Orange Is the New Black Season 4 Went Wayward

Last week, I finally had a bit of time to binge-watch Orange is the New Black season 4. When I was all done, I tweeted: “I just finished watching OITNB season 4, and my chest feels tight.” I actually felt like someone gave me bad news, and the food I was about to eat got cold because I lost my appetite.

I’ve loved NetFlix’s Orange is the New Black since it started, for telling the story of the justice system that thrives on the prison industrial complex. And those who suffer for it the most, are those who are Black and brown. Piper Chapman as the main character was apparently a trojan horse, because as the show creator Jenji Kohan said “You’re not going to go into a network and sell a show on really fascinating tales of black women, and Latina women, and old women and criminals. But if you take this white girl, this sort of fish out of water, and you follow her in, you can then expand your world and tell all of those other stories.”

OITNB

From the beginning of the show, Piper (played by Taylor Schilling) was the least fascinating of all the characters on the show, when you have folks like Poussey (Samira Wiley), Taystee (Danielle Brooks), Red (Kate Mulgrew), Sophia (Laverne Cox), Suzanne aka “Crazy Eyes” (Uzo Aduba). The more we learned about the ones on the periphery, the better the show got. OITNB excelled at making Litchfield Correctional Facility a fully-fleshed out world, where even in the most harrowing places, people manage to form bonds and create family. At the core of the show was heart, because even murderers, thieves and drug dealers were people before they became known as numbers in matching jumpsuits.

I fell in love with the women of OITNB, and I appreciated the show for telling real stories thoughtfully, mixing comedy with tragedy, but not too much of one over the other. Just enough. However, in season 4, the formula failed, and they had a bit too much of both. I walked away from it feeling heavy, like someone had just placed an anvil on my shoulders and didn’t tell me how to get it off. Add a dash of feeling offended and a scoop of downtroddeness and you have some of my feels afterwards.

They went wrong. OITNB took a season-long wrong turn and I am hella disappointed about it.

If you haven’t seen season 4, this is where you should stop reading. RIGHT HERE. STOP. GO NO FURTHER. SPOILERS GALORE.

Ok. Ready? Cool.

oitnb-season4

There’s been a bunch of pieces written across these interwebs about how season 4 of OITNB is problematic, including the one about how the show has become trauma porn for white people. I do not disagree. Read that piece, by the way.

I’ll talk about the specific things I had a problem with.

The two-dimensional race war

This season of OITNB especially focused on the role that race plays in Litchfield, especially in creating segments for people to exist in for family, survival and community. Well, it seemed to mostly be about the tension that race brings and how these parcels hated each other’s guts. In the past, the women of Litchfield have had conflict across color lines but this season turned them into caricatures of ethnocentrism, creating an overly simplistic motive for them to become mortal enemies, just because they sit at different lunch tables and are at different dorms. The one time they almost united for a greater good, it was quickly disbanded because they just could not cross those racial lines to form a coalition to protest the abhorrent conditions in the prison.

The white girls formed an actual hate group, chanting “White Lives Matter” at one point. The Dominican girls became the majority group and their squad ran the kitchen and the yard. The Black girls were there too, trying to stay out the fray but being pulled in by the skinheads. Oh and the Latina girls, led by Maria, branded Piper with a Swastika.

OITNB brand

And throughout the 13 episodes, the use of slurs (mostly directed towards the Black folks) killed me softly. It was like the writers went and found a racist dictionary and saw how many derogatory ways they could say “Black.” I kinda only remembers “crackers” used for white folks but I heard all types of coon, ape, jiggaboo, darkies. To the point where I started to get angry and wanted to jump through the screen. I don’t flinch at the idea of using slurs if that reflects what happens but the sheer amount felt gross and unnecessary, in my opinion.

It’s like the Quentin Tarantino syndrome, where you see enough of his white characters say “nigger” that you start to wonder if the case isn’t just that Quentin loves to write the word and hear it spoken. It was unsettling for me and I felt like it was overkill.

And I know, you’re probably saying, well real life racists say this stuff all the time. Sure thing. However, this show’s other crimes in this season make this one a bit more glaring and a bit more unpalatable.

The death of Poussey

In the most heartbreaking turn of the season, episode 12 brought us the accidental murder of Poussey. She had found love with the annoying Soso. She had even gotten Judy King (the mix between Paula Deen and Martha Stewart) to promise her a job when she got out. She was happy. Well, as happy as you can be when you are a prisoner. We also find out how she ended up in prison: for selling a tiny amount of weed, 2 weeks before she was to move to Amsterdam to start a new life.

