TV Review - Orange is the New Black: Season 4
Somehow, Kohan and her writers still manage to maintain the comedy and keep the forward momentum fun. It's fun as the serious issues start to pile up. It's difficult to talk about the series because it juggles so many characters. In the first two seasons, a different character got a flashback every episode. At this point, that's two dozen or more different characters. That's a lot of characters to track and remember. This season, the series cut back a little on flashbacks, but if a conversation should happen, it should start with the flashbacks Kohan chose to incorporate this year.
The first flashback involves Maria Ruiz, played by Jessica Pimental. She's part of the Hispanic group of girls in Litchfield prison. Two other flashbacks this season are also about the Hispanic girls. One involves Maritza Ramos, played by Diane Guerrero, and the other involves Blanca Flores, played by Laura Gómez. With each one, we see the strengthening of the Hispanic girls. First, an influx of new inmates, including some white supremacists, forces the Hispanic girls to act tougher and then some missteps of Piper, played by Taylor Schilling, cause the Hispanic girls to expand and get a little greedy. Through it all, we see Maria rise up as a bad-ass leader.
There are three flashbacks involving three characters that I would say are connected, if only because all three are about people dealing with mental health issues. The first is Sam Healy, played by Michael J. Harney. The second is Lolly Whitehall, played by Lori Petty, and the third is Suzanne Warren, played by Uzo Aduba. All three in their respective flashback-episodes give the best performances of the season. All three break your heart in devastating ways. All three deal with being alone or having abandonment issues.
The last two flashbacks involve Poussey Washington, played by Samira Wiley, and Officer Baxter Bayley, played by Alan Aisenberg. Poussey is a character who was introduced in the second episode of the first season. She quickly became a core character. Poussey is a small but scrappy, black girl with a French-sounding name. She worked in the prison's library because she loved to read and was very intelligent. Her first flashback was the sixth episode of the second season, as we begin to explore her romantic life. She was a kind and passionate lesbian who developed a crush on her cellmate Taystee, played by Danielle Brooks. When her straight crush ends, she becomes a bit of an alcoholic until she encounters Brook Soso, a ditzy Asian girl, played by Kimiko Glenn, and they fall in love with each other.
His flashback reinforced that. Yet, the writers seem to want to echo how much this prison institution corrupts even the sweetest person. At one point, Caputo tells Bayley, "This place crushes anything good. It's like a monster that's grown too big for its stubby little legs." He continues, "One day you'll be the monster," as he also says, "Working here changes who you are."
In Episode 12 of this season, Caputo's words of this place crushing anything good is played out in literal fashion. Yet, it's not heavy-handed in its execution. It's quick and almost in the background that you almost don't realize it's happening, but when the realization does come, it's powerful. More importantly, the aftermath is honest. It's harsh, but it's appropriate.
One interesting moment comes when in a form of punishment, the guards force Blanca to stand on top of a table and not move for days. It's a form of torture that goes too far. It's almost as if the writers listened to the song lyrics to the show's theme song and got inspired. Regina Spektor wrote and performs the theme song called "You've Got Time." The lyrics go, "Taking steps is easy / Standing still is hard."
|Samira Wiley in 'Orange is the New Black'|
Five Stars out of Five.
Running Time: 1 hr. / 13 eps.
Available on Netflix Watch Instant.