The Netflix dramedy enters it’s final stage but still manages to shake things up
Without a doubt, running a television show is the hardest job in the entertainment industry. In the first season you tell the story you want, then it surprisingly becomes a hit and you have the challenge of the dreaded second season. But once you make it out of that you can peacefully tell your full story. But then comes another hard part, deciding when to end it.
Netflix’s show (one of its original streaming shows), “Orange is the New Black” is approaching this challenge. In its sixth season (which premiered last Friday), creator Jenji Kohan shows the consequences that the inmates at Litchfield face after the riot in season five.
The sixth season picks up a week after the last moment in season five, when the inmates are being found by guards, ending the riot in a failure. The inmates in the pool (Piper, Nicky, Tasystee, Gloria, Suzanne, Red, Gloria, Cindy, Freda, Alex, etc) are divided into separate blocks in the maximum security prison. They’re investigated by police forces hoping to figure out who to blame for the riot, who will go to trial or take a plea deal, and get extra time on their prison sentence. While all of this is happening, the inmates are also meeting their new neighbors and learning of the intense rivally betwen C Block and D Block, pitting them against eachother.
As usual with Orange, the first couple of episodes are all over the place. The audience (and characters) are adjusting to the new environment and characters while also figuring out what happend to each other (the characters don’t know where everyone else is, let alone if they’re okay or not). Simply putting, so much happens in so little time. Kohan throws too much at us too fast, giving the new characters more screen time than the original cast which just shows how important it is to Kohan that we, the audience, like them. Since there’s a heep of new characters, we also don’t see every familiar face we’ve seen on the show. This season, the show focuses only on the ‘main’ cast of Orange’s large ensemble (the people in the pool at the end of season 5 plus Daya) and only shows their consequences and journey after the riot (other characters are sent to other prisons, but we never find out how they are).
But even though Kohan decided to only include those ten main characters, the main plot reloves around new characters and their history, the characters we know and love are just there and reacting to their new enviornment. This error could cause the audience, that has grown with the original cast and loved to hate them and loved to love them, to be uninterested in the plot as a whole and just waiting for their favorite character to show up on screen.
This isn’t saying the performances in Orange are bad. They’re still solid. Taylor Shilling’s Piper is more part of the ensemble that ever before but Shilling truly does shine as Piper (especially in the last two episodes). Danielle Brooks continues to represent the marginalized women that only wants justice, it’s her arch this season that stings the audience with the harsh reality of minorities in the penal system, or the penal season in general. Uzo Aduba’s Suzanne and Kate Mulgrew’s Red take back seats as Nick Sandow’s Caputo, Natasha Lyonne’s Nicky, and Selenis Leyva’s Gloria take center stage. Laura Prepon and Yael Stone continue to play their parts extremely well. The two are in need of critical acclaim for their consitent and awe-inspiring work as the gentle, quiet Alex and the overly emotional and unstalbe Lorna that ultmialty might never happen. Prepon also shows the world again that she is one of few people that was born to be a film actor with her subtly and wordless facial expressions that speak volumes while moving your very soul. It is a talent that cannot be taught and is undervalued in Hollywood so much that I forget about it for the whole year, but then quickly captivated by Perpon’s silent presence. It’s her voiceless moments, her stares and exchanges that are her best.
Again as usual with Orange, as the season continues (mainly in the last two episodes) Kohan tells the story she wants to tell and the show slowly becomes magic again. The viewer will be more invested in the show as a whole as the season continues while dreading to click on the last episode. Everything seems to make sense and tie in as each character’s arch come to a close. The drama increases at an alarming level and leaves you shocked and speechless.
The latest season of “Orange is the New Black” could have easily been the show’s final season. Even though the show is continuing to season 7, this season had a satisfying yet uneasy end to it while also providing closure. The show became a full circle by transitioning back to Piper and her journey. We learn that sometimes, justince isn’t served and life is not fair. It’s scary, then joyful, then it’ll tear you apart again, and never give you a break. In the shows final moments, it once again holds a mirror to our society and shows us what happens to people that live behind bars. Even though these people did bad things, some of them aren’t bad people yet have horrible things done to them inside prison and Kohan lets us know that we as a society cannot allow that to happen again.
I know that this is not the end of the show, but if it was, I would be satasfied. Even though I was unimpressed for most of this season, in its final moments, I was reminded why “Organge is the New Black” is one of the best television shows of the decade, and how much I’ll miss it once it’s over.
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