So as the inmates protested their deplorable conditions peacefully by standing on the cafeteria tables, guards pulled them down. Baxter Bayley, a newbie and young’un pulls Suzanne, who freaks out and lunges at him. Poussey goes to calm her friend down and Bayley grabs her and puts his knee on her back. Suzanne is yanking at him and in paying attention to her, the knee to Poussey’s back constricts her breathing until she suffocates.

It is more than painful to watch and I was stunned as I watched it.

Poussey death

Poussey’s body was left on the cafeteria floor as the correctional facility’s management came up with a clean enough story to give police about who or what to blame for her death. It was a combination of the deaths and tragedies of Eric Garner (“I Can’t Breathe”) and Michael Brown Jr. People say they did it to raise awareness about the “Black Lives Matter” movement, but I beg to differ. The writers of OITNB do not get a cookie because what they did to humanize Poussey’s killer was the counter comment to what was necessary.

Bayley being a young, rambunctious kid who happened to end up as a corrections officer who still has good in him was par for the course. I get it. They wanted to show two genuinely good people got caught in the crossfires of the evil system, but what they did too much of was show how good the killer was over the victim. And that is a story that is told far too often. The good side of the white boy who was careless with a Black life is something they didn’t need to emphasize. What we need less of is the story of the good cop who made a mistake or the good cop who was just defending himself as he takes an unarmed Black life. But OITNB was sure to throw another one into the mix, which is beyond disappointing since I thought they were more counter culture than that.

Maybe they intended on saying BLACK LIVES MATTER but what they really said was Blue Lives Matter, as we were basically meant to empathize with the one whose aggression cost the life of someone else. And even in that, they still get told they did nothing wrong. They still get defended, as Caputo did, as a parents gets a call that their child is no longer of this world.

OITNB considers itself progressive, but this was dizzy as fuck of them. I hated it so much and I don’t think the pay off they intended landed. Yes, we’re all heartbroken that our favorite character is dead. But it’s the kind that makes me throw up my hands and wonder what the point of this show is.

Jenji Kohan is a television BAWSE and she can write about privileged white women who don’t suffer for their bullshit (see her old show: Weeds). And her brother, David Kohan, co-created the ground-breaking Will & Grace. And OITNB’s commitment to telling us about the lives of non-white men is clear. There are good intentions here, but you know the road to hell is paved with those.

It just makes absolutely no sense and I can think of no excuse good enough that the Orange writers’ room is mostly white. How are you knee deep in a world about prison, which mostly houses Black and brown people when none of the folks crafting the stories are melanin-rich?

OITNB writers

Orange is the New Black writers room. So white.

How does that compute? It’s a complete fail that adds a layer of “Oh I know why this shit makes me real uncomfortable” now. Because these scripts, these words, these slurs, these ugly words that made me wince throughout didn’t come from folks who have felt the sting. The pain of watching someone who looks like you have their life snuffed out to pass on some lesson wasn’t as real when that writers team was conjuring the scene. And maybe part of the laziness in the writing and in the handling of race was in the fact that the folks creating the world are completely removed from it.

Basically, it read like some white people shit. Some liberal guilt shit. Some lack of perspective shit. GET SOME COLOR IN YOUR WRITING ROOM, OITNB!

I CANNOT STAND PIPER NOW

I haven’t liked Piper since season 1, but now, I wanna dropkick her in the face every time I see her on screen. We get it. She’s a privileged white woman who nothing can ever touch. What else? Fuck Piper. Piper literally created a neighborhood watch and siced the guards on the Latina women because they were encroaching her illegal panty selling business.

white nonsense 2

The women were subjected to humiliating stops and frisks, with guards who sexually assaulted them in the process. Then she started the hate group for the white inmates to reclaim their power. Then as everyone else in the prison riots for Poussey, her and Vause are burning paper with the name of the guard Vause killed but Lolly took the fall for. They are completely oblivious and uncaring to what is going on around them.

Piper is the most selfish, self-absorbed goat and I want her to go away.

It’s ALL bad.

Seriously. Everything about this season was a blackhole of bad shit. Lolly getting dragged to the psych hall, after confessing to killing the guy. When truly, it was Vause who finished him off. Healy almost walking into the lake to kill himself from being so depressed and no one giving a fuck about him. Litchfield being a for-profit prison now so everything sucks DOUBLY since it is ALLLLLLL about bottom line and not at all about the humans in it.

Where do they go from here?

Where do they go from here?

Even the last scene, where the women of Litchfield rebel because enough is enough, and Daya grabs the gun that Humphries smuggled in, it falls flat. This was supposed to be that “YES” moment they have at the end of each season but it felt like it is only going to lead to more tragedy.

This season was nothing but heartbreak with no hope, from Lolly’s story to Poussey’s death to the complete hopelessness of these inmates who keep losing even the most basic decencies. After you tell the story, what comes? Because instead of letting me know what’s real, this show does that AND tells me that there is nothing to do about it. Even Caputo, who seems to be getting a heart, all of a sudden flips and doesn’t even speak up about Poussey’s death. All he does is stand behind the perpetrator.

