TV Review: Orange is the New Black (Season 6)
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The fifth season of Orange is the New Black focused on the riot incited by Poussey’s death and all the torture, abuse and injustice it entailed, making it a very difficult act to follow.
The sixth season follows the inmates’ transfer to max (maximum security prison) after the riot ended and deals with the aftermath of Piscatella’s death - the guard who was accidentally killed by the riot guards and whose death is now being blamed on the inmates.
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Season six maintains the drama and dark humour that we know and love, while remaining respectful to the sombre undertones of the plot. It opens with a simultaneously amusing and depressing scene of Suzanne, off her medication, hallucinating television shows starring our favourite inmates. It is somewhat jarring when put right next to the intense final scene of the last season, but it provides some much-needed cathartic relief from all the pain of season five. It also gives Uzo Aduba more time to show off her incredible acting skills, which have never faltered since season one.
A new prison also means new faces. While there are lots of new supporting characters, there are two main ‘leaders’ of the different blocks, Barb and Carol, who are sisters in a longstanding war. Flashbacks reveal that back when they were teenagers they committed one of the most disturbing crimes that’s ever been presented in the show so far. However, they don’t have much screen time since they each have their own secondary to do all their dirty work. In C block it’s Madison, or ‘Badison’, and in D block it’s ‘Daddy’. Both are entertaining characters given brief but intriguing backstories.
The move to another prison means many friends get separated, giving us the chance to see new pairings; Flaca and Cindy host a radio show together, while Suzanne helps protect Frieda against those who want to kill her. A few recurring characters have gone too: Flaca’s usual sidekick Maritza has been moved to another prison and doesn’t appear for the whole season, and we only get a few glimpses of fan-favourite Sofia.
Alex arrives a few episodes into the season, but both her and Piper are gradually getting less screen time - and rightfully so since they quickly became the most boring characters in the show. With the way the season ends, there could be even fewer appearances from Piper as the series continues. With less focus on them, we get to learn more about characters like Cindy, Taystee and Frieda, with flashbacks to their lives as teenagers.
Unfortunately we also get a lot of time with the guards and superiors, especially Caputo and Natalie, a relationship that no one cares about. Limited scenes with the guards are tolerable - Luschek can be pretty funny - but, after all, we are watching this show because of the inmates, and there’s certainly enough of them to keep the show going!
Having such a large cast is risky since there will always be characters you don’t like, but OITNB has many more good than bad. The writers are talented, able to give characters depth, whilst still knowing when to stop and bring in new ones rather than milking the same cow until it dries out. It’s clear Piper doesn’t have much purpose in the show anymore, which they realised and adapted to focus on the others instead.
While the season finale was nowhere near as dramatic as last season, it still had its fair share of twists and turns. Overall, season six is just as good as previous seasons and the writers are doing their best to keep the show interesting. It doesn’t look like they’ll let up anytime soon - it was renewed for season seven back in 2016 - which is great news for us, because we aren’t ready to say goodbye just yet.Orange is The New Black is available to stream on Netflix now.
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