Poet, man! In a tux!" Totally random, but it adds so much to the world of Oz. I've begun to notice that the camera is used very efficiently on Oz. When it is in motion, everything is important. The shot will start on a paper bag full of alcohol, and Beecher will walk away with it, but the camera will not follow him. It will go to the others. It has already conveyed what it needs to. And when it is with the others, characters in the background will not just be extras, they will be characters we know. The camera will not call attention to them at all, but they will be there.
Adebisi: Adebisi, man. Fucking Adebisi. I wasn't an overly huge fan of him in the first season, because it seemed like he only cared about drugs, and he just bullied people a lot. He felt like a common thug. A big one, but common. This season, though, he's really grown into his position of power. He rules that kitchen. I think he's more fearful in the second season...what with the assrape and all. I feel like he's more in control of his machinations. The actor has such presence, besides. And his voice! So deep and strong.
I love that he's always wearing those headphones, and I love his little headphone dance. He just sways his entire body back and forth, it's awesome.
He's still common, though. I love that he discovers that you can turn poetry into drugs, so his first inclination is to ask Poet to teach him how to write. Heh. Except, bastard! Tearing up Wangler's book. Bitch is trying to read, bitch!
I find it amusing how Adebisi takes no shit from nobody, and flaunts his king-of-the-world-ness everywhere. When asked to take a urine test, he just takes off his pants and exposes himself right there.
And now he's getting in touch with his African roots. Interesting. Very cool scene where he decides not to take the Disneyland money "because sometimes, it's good to be human." It's like Jefferson Keane redux (speaking of Jefferson Keane, I was really liking him AND THEN HE DIED (and he's the only person I can think of who's pulled off a "NOOOOOOOO!!!")), and it seems rather sudden. Don't know why exactly he's having crazy visions and shit. Must be a combination of the detox and the influence. But it parallels nicely with Alvarez's fear of losing touch with his Latino roots.
Alvarez: Aw, I love Alvarez. I found him interesting in the first season, the fervor with which he wanted to save his baby, going to such lengths as to cut his own face as a deal with God. And the fact that his dad and grandfather are both in Oz too. So it was cool in the second season when he turned into a big gun, teaming up with Adebisi to try to take over the drug trade, all the while hoping to take it over himself.
And then El Cid comes in and fucks everything up. Suddenly, he's too white, and he's lost his power. Damn you, Wario! Driven to prove himself, he cuts out some dude's fucking eyes and ends up in solitary. Man, poor guy. He was just...he was just trying to prove himself, man! It was nothing personal! Don't beat the shit out of him!
Beecher: Man, I think Beecher changes more than any other character on the show. He has gone through some major ups and downs. Dude went completely batshit and shit on Schillinger's face, for crying out loud. And every time I think maybe he should stop getting so much revenge on Schillinger, I remember all the horrible things Schillinger did to him in the first season, and that was just what we saw.
The thing about Beecher is he's just an ordinary guy; he's not like all these other people. He's a victim of circumstance. This place is getting under his skin. He gets hooked on drugs that free him to blind Schillinger in one eye. His wife dies, and he turns to alcohol, his old friend.
I hated his facial hair, though. Crazy fuck.
Schillinger: Oh man. Speaking of crazy fucks. Before, I wanted Schillinger to die because he was such an evil bastard to Beecher. But now that Beecher is free of him, they're actively working against each other, and it's fucking awesome. Getting him slapped with a conspiracy to commit murder charge? Fucking sweet. Planting the seed in Beecher's head that he arranged his wife's suicide? Wicked.
I also like the way he twists his principles for personal gain, and I think many in Oz do this. He is staunchly against drugs, so much so that he is desperate to get out of his prison to make sure his sons don't turn to drugs (and that's something I like about him, his concern for his sons), but he is willing to traffic tits if it gets him something.
Another great thing about Schillinger? His plan is to let Beecher destroy himself. That way, he can't really be held accountable, can he? And if there's no one to blame, then nothing bad happened. Nothing happened at all.
Keller: Everyone loves Keller, apparently. I like him all right so far, the evil fuck. There's a great scene where he's talking to Schillinger, and he suddenly starts berating him and getting ready to attack. The shift is seamless, and we see that Beecher has just walked in. He spied well. And I tried to keep my eyes off his penis. There are a lot of penises on this show.
Hill: Hill got more storylines this season. I find him a pretty fun character when he's being himself. His recent obsession with ridiculous escape plans seemed weird, but I think it was a product of Said's giving him false hope. He'd never been that close to freedom before, so since he didn't get it, he needs it even more now. Don't suffocate, man!
Rebadow: I just have to mention my Rebadow love. I love that he's always right, and it's not because God talks to him, of course it's not. It's that he's goddamn perceptive, and he has eyes and ears.
Wangler: I fucking hate Wangler and he needs to die. He's a stupid fucking kid, and he does stupid fucking things. There was one bright shining moment where he started liking reading, but then he went back to being a fuckhead. Melanie says that everyone she shows Oz to makes a very specific point of hating Wangler. And that fucking basketball player. Stupid prick, though it parallels with all the other inmates who meet their heroes and have their dreams crushed.
I think that covers things, mostly. I'm not sure whether I like the second season more than the first. I think the first held together better, but there's a lot of awesome in the second that could not exist without the first. All I know is, I'm ready for the third, bitches.