PLEASE NOTE: THIS REVIEW DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS.
I am often overly critical in my analysis of films, television series and books and I know myself that I will always look for the problems and the parts I didn’t like before I start thinking of the positives. I’m a pessimistic critic, and I accept that. It is for this reason that I usually like to take a bit of time to process my thoughts before I actually write any reviews or give my opinions on things to make them more balanced however, after finally getting to the season finale of what was previously one of my favourite Netflix original series’, I already knew that my mind was well and truly made up about what I believe to be the downfall of Orange is the New Black.
Just like every other fan of the show, I was counting down the days to June 9th when Season 5 of the hit series would finally come out and we would be reunited with our favourite felons and the suspense would ultimately be over about what Dayanara chose to do with that gun. However, as the episodes continued, I felt like something was missing. The riot, which I assumed would end after, perhaps, a couple of episodes simply dragged on and on and I found myself losing interest pretty quickly as the plot became more convoluted and, at times, frankly ridiculous.
I didn’t like seeing Red lose the steely Russian stance she has always owned so well and end up with some crazy vendetta while on speed, I didn’t like how the first thing the inmates thought to do with the hostages was to unclothe them all and then – wait for it – make them take part in a talent show. I didn’t like how everyone suddenly had smartphones and access to the outside world and I didn’t like how Maritza and Flaca became ‘Youtube famous,’ and completely lost their ability to make snappy one-liners. I felt like all of the plot lines used were just very obvious and forced and it cheapened the humour of the show no end. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Orange is the New Black has always been ridiculous, but it’s been ridiculous in a way which is shocking and out there and makes you wonder how they got away with it. But in season 5 the humour is really tacky a lot of the time and makes it seem like the writers have just run out of ideas. None of the jokes or antics have anything on Crazy Eyes singing ‘chocolate and vanilla swirl’ or Doggett finally getting new teeth and I can’t think of a single time I really sat back and laughed while watching this new season at all.
I guess I should have seen this coming. The show has slowly been becoming much more serious and dark than it’s former humorous days and that was ok because I cried like a baby when Poussey died and hailed the show as a success (despite standing by the opinion that season one and two are undoubtedly the best) because it still made me feel something. But, and I really, really hate to say it, I kind of ended up not caring whether any of the inmates had their demands met at the end of the riot, and I may have even stopped caring about what happened to the prisoners themselves. Not only was the humour gone but the sentimentality was too and the relationships became less endearing with every empty phrase or stupid decision that people made.
And one thing that I have loved about Orange is the New Black in the past is their frequent flashback sequences, which gave us a clear insight into why each individual found themselves in prison, and, for a lot of them, made us see them as human and oddly justified in what they did. But although there remained flashback sequences, the ones we did see, such as that of Tastyee meeting her birth mother and Daya as a teenager getting advice from Aleida, were a bit misguided and didn’t really fit for me with those we had seen in the past for the same characters. There was also a flashback about Alison Abdullah which I found quite gripping to begin with but then the back story just seemed to stop and I was left wondering what the whole point of showing us anything was. The one saving grace for this season’s flashback sequences was that of Piscatella’s secret relationship with a former inmate in his past career as this seemed to be a nod to the old format and gave me a profound sense of feeling for a character which was few and far between in other parts of the show.
For me though, maybe the whole problem was the basis of the season altogether because the riot meant that we were watching the characters as free women, in a sense. They no longer had to stick to routines, go to work, sneak around, deal with staff or anything which, in my opinion, has made Orange is the New Black so popular in the first place. I don’t know about anyone else but when I watch a show where the whole basis is watching the mishaps of women serving time in a correctional facility, I don’t think it really works if they are all free women with free rein of the place. Hell, that’s just some folk sitting around in a confined space! It’s funny really, because my Mum is just starting the series herself and so I re-watched the first ever episode last week and I couldn’t get over how much I missed that part of the show. Mr Healy and Mendez, Bennett and O’Neil…for me they were just as much a part of the show as Piper is and they really made those first few seasons the wonderful things they are now, but, not only are they gone but there was no sense of order at all and it was just as chaotic watching the show as the prison riot itself.
For me, order was restored way too late and in way too unconvincing circumstances and I for one have been left bitterly disappointed by this half baked concoction of cheesy humour and obvious antics. I want passion, I want good, untasteful humour, I want scandal and betrayal, I want steamy relationships and criminal plans but most of all, I want the old Litchfield back. In this case, I think Ill be sticking to my little black dress over an orange jumpsuit any day.
Featured image is not my own. It is copied from: https://womensvoicesforchange.org/the-pros-and-cons-of-orange-is-the-new-black.htm