While Orange is the New Black has never been one of my alltime favorite shows, I always gladly saw it. It was original, new, fresh, funny and more importantly: it had significant, current and serious storylines. For instance, season 4 revolved around Black Lives Matter, with the shocking death of Poussey Washington at it’s end. OITNB has influential characters like Sophia Burset, a transgender inmate portrayed by transgender actress Laverne Cox. Season 5 sadly lacks any real important storylines and is more a comedy than a drama, or even a dramady.
Prison Riot in Litchfield
Season 5 of OITNB picks up exactly where season season 4 left us: Daya has a gun pointed at the horrible guard Humphrey (Humps) and all hell is about to break loose. Honestly, it doesn’t help that it’s Humps who is at the receiving end of the gun. He is such a sociopath, I wonder if anyone would really terribly mind if Daya did shoot him. And of course eventually, she does, but ‘only’ in the leg.
Maybe because of the impact that creates, maybe because of the gun, maybe because of luck; but the inmates manage to take several guards hostage. This creates a break between the prisoners: some want to have fun with the guards, some want to use them to get their demands. Either way, a hostage situation is here and takes 3 days to eventually end. The entire season 5 of OITNB takes place during those 3 days. This new narrative just doesn’t work. While it certainly is original, there is so much more the writers could have done with it. [continues below image]
Talentshow and coffeebar
Instead, we are left with these weird situations that don’t do anything to improve the main storyline and makes the characters into laughing stock. First things first though: WHY is Sophia almost completely left out of season 5? She gets a shitty storyline helping the nurse at the infirmary, leaves to see her friend in the Max and we never see her again for the rest of the season. Stupid move, OITNB writers. This show needs Sophia. She’d better be back in season 6. Now, we have to watch scenes at a coffeebar built by inmates. There’s even a small stage for poetry and did you know? Coffee can bring people of colour and nazi’s to work together in perfect harmony! Coffee truly is MAGIC.
But, the most infuriatingly ludicrous storyline of the entire fifth season is without a doubt the talentshow. They make the hostages perform during a talentshow and you know what? I don’t even have the words for how incredibly STUPID this was. This was by far some of the worst television I have seen this year. And I saw the entire first season of Iron Fist. Other terrible storylines include: locking people up in ‘the poo’; everything related to Piper (I dislike her sooooooo much. It’s good to see the show doesn’t focus on her anymore); the flashbacks for Linda being a sorority sister; Linda in general; the make-overs for Alex and Nicky; Red and Flores being crazy while looking for evidence; every scene with Judy King.
It’s as if the writers wanted every character to have at least a basic storyline in this new narrative, but it just doesn’t work. There is too much going on, and that takes away the core of the season, which should revolve around the backlash of Poussey’s death. But characters like Pennsatucky, Angie and Leanne are just… there. They have no major impact on anything but since they deserve screentime, the writers just wrote weird and uninteresting arcs for them. This season is just all over the place.
Even the good storylines turn out bad
Let’s start with Piscatella. He’s obviously a bastard, and a great OITNB villain. They even try to make him more human. First there are the guards (FBI? National Guard? Dudes from the Max? I couldn’t tell) who keep ‘forgetting’ his name. And his flashbacks are actually quite touching. It shows that Piscatella once was a lovely, caring man. And it kinda makes sense that he wants to infiltrate the prison. So up to there, everything is awesome (Lego movie pun intended).
It even makes sense Piscatella is after Red, and that he wants to humiliate her in front of her family. It is complete crap though, that he would abduct all of them an tie them up just to scalp Red. His villainy was always more of a mental kind and they should have sticked with that. While it’s certainly very disturbing to watch, and it’s acted out great by all, this is not the season 4 Piscatella. The writers favor violence over character development. And that’s why it’s even more of a shame that Piscatella ultimately dies. It’s as if the writers just didn’t know what to do with him anymore.
Unwanted comic relief
The only GREAT storyline is Taystee’s (and her friends). This is what the entire season should have revolved around. The mourning friends of Poussey who want justice for their friend. And since they’re suddenly in the position to make demands, they go around the prison to see what everyone wants. They end up with a great list of pretty reasonable demands. Taystee’s struggle to get through to the outside world and the negotiations that follow, almost make up for the terrible rest of the season. This arc is the most important this season and should have gotten more screentime.
As a subplot, Poussey’s girlfriend Soso makes a librabry in her honour and it’s just so perfect. I love that Poussey makes a cameo in Taystee’s flashback to show us how they met. The grieve, anger and sadness that Taystee and all her friends feel, is so well acted. Danielle Brooks is without a doubt the star of this season. Please give her an Emmy nomination for this!. But even this amazing storyline is pissed on by the writers, who thought the sexual tension between Caputo and Figueroa should give the negotiation some comic relief. While it’s not the worst comedy of the season (they do have amazing chemistry), the timing is really off.
OITNB Season 5 Conclusion
It’s not all bad. The storylines for Taystee and Piscatella are the best of the season. There are some good flashbacks for some more character backstories. Frieda was a delight to watch, as was ‘Flaritza’. Flaca and Maritza made the only wanted comedy this season. The motherly love from Gloria and Maria is very believable, as they would both do anything for their children. There is some amazing acting. But this new narrative structure just didn’t work, as there was too much going on at any time. There hardly was any character development and the supid things like the talent show were just hard to watch. OITNB is still a very bingewatch-worthy show, but this clumsy season and the boring AF cliffhanger makes me wonder if I will pick up season 6 at all.