Orange is the New Black Season 5: The drama is grimmer, faster, and more chaotic
When Orange is the New Black debuted in 2013, the show became one of its kind: It completely stripped the male characters of their importance, sidelined them, and prided itself on taking a particular topic and deconstructing it for an episode or more.
Also it told the story of what was going on in a woman's prison, a territory that was not covered in such depth by any mainstream media source.
As we go to the fifth season of Orange is the New Black, we first must address the cliffhanger the show left us at, in Season 4.
A quick recap
During a prison-wide protest, CO Baxter Bayley ends up killing Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley), a beloved character since the start of the series. What's worse is that Poussey's dead body remains on the prison floor for an entire day as the authorities debate how to handle her death before ultimately covering it up.
Since the death is covered up, several inmates begin marching through Litchfield prison, rally others along the way, and soon enough the entire prison is rioting through the walls about how they have been treated throughout the season.
The guards are clearly outmatched against the inmates but Humphrey, the hated CO, attempts to whip out a gun he had snuck inside. The character had already had been on the hit list for the inmates: he made Maritza eat a baby mouse at gunpoint, or egged on two inmates to fight against each other.
So when short tempered Daya (Dascha Polanco) points it right at Humphrey's face, the inmates cheer.
Season 4's cliffhanger ended at this point. Since season 4 was one of Orange is the New Black's best, will the fifth season be able to match it?
Season 5 brings with it many challenges: the show's previous model for 4 seasons was that each episode had an agenda, where certain characters were pushed to the front while others sort of disappear.
This season in contrast takes place in a matter of three days and the intensity of the prison riot is packed into 72 hours. So yes — it is more intense, more gripping, a sort of like the first few seasons of the Kiefer Sutherland starrer 24, but with a few moments of good comedy.
Coming to the storyline, does Daya pull the trigger?
As the other prisoners circle them and try to convince Daya to pull the trigger, Humphrey begins to plead for his life. He starts telling Daya a story in Spanish about how he used to catch frogs as a kid and that he has two sisters.
Daya then does end up pulling the trigger, but in way that she doesn't end up killing him, just merely injuring him.
What's going on in Season 5
Following this, the inmates separate along with the divulging storylines as Litchfield gets sealed shut and confusion sets in. The inmates create a list of their demands where they try and find a real change to the brutal conditions of the privatised prison system they face — which is the ultimate tribute to Poussey's death.
A few scenes that stand out in the season are when the inmates team up to have coffee together after finding coffee in the guards' break room.
Marisol Gonzales and Maritza Ramos' (aka Maritza and Flaca) attempt to become YouTube makeover stars is also really funny.
On the other hand, the story arc where Poussey's best friend Taystee (Danielle Brooks), Cindy, Alison, and Janae start using social media and negotiation in the computer room to bring about change is the best this season. The inmates use the internet when everyone in Litchfield is in the midst of chaos.
Though Piper is sort of sidelined, the three days still continue with Piper (Taylor Schilling) and Alex's 'will they won't they' relationship dilemma, and it sort of gets a bit stretched and unnecessary amidst the chaos.
This season instead of using the flashback narrative to build on how the inmates ended up in jail or highlight a quirky part of their past, Season 5 uses flashbacks to emphasise on the the sort of person they have become in prison, and the families they are trying to get back to.
This creates a more intense, emotional tone for the show, rather than the dramedy — with brief but intense bits of drama that we are used to. Since the episodes are set in a matter of three days and the situation is very intense, it was hard to laugh along with the comedy put in this season.
But the emotional drama — and characters like Taystee and Daya keep you wanting to come back for more.
The scene where we see Poussey again (in one of Taystee's flashbacks) is also the highlight of the show. Taystee touches on how the two met and became best friends: both of them are doing their 'rich-white-lady' impressions at the time when Taystee has just arrived at Litchfield.
The last episode, not unlike the Season 4 cliffhanger, brings a sense of shock to the show. Without giving too much away — the inmates of Litchfield prison are in for a major shakeup.
Netflix has already renewed the prison dramedy for two more seasons, so there's a lot of intersting storylines to explore. And since each season arrives in June, we can expect season 6 in June 2018 hopefully?
(All images courtesy Netflix)