Anybody who watches Netflix has most likely heard of the popular show “Orange is the New Black” (OITNB). The show revolves around the lives of the inmates of Litchfield Women’s Penitentiary and the drama and hilarity that ensues. While serious and dramatic the show never shys away from comedic elements. The past five seasons had focused on what life was like in Litchfield minimum security.
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The events of the riot in season five were truly game changing as many popular inmates have been moved to the maximum security facility. Though some of our favorites are not returning, the eliminations balance out with some well-written new characters.
There’s the psychopathic Denning sisters, Carol and Barbara, who are the heads of the opposing D and C blocks who fight the front lines of their murderous cold war-like sibling rivalry. Then there’s Madison “Badison” Murphy, a henchmen of Carol who has more beneath her dyed blonde surface. Thankfully we also are gifted with the return of some fan favorite characters from Galina “Red” Reznikov to Gloria Mendoza. We also get some wonderful cameos from the dazzling Laverne Cox as Sophia Burset. However, her participation in the new season was limited to guest roles, mainly as prisoners placed in B block (known by the inmates as Florida due to the high concentration of elderly, LGBTQ and mentally ill prisoners).
The plot this season had much better pacing compared to the last season. Season five had covered the course of three days following the riot that ensued after the tragic death of fan favorite Poussey Washington. The sixth season deals with what had happened after the riot was broken up by the SWAT team. As one can expect the returning inmates have been transferred to the maximum security facility and are first seen in solitary confinement (known as ‘Ad-seg”) waiting to be assigned cell blocks.
When the inmates are assigned new cell blocks they quickly learn just how different maximum security is compared to minimum security (known as “camp” by the inmates and CO’s). We get an introduction to the Denning sisters and their respective rights hands, Madison “Badion” Murphy of C-block and Dominga “Daddy” Duarte or D-block. The two blocks have been in a gang war-esque feud for years ever since.
An important sub-plot to the season is Piper and Alex’s engagement. Before and after Alex finally arrive at Litchfield, they are ecstatic to see one another but even though they are back together they still have issues to deal with. The main issue being Alex being brought into Carol’s inner circle and her cell phone smuggling scheme. Upon Alex’s arrival, Piper goes on a misson to revive kickball games at Litchfield.
We are also gifted with some flashbacks of the Denning sisters and what led them to Litchfield. Viewers see their past, both in Litchfield and before they are in said facility. One can see where their conflict begins, and we even see their toxic home life. The two sisters were often overlooked and overshadowed in favor of their sister, Debbie. Her rhythmic gymnastics competitions had moved their family across the country. These moves had very much damaged Carol and Barbara’s lives, even to the point where they grew to despise Debbie and planned to kill her. One day they had their opportunity and pushed Debbie in a locked car into a frozen lake.
This murder, compounded with some drug charges, landed the two into Litchfield Max and we see their rivalry ensue. Their rivalry was so intense that even Carol and Barb kill each other in the end.
We also see Taystee and Cindy go on trial for the events of the riot. Cindy is conflicted on whether or not she sells out Taystee and saves herself and Taystee. This subplot was something I found rather strong and emotional as it truly spoke about the abuses that happened under the American criminal justice system.
The season has a very heartbreaking ending when we see Blanca and Piper released. While Piper walks free into her brothers car, Blanca goes from one set of handcuffs to another. We also hear an ominous voice over of Senior VP Linda Ferguson revealing their new immigration detention center. This is likely where Blanca is headed.
This season has strong and weak points that can determine whether or not one should watch it. The strong points being Taystee’s trial alongside the Denning sisters flashbacks. The weak points were plot features such as the cell-block war and rivalry. I found Tiffany’s escape to be somewhat poorly executed, especially considering how, despite being a more developed character, she was still considerably flat compared to other, more exciting characters to watch.
Overall, this season was particularly intriguing and exciting to watch. “Orange is the New Black” may have been in a bit of a rut for the past few seasons, but the series seems to be once again on the rise.