And here we are. Unlike previous years where I couldn’t wait to see what was next (season 1, when Piper was beating up Pennsatucky), fist-pumping because: justice (season 2, when Vee was hit by the van) and smiling from 1 tiny moment of freedom (season 3, when the inmates got out the fence and were playing in the lake), season 4 makes me wanna curl up in the fetal position. And it also makes me not look forward to anything else from the show.

I have to give all the kudos to the actors on this show. OITNB has introduced us to some amazing talents, like Emmy Award-winning Uzo Aduba, and Samira Wiley, and Danielle Brooks. They have been a light in this show’s darkness.The fact that people ARE so heartbroken over Poussey’s death is a testament to the gifted Samira for making us fall in love with that character. And Taystee’s response in mourning and grief was masterful acting and I hope it gets Danielle nominated for an Emmy.

Taystee OITNB

But one of them is now gone from the show since her character is dead. It makes it feel… incomplete.

There were no good feels on Orange is the New Black season 4. There was just tragically ever after. This is not supposed to feel like Game of Thrones. I don’t that I’ll be watching season 5.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • April July 5, 2016, 11:10 am

    If Humphries had been the guard that killed Poussey, that would’ve been more accurate. Then we would’ve seen how these acts aren’t just accidental, no matter how they may be presented as such. Humphries, like many of the officers involved in the real life versions, has no respect for the lives of these women. You know there are guards like him just waiting for a chance like that.

    Also, if Pennsatucky wants to forgive the man who raped her, that’s her right, but don’t expect everyone else to. I’m with Boo on this one: f**k that guy.

    • Tynesha July 5, 2016, 2:21 pm

      April I’m in complete agreement with the Humphries comment. As a matter of fact everything happened so fast in that scene that I just ASSUMED it was him. I had to rewatch the scene to realize it wasn’t him. It would’ve made more sense and not created this strange dynamic.

    • Keis July 6, 2016, 12:20 pm

      I appreciated that it wasn’t Humphries because he was clearly ‘evil.’ I thought Bayley was a better choice in that, he is someone who served as a good counterpoint to Poussey, in that they had committed the same crimes (trespassing and drug possession) yet one was in prison and the other was a CO of that prison. If Humphries had done it , it would have been an ‘of course’ moment to me, because he doesn’t see these women as people, and he’s already exhibited racist behavior. I think with Bayley though, you get reminded that even someone as comparatively unoffensive as he is, has no real regard for these women and is just as capable of harm. I get the whole shades of gray thing, but I didn’t need him to made into such a sympathetic character and I sort of resented it because I wasn’t sure if the writers were being clever enough to say this is what has been happening – the perpetrator becomes rewritten as the victim and the victim is erased unless they can somehow present them in a dark light. It seems like they were going there, and then backed down like Caputo did, but didn’t realize that that was what they were doing.

  • CourtneyH July 5, 2016, 11:28 am

    I am admittedly a few seasons behind, so take my comment for what it is. It seems like a perfect lesson for writing. This same writers room was able to write compelling story in previous seasons. They apparently failed this season because they took on a current social issue, from the perspective of the victimizers. It is clear that they didn’t know how to take the perspective of the victims and this is why a diverse writers room is needed. Diversity of nationality, racial makeup, thought, and life story in general. Maybe that would have prevented a repeat telling of what we hear and reject from FoxNews.

    • Kari July 5, 2016, 11:35 am

      I agree.

      I think they wanted to show that it’s possible for this to happen in a situation where, truly, it’s no one person’s fault. But a diverse writers room would have said, No. That’s not the story we need to tell.

  • Kari July 5, 2016, 11:31 am

    This part was very telling to me: “Even Caputo, who seems to be getting a heart, all of a sudden flips and doesn’t even speak up about Poussey’s death. All he does is stand behind the perpetrator.”

    I felt such hope for that press conference, but when he goes off script to protect the guard, it showed how f*cked up the system is and how deep privilege runs. I guess anything else would have been too much of a fairytale. It really made me miss that scene in the lake.

    And I’m seriously bummed out to see how white the writers room is. It changes how I feel about this season.

