Orange is the New Black season 4 review: Too many inmates spoil the fun
The tone is far darker than ever and deals with stark issues like racism and rape masterfully.tv Updated: Jun 24, 2016 12:38 IST
The greatest feat achieved by Orange is the New Black (OITNB) since its first run in 2013 was how effectively it invested us in the life stories of more than a dozen characters. In the latest season of the series, Litchfield Penitentiary welcomes about a 100 new inmates who make the prison a crowded place, but that is all they do. And this wasted opportunity is season four’s undoing.
The tone is far darker than ever and deals with stark issues like racism and rape masterfully. Pennsatucky’s assault at the hands of CO Coates from last season and the effect it has on the both of them is one of the freshest takes on rape on TV so far. How she comes to terms with it, from being in denial to confronting her rapist in the most anti-Pennsatucky manner. You will see yourself sympathising with the rapist and asking questions you never though you would.
However, some of the most acclaimed actors of the show like Laverne Cox and Natasha Lyonne are minimally used (thanks to all the new projects they’ve signed riding on their OITNB success), and the new characters are mere one-dimensional fillers used only to increase the headcount of the Latina, Black and White gangs.
After sending Stella to Max last season, Piper expects her panty sniffing business to go smooth but runs into another mess when Maria decides to run a parallel business, aided by a new band of Latinas. Sure, it makes no sense how Stella is suddenly so ‘gangsta’ after her melancholic-mom act so far. She even manages to scare and scar the Heisenberg-like Piper, who thought she was the prison’s alpha. Piper may have all the brains needed to win in life behind bars, she lacks the brawn to fend off any lurking predators. She is ruthless one moment and affectionate the next. Classic, fickle-minded Pipes that we all love to hate.
Alex has her own set of troubles to deal with, given the deadly attack on her in the season 3 finale. With both of them so caught up, thankfully there is absolutely no weird, confused and too-complicated-for-no-reason love angle to tolerate for most of the season.
The flashbacks or the origin stories are the highlights of each episode, some of the best ones belonging to Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ Warren and Poussey. While Warren’s story revealed the real heart-breaking reason she ended up in Litchfield, Poussey’s flashback was a perfect, beautiful night before her life went to hell. In a first, Orange also had its first hilarious throwback with Martiza’s backstory – a short comic relief in a season that is not exactly full of chuckle-worthy moments.
Now, back to the original and biggest complaint with this season: The utter underuse of the new one hundred. The initial eight to nine episodes of the season are squandered away on a worthless hunt for the poop-in-the-shower guy, while hurling redundant, racist slurs, transporting guards in vans and a whole lot of time consuming faff. Instead, more stories could’ve been spun on the new characters as opposed to revisiting the same 10 we’ve seen since season one. Judy King, the celebrity inmate whose arrival was foreshadowed in the last season too, was not given any origin story either.
The show ultimately leaves us with a cliffhanger worthy enough of another season, but if it means ploughing through eight episodes of absolute squat for only five more episode of pulp, I think I’ll pass.
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