Orange Is The New Black's Riot Makes No Goddamn Sense

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Orange Is The New Black's Season 4 cliffhanger
Orange Is The New Black's Season 4 cliffhanger Netflix

Orange Is The New Black Season 5 arrived on Netflix over the weekend, and the new episodes get off to a shaky start. We’d kind of hoped the Season 4 cliffhanger would culminate in a full-blown riot, but we weren’t sure how it would actually work from a narrative perspective. Now that we’ve seen the first six episodes, it’s clear the riot doesn’t actually work at all, unless you’re willing to ignore some pretty glaring flaws in logic, character development and good old common sense.

WARNING: Spoilers for the first six episodes of Orange Is The New Black Season 5 follow. If you don’t want to know what happens before watching, turn back now.

The early moments of the first episode took us by surprise, in a good way. We weren’t expecting Daya to pull the trigger, and we definitely weren’t expecting her to shoot CO Humphrey in the dick. (Turns out she got him in the thigh, but she later confirms she was indeed aiming for it.)

After that jaw-dropping moment, though, things stop making sense real fast. It’s never entirely clear why the other COs don’t put up some kind of resistance, or why guards from the maximum-security prison nearby aren’t called to assist. What about the local or state police? It just doesn’t seem plausible that the entire staff of Litchfield could be held hostage with one gun; presumably these men and women are trained to handle situations like this. Writing it off as bureaucratic buck-passing by MCC (the private owners of the facility, responsible for bringing in brutal guards like Piscatella) also doesn’t ring true.

When did Daya turn into such a jaded hardass? What suddenly made her willing to take the enormous risk of shooting a guard, then proclaim in a later episode that she doesn’t care whether he survives or not? In past seasons, she’s been wholly preoccupied with family, especially her mom and baby girl. Perhaps we find out in the second half of Season 5, but it’s not clear in the first several episodes. It’s possible she’s working through some resentment toward her mother, or the father of her child, but if that’s the case the show does a pretty poor job of explaining what made her pull the trigger in that moment.

While there have been several Daya moments so far in Season 5 that made us yell at the TV, none was so aggravating as when one of the other inmates praises her for being willing to “fuck up her whole life” by shooting Humphrey. Daya then breaks down in tears and proceeds to spend the next several episodes staring into the middle distance with a forlorn expression. Did she really need someone to spell this out so literally in order to realize her actions could have very serious consequences? This kind of writing feels more like fan fiction than a show that’s been nominated for 17 Emmys and won four.

There’s also some overall tonal weirdness that’s kept us from enjoying Season 5 as much as we’d hoped. The first several episodes reminded us a whole lot of Season 3, and that isn’t a good thing. Remember Piper’s panty-selling scheme, Crazy Eyes’ romance novel and the “escape” that culminated in a group frolic in a pond? Sure, these plot points had their memorable moments, but on the whole they felt more like summer-camp hijinks than prison dramedy. Season 5, too, has plenty of goofy moments (like the talent show), that seem gratuitous and out of place, lessening the stakes of the central drama. There’s some genuinely sinister Lord of the Flies-type moments, like the impulse to throw Judy King off the roof and the cringe-worthy public strip-searching of the guards, that show the darker potential consequences of these disempowered women suddenly gaining the upper hand over their captors. But the tomfoolery ought to have been dialed down a few notches in order for those moments to achieve their fullest possible impact.

Criticisms aside, we’re still watching Season 5, and things do pick up if you’re willing to put aside the ridiculous premise of the hostage situation aside. We’re hoping the new episodes continue to improve after a pretty big stumble out of the gate.

What do you make of the latest season of Orange Is The New Black? Did you find the Litchfield riot plausible, or were you yelling at your television as much as we were? Let us know your take in the comments!

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