Note: This review contains spoilers.
To me, Orange Is the New Black is about women who’ve been screwed over by society. This is a feeling women know too well. Despite their diverse backgrounds, all the women in OITNB are pissed off, beaten down and, as such, profoundly relatable. That’s why when a Correctional Officer recklessly murdered Poussey and, in response, a riot ensued, I was beyond satisfied.
This season, Daya pulls the trigger on a Correctional Officer. In one swift move, she flips the prison’s unchallenged power dynamics. I loved seeing these women leap upon newfound freedom. Sometimes it had me choking back my wine. But there’s a darkness here that’s new. Taystee’s grief, when she confronts Caputo about Poussey’s death, disturbed me. I wondered, how can the show go from lovable flashbacks and women swapping bad husband stories into truly swallowing that an inmate has died?
Amid this chaos, it seems inmates all latch onto something – sex, material pleasures, vengeance, or a combination. Racial cliques stick together, Piper and Alex cling to one another, and others turn to drugs. I couldn’t help but consider that, as always, OITNB captures the basics of human nature; that we all just want something to alleviate the pain. The truth is, I could understand the bad behaviour that occurs. And, as a raging feminist, that’s what I’ve always liked about the show – it forces you to relate to women whom you might otherwise turn your nose up at. If you were demonised for your mistakes and stripped of your agency, would you behave any differently than the girl raiding the commissary or leaping on a Correctional Officer?
Season Five opens, as always, with a discussion about power. But this time, the women have it. I loved watching them wield it. However, it was also nerve wracking. OITNB has always made me speculate that absolute power is dangerous, even in the hands of the characters I’ve been rooting for.