  • Wendylous July 5, 2016, 11:31 am

    I wasn’t troubled by the ending. I enjoyed the season. I always do. I’ve stopped looking to fiction to empathize with non fiction issues. I guess that’s why Shonda’s writing gets its kudos from me because they do it well. Most cannot and do not because the victims look nothing like the writers who make a poor attempt at speaking for them. I was weeping though when Uzo beat that weirdos ass and when Samir a was killed off. What was that about? That part was the only real thing because often when people get their shit together a tragedy or setback does befall them. I didn’t mind Lolly going away, she’s nut bag. EVERYBODY would end up paying because she can’t shut the fuck up. I hated that Vause kept feeling guilty (the way she did). Perhaps she wanted the guy to kill her. I dunno. And Pipers is a fool. But Piper has always been a fool. I see what she was trying to do but because she is (written) sheltered and selfish and out of touch, maybe she couldn’t have perceived a white power movement starting or the guards (these guards are seriously fucked up) being such dicks. She was trying to protect herself. I got that. The smoking of Crack, in jail or anywhere? Negative. No thank you. The guard that had the gun that Daya is pointing the gun at needs to die. He’s terrible. They’re all terrible. I will continue to watch because Tehran ending signifies that it’ll only get worse. I’m thinking that all the papers with the “guard’s” name were not destroyed and Vause will be linked back. Daya might kill the guard or get killed. She is very naive and childish, ok, she’s stupid and I wouldn’t be sad to see her go. And I hated seeing Taystee cry for Poussey. I found her ridiculous. I cried but not because of her. I do feel sorry for the guard. That was just a horrible accident. And I imagine jails are that way in that these cool ass people just want to stay to themselves and some fucked up people just want to fuck with people. I hope to NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER find out.
    And lastly, unibrow is so pretty.

  • Erica Franklin July 5, 2016, 11:34 am

    We can’t give people passes and then take them back. For 3 seasons we have allowed the writers of OITNB to tell our story and now we want to cry about the fact that there are no people of color in the writer’s room. Maybe that’s the conversation we should have. Maybe we should demand that those who are given the platform (i.e. Lee Daniels, Tyler Perry) take on this cause. I applaud them for even going there (whitewashed as it may have been) because most shows won’t.

    R.I.P. Poussey

    • Cake211 July 5, 2016, 12:32 pm

      But they only went there because it’s the topic du jour and they use it as a plot device instead of making any real commentary, which presumably they would have been able to do had there been people of color to help provide some needed nuance. Almost all of the shows on TV led by black people behind the camera have addressed BLM and done it with more nuance than just “black people vs white people” and contributed more to the conversation because they have lived experiences to inform how they wrote about it.

      If season 4 had been written differently and the photo of the all white writing room still circulated, we would still be calling that shit out.

  • Tracy July 5, 2016, 11:38 am

    Thank you for writing this. In the past left me feeling all the feels but this season just left me with disappointment, regret and shame. Part of me tries to give them the benefit of the doubt, but so many other television writers have addressed this topic better (see Blackish, Scandal, Jerrod Carmichael, hell even Law&Order SVU) that this just left a bad taste in my mouth.

  • Zandria July 5, 2016, 11:39 am

    I haven’t been able to finish the season due to all of the reasons above, and reading this makes me glad that I didn’t bother. I don’t need anymore reasons to feel downtrodden about race relations and the “justice” system in this country…day to day living gives more than enough.

  • Ash July 5, 2016, 12:00 pm

    I have hope for season 5. Caputo did secretly give Sophia’s wife the picture to help get Sophia out of the SHU. He has repeatedly shown his distaste for the corporation and he doesn’t seem to be too hesitant to put them on the line to get some level of justice (so long as his job isn’t in jeopardy. We never did get to see what Caputo told Poussey’s father. One of my theories is that Caputo made is speech to open up the prison to direct liability by not using Bailey as a scapegoat. The prison’s whole plan was to completely dissociate from Bailey for that very reason. This could lead to further investigation with maybe Poussey’s father leading the lawsuits.

    I was also bothered by all the surface level racial tensions and the level of animosity towards the women of color, but I never expect too much depth from tv shows because most white people probably wouldn’t understand the nuances of racism anyway and they still need to reach all their audiences. I also thought the anger was necessary for us to feel so strongly about what just happened to Poussey. Maybe Bailey wasn’t the expected killer, but it played into the idea that racism is a system, it’s not just based on individual acts and emotions. Bailey was a direct actor and beneficiary of that system even though they portrayed him to have good intentions.

    Also, fuck Chapman. I never liked her. I hope she dies.

    • Tynesha July 5, 2016, 2:26 pm

      I am inclined to agree with you about Caputo. I feel like he gave Poussey’s dad some inside information. At least that is my hope because despite some of his decisions I have thought of Caputo as an advocate for these women. I’m thinking Poussey’s dad can use his military status to bring down some heat on the corporation.

      Also you’re right, I can’t stand Piper.

