Monday, August 29, 2016

OITNB 4: Prison breaks everyone

Previously on Orange is the New Black: Chapman became the leader of an illegal women's underwear mafia. Ruby Rose came to Litchfield as Stella and shacked up with Chapman for business and pleasure only for the latter to send her to max. Nichols went to max, too. Burset went to SHU. CO Bennett ran off to God knows where taking Daya’s How-to-be-a-Mother-while-in-Prison storyline with him. Poussey saved Soso from drug overdose. Morello got married. Crazy Eyes had a girlfriend. Doggett was raped by CO Donuts (not his real name obviously), causing her to bond with Big Boo. Private corporation, MCC, is running the prison with double bunk beds and stricter correctional officers (COs). And everybody had a swim in the nearby lake except for Vause who was busy fighting for her life in the greenhouse, and Chang who was busy enjoying a quiet shower.

I wasn’t able to write about all this last year because I could not and would not allow myself to focus on anything not Bar Exams-related. Thank god that boring part of my life is over.

Season 4: The darkest Orange season to date.

Season 1 was all about Piper and her penchant for wrong decisions. Season 2 showed us how prison changes the inmates and their family and friends. Season 3 showed us how prison can be home, and the inmates, family.

For me, the recurring theme of Season 4, Orange’s darkest season to date, is this: Prison breaks everyone.

Norma sings for Soso. A throwback of sorts to when Poussey sang at the Chistmas show in Season 1 when Norma couldn't.

Orange, as a whole, is not a TV series for the faint-hearted. I knew this going into this season. But Season 4 was something else. All inmates experienced their worst fears—for Chapman it was living with the consequences of her actions (i.e. a grotesque tattoo of a window); for Vause it was killing someone with her bare hands; for Aleida it was living outside of prison; for Nichols it was being someone else other than an addict; for Morello it was knowing that she drives people away but couldn't help it; for Maritza it was eating a baby mouse (for this fact alone Humphrey takes Healy’s place as the worst CO of all time in my book); for Lolly it was facing the reality that we couldn't travel back in time no matter how hard we try; for newbie inmate Hapakuka it was turning into someone she hated; and for Taystee and Soso it was losing the person they depended on the most in prison.

Getting branded with a swastika by Ruiz and her group scared Piper enough to burst the bubble of invincibility that she has surrounded herself with ever since she started her illegal business and white people task force. She realized she was not untouchable to her co-inmates and, moreso, to Piscatella and his private army. She was, like everyone, susceptible to being on the receiving end of violence or injustice. And she needed her family back.

Piper reached out to Alex and—for the first time since the show started in 2013—I had hope for these two. In three seasons, they have repeatedly and intentionally hurt and lied to each other more times than I could count. Prison has broken Vauseman repeatedly in the past, but it could bring them back together again. This season's version of Vauseman is the one I like the most because it’s the most supportive and connected they have been since we knew them.

Vauseman agreeing to do easy

The prison is breaking Daya. Daya has always been that girl protected by her baby-daddy or her Latina mothers or the Dominican women. For the first time since she entered prison, Daya will be alone in Season 5 to deal with the consequences of her actions (see photo below). I am excited to see her character grow into someone after four seasons of being in the background. Even if her growth may seem to be not for the better.

Oh, Daya.

Prison broke Caputo. Since Season 1, Caputo has always been an ally to the inmates. Someone who listened to them and saw them as persons, as human beings. A rare quality to find in Litchfield nowadays. But somehow, him allowing MCC and Linda from Purchasing to walk over him and his principles broke the Caputo we know. We see brief glimpses of his humanity when he was convincing CO Bayley to quit his job before the incident in the cafeteria happened and when he called Poussey's dad before the presscon, but these glimpses fade into the darkness as we listen to him defend MCC at the close of Season 4.

Sometimes people's intentions get warped. Like light through an evil person. (Crazy Eyes, S04E11)

Prison broke the COs, too. The ones that left, the good guys, were broken when they left Litchfield. They are now waiters and parking guards dealing with bad health and low-paying multiple jobs. The ones that arrived, Season 4’s biggest bads so to speak, were already broken and broke the inmates more than they could break each other. Sending Nichols to max broke CO Luschek. Raping Doggett broke CO Donuts. CO Humphrey was the easiest to hate but the rest—yes I’m looking at you Stratman, Dixon, McCollough and Blake—just standing there doing nothing to stop the different instances of abuses doesn’t make me hate them less. CO Piscatella was the scariest because he was smarter and bigger than most and cared the least. The most dangerous of combinations, if you ask me.

Season 4's Biggest and Baddest

Speaking of hate, CO Healy has always been my most hated living person on Litchfield. But it did not make seeing him break more bearable.

Mr. Healy, off to his own Safe Place.

Seeing CO Bayley’s story unfold was heartbreaking. A kid that will never be the same again after what happened to him in prison. And to think he viewed the Litchfield gig as an in-between-jobs thing.

Piper was correct: they grow up too fast.

Prison kills people, too. A number of characters have come and gone but Poussey’s death hurt the most because it was sudden and heartbreaking. We expected Tricia to die because of drug addiction, Miss Rosa because of her illness, and Vee because of her inherent evilness. But Poussey was a curveball. She has been kind, loyal, hopeful and in perfect health—the ideal character to kill off to make her death resound two or three seasons down the road. It was painful to go through but it was necessary.

It was sad, yes, but it was tastefully done. We, the audience, was fortunate to have had the opportunity to say goodbye to someone we hold dear. To see the best night of Poussey’s life. To have a smiling Poussey as a last image of her we see. An opportunity Taystee, Soso, Crazy Eyes, Black Cindy and Janae did not have. But they, more than us, have to live with her absence in the seasons to come.

Toast can never be bread again the same way we will never be the same without you, dear Poussey.

CO Dixon said it best, an inmate’s death was something CO Bayley has to get over. We all have to get over this, as it is only the beginning.

Orange is renewed up to Season 7. More heartbreaks, and hopefully triumphs too, are in store for us, but we have to be willing to take the messy and uncomfortable ride. Red said it best when she said, Some things can't be rushed.

What's next: How will the prison survive the Poussey riot? How will Poussey's death affect Litchfiled and its inmates? What will happen to Daya? Can Vauseman do easy? Will Healy be back? How will Bayley live with himself after this? Will there be more douche COs? How can Litchfield fit more inmates?


You may notice that I did not mention the whole Judy King storyline because it was, for me, superfluous and unnecessary, and the Dominicans-take-over-the-prison thing because it seemed, as a friend said and I agreed with her, overdone. That’s all I have to say on those points.


You may want to read my other Orange related blog entries:

Orange is the New Black Season 1
Orange is the New Black Season 2

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