WARNING: This post contains spoilers concerning Season 6 of Orange is the New Black #OITNB.
When I saw that Season 6 of Orange is the New Black (OITNB) was being released on Netflix on July 27, 2018, I wasn’t excited. Yet somehow despite every effort to wait until the winter months to watch it, I find myself having completed yet another season less than 96 hours after it was released. This is not the first time I’ve binged watched a show, and it won’t be the last, yet here we are.
Coming off the mayhem of Season 5 that built off of the tragedies of Season 4, I was already feeling frustrated with the current state of affairs for our prison faves as they continue to live out their lives in the slammer.
This entire seasons plot hinges on truths and untruths.
The biggest one is discovering the truth about who actually killed Piscatella — CERT Team members — and the writer’s negligence in carrying this plot forward in any logical way.
We open with scenes from the brain of Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren. For most of this episode, I sat confused simply because we know Suzanne is crazy and we don’t need it spelled out. For five seasons, we’ve never had to suspend our belief of what is going on in her brain for any more than a few minutes. Presenting the entire episode in a childish dream sequence felt out of place and unnecessary. Eventually, we learn that Suzanne is struggling to understand exactly what happened in the pool space hideout she and Black Cindy found themselves in during the aftermath of the riots.
We learn more about the details of Black Cindy
and Suzanne’s secret through the second episode where we see they have moved from the pool hideout to the supply closet they’re eventually found in at the end of the riots.
Through another flashback to her past, we are shown again that Black Cindy is NOT a good person. She’s selfish and a coward. Rather than just simply tell her lawyer when she is brought in for questioning about what actually happened to Piscatella – CERT team members shot him and moved his body into the pool hideout to cover it up — she instead lies and implicates Taystee in the murder. The stage has now been set for the rest of the season.
Here’s where the problems begin. This entire season is rooted in finding resolve for the crimes committed through the riots of Season 5 while simultaneously introducing our tried and true prisoners to a whole slew of new characters. The writers did too much with this show in too little time and ultimately everyone’s story gets lost in the shuffle. To give a comparison to another show I am currently Binge-watching, The Great British Baking Show, rather than cook this season long and consistently, they cooked it for a short time and cranked up the heat at the end, leaving us with an undercooked and over proofed pastry that is this season.
Now, back to the problem at hand. There are actually several, but I will address them all as isolated issues.
The Problem with Piscatella
Three episodes in, it’s decided that Red was a riot organizer and Taystee
is responsible for Piscatella’s death. Why is neither Alex nor Piper questioned about the events that took place in the pool hideout? Do we not care for Gloria’s opinion on the matter? Instead, she is questioned about who started the riot, implicating Ruiz as a leader. What about Blanca Flores? Sure she seems like the odd one out in the pool hideout, but her recount of events matters just as much. Ultimately we are lead to believe that the testimonies of Frieda, who we really didn’t even get to know well as a character until last season, and Nicky, who sold Red out, are enough to find the latter’s guilty.
My biggest beef is with Black Cindy. I don’t get it. What was so hard about telling the truth as to who actually killed Piscatella? The writer’s hand hold and walk us through this whole plotline to force what feels to me to be a real overreaction to a simple solution. When she finally does tell the truth, we find out it’s too little too late. When questioned as to why she didn’t speak up sooner, we are left to believe that she was so afraid of the backlash from the people in power, she wanted to save her own ass. Sure, I get it, that’s not an unreasonable jump. But in this case, I’m not buying it.
Cindy has grown and evolved as a woman over the seasons. I refuse to accept that she felt so helpless in her knowledge of the truth that she stayed wanted to keep quiet. Yet somehow, she had the wherewithal to concoct a brilliant plan in the moment with Suzanne but after the fact, was willing to roll over, or rather roll on her friends and let Taystee take the fall. At one point SHE EVEN TRIED TO TELL TAYSTEE THE TRUTH. So why why, why would she backtrack later? What did she have to lose? She knew Taystee was innocent, so did Suzanne. There was a room full of women who could also corroborate that story, and finally, they had an ally in Caputo.
I’m not buying this. It’s weak, it’s lame, but it’s convenient to drive this poorly thought out plot forward. How are we supposed to feel about Black Cindy in the end? I don’t like her, and I don’t empathize with her. When a storyline is done right, you should feel empathy for both the heroes and the villains. However, in this instance, Black Cindy is flat out wrong.
Ultimately Taystee is found guilty of a crime she absolutely did not commit. It takes us 13 episodes to get to this resolution and when we finally do, Taystee’s story is wrapped up in all of three and half minutes wedged right between a “prison wedding” and a comedic discussion between Lorna and Nichols. That’s it. Two seasons ago we were left with no justice for Pussay, now Taystee is resigned to the same fate. No justice and not even a shred of respect in giving her a decent storyline.
The Red Problem
Who is she this season? Even at her worst when she was scalped by Piscatella, we still saw the fiery fury that was her “Strong-willed. Can’t-stop-won’t-stop. These-are-my-girls-and-I-will-protect-them-forever” attitude. What happened this season? Her entire storyline hinged on her getting revenge on Frieda. For what? Because she snitched on her? It’s true. Red was a big player in the riots, Frieda was just saving her own ass. Are we supposed to feel bad for Red and be angry at Frieda? Why?
Then Red decides to partner up with one of the more unsavory characters for most of the season. Red has never been one to grovel and follow others around, so why is she doing so all the sudden? She does so with no apparent plan to get ahead in the prison either. To add insult to injury, Red’s family finally comes to visit her with grandkids (whom she’s never met) in tow. A chance encounter with Frieda in the hallway leads her to lose all sense of control. She attacks Frieda, she’s thrown into the SHU and loses her one opportunity to see her family she has so desperately longed for.