  • Jackie July 5, 2016, 12:19 pm

    And Sophia’s incomplete story line was a real high disappointment for me. We had her ex wife in a couple of scenes demanding information – getting a gun pulled on her, which turned Caputo on and me off completely. Then there’s blood on her isolated cell and next thing we know – she’s back with the general population. Like WTF just happened? Who will be held accountable? Where’s the ex wife? Very disappointing season.

  • Malikka July 5, 2016, 12:22 pm

    I actually disagree – almost in entirety. I think it was the best season of OINTB, though every season has been good to me. I appreciated the way it addressed countless issues without feeling like the writing was heavy-handed and overly dramatic.

    It talked intra-racial colorism – something not often discussed with a broad audience. Not only was there racial tension between the Latinx women and the White ones, but it showed the way they were divided amongst themselves based on skin tone, country of origin, and how much the African diaspora affected any of them (i.e. – how much Black was in them). It was huge to me to see that onscreen.

    It covered the realities of the way transgendered folks are displaced and often punished under the guise of “protecting” them. It got more in-depth on the topic of the mental state of a lot of correctional officers – the power tripping, the blurring of lines between right and wrong, the sadistic side to many of them, the way many view inmates as animals instead of people, and the way there are often no consequences for those actions.

    It brilliantly covered the dynamics involved in the privatization of prisons and the way the humanity of inmates is disregarded. It covered extremes of mental illness – from Lolly’s constant battle with her own mind, Suzanne’s consistently failed attempts at romantic connection and general “normalcy”, Morello’s extreme insecurities that lead to her jealous and irrational actions, to Healy’s hurts that led to a suicide attempt and consequent hospitalization. The nature of his loneliness has always been a topic on the show, but this season gave us his history and insight into the depths of his depression.

    Though always a surface topic, there was some delving into race, racism, and the way it’s conceptualized within Litchfield and outside of it. And the bringing in of the prevalence of the BLM Movement was a smart move to me.

    There was so much good writing, amazing acting, and real subject matter covered that I watched thinking it was absolutely the best I’ve seen from the show. I would love to see more diversity on the writing staff to reflect the diversity of the characters, but I don’t discount the writing because whiteness.

    • April July 5, 2016, 1:26 pm

      I agree. This has been probably my favorite season and only due to about 3 episodes. It was traumatizing to watch Poussey’s death and even worse how they spun it to blame it on “the system” instead of the people a part of the system. It was also very real. Practically ripped from the healines. And I don’t think it was a plot device, it was a way to humanize the Mike Browns, Eric Garners, and Sandra Blands to people who are quick to write them off as troublemakers. They used Poussey bc Poussey represents every Black and Brown child/adult whose life was taken or ruined due to racism, apathy, and being marginalized.

      I think using Bayley (the nice cop) as the murderer was brilliant, because it shows that everyone who does these heinous acts aren’t inherently evil villains. Does it excuse their actions? Absolutely not. But it forces you to accept that they also have a story.

      Lolly’s storyline was my favorite of the whole season. OITNB does a great job a tackling mental illness and humanizing those dealing with MI.

      I do agree with Luvvie on not anticipating the next season like I have in the past. This was a TOUGH season to get through and I don’t know if I have any hope that things will get better. This season reminded me that as colorful, funny, witty, and intelligent these women may be, they are still in prison and there’s nothing pretty or palatable about prison.

    • KLC July 10, 2016, 12:54 pm

      Completely agree with you. Everything.

  • Lala Rose July 5, 2016, 12:28 pm

    The fact that Caputo was turned on when April from Accounting pulled the gun on Sophia’s wife… that let me know that violence against black women’s bodies was ok!

    Seriously.

    That was so vile!

    • ebony chappel July 5, 2016, 5:51 pm

      yes, i legit felt sick at that point. so twisted.

  • Nona July 5, 2016, 12:49 pm

    Thank you for for the recap.

    I agree that this season was especially dark and depressing, and there was very little hope, especially with that ending. There’s usually some light at the end of the tunnel but this season was downtrodden from beginning to end.

    Poussey’s death was shocking and gut wrenching. And then to realize the seemingly trivial reason she went to jail on the first place made it hurt all the more (not that any reason for her incarceration would have made it more palatable but her young life was snuffed out over nothing). Although her dying shocked me, the story was familiar in the grand tradition of Boyz in da Hood etc etc a young black life with future and promise either ends up incarcerated or dead, both happened to P.

    Then to leave her rottening on the ground made me so angry. Tastee’s reaction from beginning to end mirrored my reaction as a viewer.

    Re: the humanizing of the murderer, that’s also typical and it didn’t even occur to me when watching but thanks for pointing it out, cause it F’ing bothers me now. He was actually already a fair tempered guard in comparison to the rest, so the waxing poetic about what a nice guy he was bugs. I do think what the writers were pointing out, however, was his white privileges (he and his friends breaking the law, getting busted, and being let go free) and despite those privileges due to his own lack of motivation and/or intelligence he ended up as a guard with no education or experience required – that I appreciated. I.e. When he admitted to having weed and the police officers laughed about it yet the person he murdered was in jail because of it. That’s what stood out to me.

