Fuck, Marry, Frieda
Litchfield’s Got Talent
Sing It, White Effie
Flaming Hot Cheetos, Literally
Full Bush, Half Snickers
Tied To The Tracks
The Reverse Midas Touch
Breaking The Fiberboard Ceiling
Returning for its fifth Season, Orange Is The New Black picks up right where it left off at the end of Season 4. Tonally this season is all over the place, dipping between slapstick, hard hitting drama, horror and everything in between. Its cuts are ugly, jarring and at times cringe-inducing. Now in its fifth year with an ever increasing cast, many of the characters are given bland sub plots to work with and others inconsistently juggle between good and bad deeds to accompany the lacklustre script. The last three or four episodes feel more structured as the climax draws closer but for the vast majority of this season, it feels like a show running on empty.
After the shock death of Poussey Washington at the hands of one of the guards that set off the chain of events that engulf this season, the girls at Litchfield prison are furious and blood lusting. With a full scale riot imminent, last Season ended with one of the inmates holding a gun at the face of one of the guards and that’s exactly where we pick up, zooming out from the barrel of the gun. It doesn’t take long before the girls take control of the prison and hold the guards as hostages. What ensues is a stand off between the authorities and the girls inside the prison as a new order is established and negotiations begin to try and bring between treatment to the women and justice for Poussey.
The characters all return to their familiar roles this year, with the focus shifting to Taystee’s group in particular as the front line the girls. They’re also the most consistent with their tone and stay predominantly serious that helps give their characters weight but it can’t be said for the rest of the girls. It wouldn’t be so much of a problem if this season had consistent writing but its all over the place. A lot of the girls jump from being comedic set pieces parading through waves of slapstick, physical humour to suddenly changing to sadistic and dangerous as they gang up on innocent inmates. Its incredibly jarring with the “white power” group the worst of the bunch. There are some good jokes and when they hit, its genuinely good comic relief but its also surprising to see such a jarring difference between the characters that suddenly change on a whim.
Its also worth noting here that yet again the season ends on a cliffhanger. The first time this was done it was well executed and even last year to an extent it was passable but here it feels like a cheap gimmick to disguise the writer’s inability to come up with anything substantial to round off a disappointing season. Its frustrating to see such a lack of writing finesse here, especially after some of the great episodes and character angles that have come over the years. There are so many unanswered questions and coupled with sub plots for some of the girls that never really go anywhere, Season 5 is a frustrating echo of what it once was.
Overall, Orange Is The New Black feels like a completely different show from when it started. The tone is all over the place and this jarring contrast only further emphasises the poor and inconsistent writing that plague this season. With the exception of Taystee’s group, the majority of the characters are given awful material to work with and jump between comedy and drama. Ending on a cliffhanger for a third year in a row is the disappointing cherry on the lacklustre cake here and despite some promise for next year, its hard to have as much enthusiasm for a show that feels lost and void of ideas.