There aren’t many shows that one feels inclined to binge watch in under a week, but Orange is the new black has retained that status for the 6th year in a row. Netflix have always been onto something golden with OITNB, by mixing must watch television with a wide ranging story of depth and characters you cannot help follow.
On the surface, a show about some middle class rich girl who gets incarcerated doesn’t inspire much towards the imagination, but since the early seasons the story has been so much more than it’s premise. And now after six years, the format still seems to work mostly, so here’s what I thought with keeping spoilers to the minimum.
What we knew before going into s6….
Season 5 was a story overhauling revelation. Although OITNB has a knack of always closing an episode on edge, there really wasn’t a dull moment during Litchfield’s real-time riot. Of course this was due to the fallout of Poussey Washington’s death, a central and much loved character, so the audience were for most of the part behind the inmates gripe and reasoning to revolt. Taystee’s search for ‘justice’ became a central theme but eventually became swallowed by the unruly with sympathetic Warden Joe Caputo becoming victim of that. The whole season finished with the death of Piscatella; a known to be corrupt and violent guard, with the smoking gun pointed to those who held out in the riot’s final moments….
And so s6 begins to recoup all the chaos and find some level of calm…
All of the well known faces are now in max, or maximum security. It’s a robust new world filled with new threats and possibilities. The first few episodes focuses on those who were at the center of last seasons riot. The prison higher ups are trying to pin blame on prisoners, many who were innocent of any wrong doings. This presents new challenges and even dilemma for some who begin to look after themselves and themselves only.
We soon learn max is a much more threatening place, with three separate blocks, two of which are run with a gang nature fueled by drugs and a rivalry of two sisters going back thirty years. This rivalry eventually becomes a central theme and pays off in the final moments of s6, a necessary vessel to carry the whole max experience.
New characters impress…
With the new environment comes an opportunity to present new characters and the OITNB trademark, back stories. We have the rival blocks and their leaders/sisters Carol and Barb, their story stretches back and reveals a semi pointless rivalry that they are only to blame for. A notable performance for me came from Deputy leader of ‘C’ block ‘Badison Murphy’; a convincingly depicted villain who reminded of that typical bad kid of the class. The deputy of ‘D’ block came in the form of ‘Daddy’ a semi pimp drug ‘controller’, who like everyone else had a story to tell.
Some of the guards from last time out are back, some with PTSD and we see their struggle which to me was a true human story confirming there are two sides of prison. Guards Luschek and McCullough were notable for their performances on both sides of the riot fallout spectrum, of course we got to see them mix with other guards and newer faces to the cast. They discover a game known as ‘fantasy inmate’, perhaps a crude version of fantasy football where guards can score points based on inmates trials and tribulations. This eventually becomes another central theme of the story.
The search for justice of Poussey takes an unexpected turn when we see Taystee being blamed for Piscatella’s death. Former warden Joe Caputo returns to try and aide the case in which runs throughout the series.
Of course OITNB isn’t complete without it’s main character Piper Chapman, whose prison experience is galvanized by maximum security and really completes her journey as a prisoner, the focus does lean towards her more this time around, and for that you’ll discover why at the season’s close. I found myself liking her performance along with her now prison fiance Alex.
Many of the usual faces were put in out of comfort situations this time around which sparked up new friendships and allegiances not seen before. This made for some entertaining combinations of characters who wouldn’t usually mix.
We only see those who were transferred to max from ‘camp’ so there are plenty of notable faces pretty much missing this time around (split up from the riot). With only 13 episodes a series this one could have easily stretched to 16 as I feel there were many loose ends yet to be tied up.
OITNB is still as good as the first season, it stays true to the original story and goes where you wouldn’t guess it would go. The cast were, many of which are famous for this show, great in every essence. This time the ending seemed less cliff hanger and perhaps a conclusion of such a journey for select characters. Saying that I shall certainly be ready for another season next year.
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