    Caputo was an asshat the entire season so I ultimately wasn’t shocked by what he did. Sure he helped out Sophia sown what, but look how long it took him to do that and it seemed to be out of guilt in that particular moment, and especially sparked by another white person (the nun) putting herself on the line for Sophia. I actually felt what Caputo did was true to life showing that many white people, no matter how nice or “down” they may seem will always pick the life and reputation of another white person over a black or brown person despite how heinous that white person’s actions are towards that black or brown person, if they see a semblance of good on that person – e.g. a white person, even a bad white person, is worth having faith in their future goodness and worth saving. I hate Caputo.

    I hate the one who tried to drown himself too and that was another moment that a possible silver lining was snatched away from me as a viewer. He needs to go. And I hated his back story, another asshat who the writers attempted to give sympathy to. Sometimes people just suck, no trauma in their past needed. That’s how I viewed him, as a weirdo who never navigated socialization so he lashes out at those who don’t accept his weirdo version of friendship or love.

    I really like Lolley, and I liked her back story. Both her and Crazy Eyes had the best back stories this season and show how those with mental illness or handicaps end up in jail without treatment.

    I didn’t like the red head being back, still a druggie, and preying on Lorna. Gross. And Lorna still being crazy, that was actually interesting, showing that that just doesn’t go away.

    Overall I still like the writing except for perpetual doom and gloom. But I am beyond disappointed to see the writing room is entirely vanilla. How do you write a show about comprised extensively by people of color and not have a single person of color on your writing staff?

    Lastly, Piper. I’ll be the sole person to disagree about her. I can’t stand Piper, but I had no problems with how she reacted to competition. She came up with an idea, she didn’t want to hire Maria’s people, Maria decided to compete with her, so Piper took her competitor out. That’s life. Piper clearly didn’t foresee igniting a white supremacy group or the racial profiling and in the end glommed onto the white supremacy group for survival. She deserved the branding tho and I despise her for her attitude overall but especially after P’s death.

    I’ll prolly keep watching but not excited about it.

  • TJ July 5, 2016, 12:53 pm

    I’m sorry but I don’t agree. I know a few ppl that work in prisons and they all said this season was 100% accurate. Whether the writers are black or white, if the story is accurate then that’s all that matters to me. Who wrote it does not. If it were all white writers and it was not accurate then yes I would have a problem. This season was sad. But it’s a show about prison! It would be unrealistic to watch a prison show and leave feeling good. Prison is a bad place filled with racists, rapists, drug addicts, mental illness and violence. I think if they did not address these issues the show would be unrealistic. I’m fine with the way they were addressed again as long as it was an accurate portrayal. The previous seasons made prison life not seem so bad. It’s hard to watch but it’s the sad truth of the prison system. Its what happens and it SHOULD make us sad, angry and uncomfortable. Don’t be mad at the writers, be mad this prison system actually exists! They have done their homework! I will def be watching next season now that it’s getting real.

    • Maxine Shaw, attorney at LOL July 5, 2016, 6:22 pm

      That’s odd…because virtually every prisoner who is publicly asked about this show says it’s pure bullshit.

  • Vee July 5, 2016, 12:55 pm

    I completely agree. I almost didn’t finish the season because of this foolishness. After almost every eposode; I was sceeaming: I HATE THIS FUCKING SHOW! WTF?! Shit didn’t make sense. I never liked Chapman! She get on my last nerve. When Poussey died I cried like she was my kin. When Chapman got branded, I was like *crickets*.

    I have always been on the fence with this show. But this last season, meh…..

  • j holla July 5, 2016, 1:26 pm

    Yes to all of this. First off, i was so numbed by the death of Poussey that I didn’t even notice how they drew out the humanity of the guard that killed her. Maybe it’s because i’m so used to this being done following every tragic death of a black person at maliciously negligently white hands.
    The lack of POC writers to me becomes glaring when you look at the back stories of the black and brown characters and what lead up to their imprisonment. The fact that so many POC are in jail because of minor drug crimes and offenses that didn’t warrant imprisonment if they had been defended more vigilantly with competent legal representation is rarely if ever addressed. And like you said, the characters on OITHB ended up in jail via dramatic “tragedy porn.” And now, Poussey, in jail on a weed offence, is now gone has now been diluted by her death. And I just want to say one thing about Samira Wiley. She is one of the most underrated actresses on television. She has given Poussey more range than any other character on that show. I was hoping season 3 would make the awards darling it did Uzo after seasons 1 and 2 but alas she was overlooked.