Red has always been one to play the long game. She’s never impulsive, never hasty in executing a plan, so where the heck did that Red go this season? Especially considering she’s gotten more years on her sentence.
The Latina Problem
Another big issue with this season is it’s continued failed attempts to be a Dramedy. When the show started out, it was more comedy than drama. Sure there was the occasional tense moment, but overall, it was more chuckles than tears. Season 4 proved a vital turning point and the show became more Drama than Comedy. However, Season 6 tries to bring us back to some balance between the two. On one hand, you’ve got Taystee, who is facing a life sentence for a murder she didn’t commit, and on the other, you’ve got Alex and Piper spending the entire season groveling about having a prison wedding, and not being able to play kickball. So in laymen’s terms, the blacks struggling to keep their humanity and the whites, “struggling” to survive in jail. So what happens to the Latinas?
Apparently, they all are supposed to suffer. We watch all season long each character deteriorate in front of our eyes.
Gloria Mendoza spends most of the season trying to live in peace and in the end, ends up in the SHU after discovering the new guards have a fantasy prison game they play. She was just trying to do right by everyone all season and gets pinched by the most unlikely of the guards to catch her.
Maria Ruiz survives being almost drowned in a toilet. She already has an extra ten years thrown on to her sentence. She spends the season trying to redeem herself, but overall is treated like crap for most of the season.
Daya is addicted to drugs now? I get it she shot Humphrey, albeit in the leg, but ultimately it’s her actions that lead to his death. She’s serving a life sentence, a very good reason to just get through each day high and happy, but c’mon hasn’t she suffered enough for the past 4 seasons? Constantly being pulled between her mother and other Latina women in the jail, being used as a pawn, giving birth to a child by a prison guard and then giving it up entirely? Give the girl some peace, not a “prison daddy” who is such a cornball I literally rolled my eyes every time she popped on the screen.
Now Aleida (Daya’s mother) is on the outside trying to make enough money to get her kids back, but old habits die hard as we see her turn to sell drugs via Daya and her prison guard boyfriend (I’m sorry huh????) in the prison. I just want to see her get her kids back is that so hard? She’s been struggling to stabilize her life for two seasons. Give the girl some hope already!
Blanca wants to get pregnant and move on with her life. The minute she gets that opportunity through early release she’s thrown into an ICE Detention Center? NO! My heart broke for Diablo.
Flaca walks out relatively unscathed, but the writers really didn’t give her much to work with.
All of this pain and sorrow feels contrived. Even more so, I don’t want it. Yes, I understand that the dynamics of the characters, their respective races, and lives are supposed to simulate real life but frankly, I’ve had enough. I just wanted to see someone who truly deserves a second chance, get a second chance.
Also a quick shoutout to the Asians, or at least all two of them who got screen time this season. Their one starring moment was to do bidding on behalf of Badison. In the end, it turned out to be a disgusting and fruitless task because Piper still got out of jail. C’mon. We all deserve better!
Finally, and I won’t spend too much time on this because I think the show spent more than we needed. WHY WERE THERE SO MANY NEW CHARACTERS THIS SEASON? Firs,t you have the new guards being cheap replications of guards of past seasons. Then old guards still not fully dealing with their trauma and roles in the riots. Then throw on the introduction of several insufferable characters like sisters turned murderers, Barb and Carol, “Daddy”, and one of the most insufferable characters to ever grace a TV screen “Badison”. None of these characters were dynamic or compelling enough to add meaningful contributions to the storylines they’re haphazardly woven into.
I’m over it
Orange is the New Black is a comedy. Yes, there are dramatic points, but at its core, it’s a comedy, so for it to take a dark turn and carry that drama out for another 26 episodes? It’s draining.
Orange is the New Black is a fictional show. Yes, it’s based on a true story, but that story is long over at this point. I hear enough stories about the injustices, sorrow, grief, and struggles that come with being a prisoner in the American prison system in real life. I am aware of how difficult life on the outside is for those who are fortunate to make it out. While I appreciate these stories being told every once in a while, there’s enough sad stuff on TV that OITNB doesn’t need to fill that niche.
Orange is the New Black will never win a Pulitzer for its groundbreaking work in shedding light on what’s wrong with our prison systems. Forcing us to endure painful moment after painful moment and trying to relieve us with witty banter from insufferable one-dimensional characters like Piper, Lorna, and Badison is not funny or Dramedy. It feels as if the writers are truly unaware of just how miserable all of these competing storylines are.
If this is fiction, why couldn’t Taystee be found innocent? Give our people a win for once! It’s like the writers were rubbing in how crappy it feels to black and Latina in America. Piper gets out of jail? For what? She did nothing all season long and somehow she’s rewarded? All I wanted to see was someone who truly deserved it catch a break for once. Let the stereotypically defeated ones get a happy ending. It’s no secret that America isn’t doing too hot right now. The collective conscious of this country is tense all the time. The fictional TV shows I watch don’t always have to be that way too. I wanted a reprieve and this season, Orange is the New Black Provided none.
I’m drained. I’m upset with myself for binge-watching a show I said I would wait to watch. Even more so I’m upset I got suckered into yet another season of a show with a storyline that’s tired and characters I no longer care about.
Get it together Netflix. Hopefully, Season 7 is the last season, but I won’t be holding my breath to watch it.
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BIO: Shay’s blog is for the unapologetic millennial woman of color. She’s always looking for adventure, something fresh, fun, and new to try, finding success, and the occasional failure along the way. Follow Shay on Twitter @ShayShayTheGr8, Instagram @ShayShayTheGr8, and keep up with her journey at ShayShayTries.com.