Orange Is The New Black Season 5 IMHO
Orange is the New Black (aka OITNB) has been quite the rage. It’s one of the Netflix original series that gives the service some true value above and beyond the Hollywood movies, and this one has really obtain both a good following and a cult following. Season 5 was very eagerly anticipated because the season 4 cliffhanger left the prison on the edge of a full scale riot, with Daya holding a gun on two guards. It was a pretty intense moment, and we all got stuck right there for most of a year.
Well, season 5 came along and the payoff is pretty good, at least on the surface. After 4 seasons of simmering anger, rapes, budget cutbacks, crap food, and an endless list of abusive COs, the riot is pretty much all you expect it to be and a little more. Many of the story arcs over this year play out because of smart phones, tablets, and phones that are taken from guards, offices, and so on. It allows the characters to communicate with the outside world and story lines develop from there.
Season 5 is literally the riot from A to Z, what is a short three days that gets played out over 13 episodes. It means that the timeline is very intimate and near real time, but it also comes off a little forced. It also exposes perhaps the weakness of what happens when you have a very large ensemble cast: characters either get neglected or get only token onscreen time if they are not firmly attached to the main storyline.
There are plenty of interesting developments. The first couple of episodes have really a whole lot to do with both the riot and the grieving over the death of Poussey at the hands of a guard. It also has the different groups sort of marking off their territory for the duration, with Taystee and her girls pretty much ending up at the top of the riot as the chief negotiator and sort of “most powerful person” in the whole affair. Taystee really does ends up as the lens through which both sides end up focused. Her choices and her actions including seemingly letting the negotiations fail in the last episode are key to how the season turns out.
Some characters got very remarkable stories. Brook Soso was at the front of the mourning crowd, having really fallen in love with Poussey near the end of season 4, her loss was perhaps larger than other people’s but a little more secret. It takes her a few episodes to come out of that shell, but in the end she leads the tribute to her fallen friend with a very powerful display. As a character, she certainly matured and grew in this season.
Nicky (Natasha Lyonne) also gets a pretty pivotal position in this season, playing shrink and drug dealer from the dispensary area of the prison. While she doesn’t really do anything particularly over the top, she certainly does guide (and misguide) many of the other characters over the season.
Red is almost comedic for about 2/3 of the season until towards the climax where she becomes quite the focal point. The more mature members of the cast all generally went into hiding in the converted swimming pool, smoking pot and shooting the breeze. They stayed above things until things came to them.
Flaca and Maritza provide some good comedy through the season as they set up a you tube channel and become minor internet celebrities, on the way finding out that they really are best of friends. That adds to the sadness at the end as they are loaded into separate buses away from the prison, perhaps never to see each other again.
The best of the season though goes to Crazy Eyes. Once again she stole every scene she was in, really lighting the screen up and causing more than a few story link redirections. Everything about this character is amazing, deep, well thought out, and funny in that odd sort of way. Seven and a half hours is really important!
Most disappointing characters this season for me are Piper and Alex. For the two people who are suppose to be the stars and focus of the show, their story lines were mostly ineffective. Alex tried to reveal he bad acts and got a group shrug, and Piper ended up helping the negotiation group but in such a secondary was that most of her work seemed to be standing around scowling at people.
Most missed person this season was Lolly. Lori Petty played a remarkable intense character that end up in the Psych ward at the end of season 4, and never made it back in season 5. That’s really too bad, she was awesome!
Overall, trying to turn 3 short days into 13 episodes is a pretty brave move by the show’s writers and producers. They mostly pulled it off, the show was certainly entertaining enough. In terms of season 6, the end of season 5 allows for cleaning house, literally and figurative. The prison itself will certainly have to be cleaned up and probably modified, but more importantly the cast has been all distributed to other establishments, at least for now. So the writers and show runners are not under much obligation to bring any or all of them back. The show could return to following Piper as she settled into a new prison with entirely new characters and new situations, or she could be returned to Litchfield only to find that most of the other familiar faces haven’t made the trip back. The show could certainly use this time to clear away the excessively wide supporting cast and replace them with new faces and new issues.
Perhaps the closing scenes are the most telling. The guards found Frieda (Dale Soules) side by side with Suzanne (Uzo Aduba), Black Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore), Red (Kate Mulgrew), Taystee (Brooks), Piper (Taylor Schilling), Alex (Laura Prepon), Nicky (Natasha Lyonne), Gloria (Selenis Leyva) and Blanca (Laura Gomez) in their swimming pool hide out. That is perhaps the best indication of the ongoing cast for next season. Remember, OITNB has been renewed all the way through season 7, so there are at least 26 more episodes to come from the knockout Netflix original!