  • Kate July 5, 2016, 1:30 pm

    I had all kinds of reactions to Poussey’s death and then this write-up of her death: ways the show may have humanized and personalized for white people the police brutality that happens every day to black and brown people. But then I saw the writer’s room with all those white faces and realized how off-base even my own perceptions were. Like why do we have to keep making victims out of black and brown people on TV to try and squeeze a little empathy out of white people? Does OITNB need to go the way of Glee and get all bogged down in victimization and preachiness? I think they can handle real, important issues without it ending like this.

    Not to say that it shouldn’t have been Poussey who died; her smallness and innocence and likability made it the “right” choice for the shock value. But “it didn’t have to be this way.” Art gives us the chance to flip the script. What would have happened if Caputo had gone on TV and talked about Poussey–said her name and who she was? What would have happened if he had REALLY been the “good guy” he always claims he is, instead of stopping short of putting his own ass on the line? At some point, white people have to start doing that for real change to happen. This could have been a moment that showcased that.

    There was just so little nuance this season; it felt melodramatic, especially with the skinheads. Nothing was believable about them. I do feel that Piper was kind of like the Trump of Litchfield; how she needed a group to support her and then, surprise! You’ve empowered every racist in the joint. I liked that aspect of it, how naive she was to the “Task Force” being all-white. But every other part of the race war situation could have been handled more deftly, for sure.

  • Milaxx July 5, 2016, 1:40 pm

    That picture of the write’s room explained so much I always wondered why the show went to such great lengths to make sure that we understood that the CIS white males like Bennett, Caputo, Bailey and especially Healey were also in pain. That write’s room is not only Melanin deficient, it’s nearly 50% male and they made damn sure to mansplain the actions of these male characters. Hell, even Donuts was allowed to not understand that rape is a bad thing.

    Piper was the trojan horse that fooled many of us into thinking the show would eventually open up and give us more of the lives of the other women. They didn’t and I can no longer pretend or hope that they will. The real Piper is an exec producer on this. I’m sure her story will always be front and center, taking of a good 50% of the season. I’m out.

  • Stacy July 5, 2016, 1:49 pm

    I watched episode 12 right after I was done watching Sansa and the Knoghts of the Vale save the day on Game of Thrones so I was on a great high and then had my bubble burst. I was really bothered by this season of OITNB. The way the racial divide happened so quickly. The Way Piper got that girl extra time and didn’t even feel bad. The way they did Lolly. And POUSSEY! Little, short always smiling POUSSEY! When Tastey got on the floor and starting wailing I felt like someone had ripped my heart out and threw it against the wall. I cried so hard. The way they left her body there. The way people were acting like it’s no big deal. Every time they showed something else to make Bayley seem nice I would think “F*ck that guard!”I get what they were trying to do, but they did it wrong. All the way wrong. The whole season was just one big sigh. And not the oh well type of sigh. The Jesus I’m tired and weary kind of sigh. I don’t care to really watch the next one.

  • Mimi Green July 5, 2016, 1:58 pm

    I certainly felt some type of way after watching this season. It showed everything that is wrong in the system. Things we already knew about. Not news!

    It made me angry if anything, yet another reminder oh how messed up the world really is. I already knew that, where was the resolution?

    I wanted to choke out the new big C.O.

  • ebony chappel July 5, 2016, 5:42 pm

    so perfect. my thoughts exactly. it took me soooo long to finish this season because i spent most of the time pissed off. there were so many opportunities for them to turn this ship around and each time…nothing. it’s like they really, really don’t give a damn and that’s not okay.

  • ebony chappel July 5, 2016, 5:47 pm

    ALSO, Sophia spent the entire damn season in that dungeon?!?!? Popped up every once in a while and when she finally came out the most significant thing they could show was her putting her wig back on. Like what? That was hella annoying. Just fails, all the way around.

  • Maxine Shaw, attorney at LOL July 5, 2016, 6:14 pm

    One thing we learned about in library school was about authenticity of voice (particularly important in YA literature). I don’t remember/care enough about the first three seasons, but the voice in this season was EXTREMELY inauthentic. It sounded like a bunch of white people writing how they think black people sound, so I wasn’t surprised to find that nearly all of the writers were white.

  • Jennifer July 5, 2016, 10:50 pm

    This season *was* dark and I didn’t enjoy it as much as the other seasons. That being said I think the direction this season took was important. It dove into the complexities of a fucked up system where we throw people away and commodify life. Does that make for great entertainment? That depends on the viewer, but I do think it’s an important story to tell.

    My biggest problems were; 1.) Caputo. I died inside every time he had the chance to make a change and didn’t. Absolutely died. 2.) The Pennsatucky arc has me very conflicted. Yeah yeah two sides to every story, but…I really dont feel good about them making the aggressor so forgivable. Statistically rapists dont just get carried away. They know what they’re doing! 3.) The entire story line of Sophia and her wife. They could have had a *huge* social action arc around that. Let people know that corporate prisons aren’t held to the same standards as federal prisons.

  • Noelle July 6, 2016, 12:27 am

    I have to disagree with this. Just because something makes you angry, doesn’t mean it’s bad. In my opinion, this season raised the entire show onto an entirely different plane and confronted issues we are not comfortable with- and that is good television, to me. This author seems to think that this season was terrible because the subject matter made them uncomfortable, that it made them feel sick and angry.
    Isn’t that the point? Don’t we want art that makes us feel? Do we want shows that are stagnant and complacent, or do we want television that challenges what we think, and causes us to raise our hackles? Shows that move forward, and confront issues in the real world?
    This is a show about prison. Did you expect a happy ending?

  • judy July 6, 2016, 12:44 am

    Unbelievable! The writing team! No pocs at all? That’s the real crime…

  • Mich July 6, 2016, 8:54 am

    I was considering finishing season 3 and watching this one, but I think I’ll pass…. I managed to get like 3 episodes into season 3 before I gave up. I just really fecking hate Piper.

  • Aisha NappyAsIWannaBe Kelson July 8, 2016, 1:06 pm

    Its good to know I am not alone in my feelings about this season. I was hating it most of the way through. There was no real story being told. . except the race wars. While the last 2 episodes did add some needed drama by bringing everything to a head..it was so sloppy.

    And take the 1 character that everyone loves….the one with such a heart that you can’t help but feel like she’s your friend and pray things will work out well for her once she gets out. . .you take that character and use her to have your Black Lives Matter moment? The entire thing is bullshit

  • Frenesi July 8, 2016, 1:43 pm

    Thank you for this. I felt this season exhibited a troubling racism — was it just me, or did the white prisoners consistently come off as less “criminal” than POCs? Piper tries to be gangsta but it’s Maria who REALLY knows how to run a gang. Judy King is in for some white collar crime, and only the white guards are villainous. Where’s the fantastic meanness Red showed in Season One when she denied Piper food? Meanwhile we see Maritza scamming people, Maria growing up surrounded by gangs, and Suzanne basically kidnapping a white kid. (Unintentional, I know, but still…) Sure, we found out that Red had five bodies in her freezer and the biker chick killed a lot of people, but those things were tossed off — they didn’t land emotionally. So much of the violence was POC on white: the Dominicans branding Piper, Suzanne causing the death of a white kid and beating up the crazy white girl.

    I HATED Pennsatucky forgiving her rapist. We’re supposed to applaud because he got a boner, loomed over her threateningly and then backed off? Ugh. I also don’t like how mental illness (Suzanne, Lolly) is consistently played for laughs. Real mental illness is scary and sad.

    And finally…it’s a little thing, but I could never suspend my disbelief that NO ONE noticed a guard disappearing. WTF? Certainly he was scheduled for shifts that he missed. It would have been so easy to come up with a believable alternative: he disguised himself as a guard and got inside because Litchfield was staffed by incompetents.

  • Lori July 10, 2016, 6:22 pm

    You articulated so well the gut reaction I had to this season. I read this post when I was four episodes in. The show was making me annoyed and queasy. I knew I was done with Piper’s tunnel vision entitlement and delusional self-importance. She’s always been the worst part of the show, but it was too much–stomping on the personhood of everyone else. I thought they were turning Taystee into a cartoon. It seemed like things were getting over-simplified and over-done all at the same time. So many of these characters were portrayed as complex humans with interesting inner lives. Sexuality, race, culture, gender identity. It wasn’t so simplistic before. I don’t know if I’ll even finish the season. As always, thank you for your words.

  • Jen N July 10, 2016, 8:12 pm

    First, Danielle Brooks is so awesome that they should give her ALL the Emmys. For every category. After the other celebrities do their red carpet walk for E!, they can get back in their limos and head straight for the after parties. Change the name of the show from “68th Primetime Emmy Awards” to “The Awesomeness That is Danielle.”

    Second, I am always seeking to learn more about the experiences of other people. I am white; I appreciated the opportunity to watch a show with a diverse cast. But when I saw a picture of that writers’ room, I felt angry, embarrassed, and duped. I just assumed the writers would be as diverse as the cast. How could this group possibly feel that they were qualified to give voice to the experiences of black and Latina women? (And I get what you were saying about Quentin Tarantino. Knowing that a group of white people wrote all those racial slurs into the script gives me the creeps.)

    Ennyweighs…Thanks for sharing your ability to succinctly articulate that which is often difficult to express. I appreciate your work.

  • Ursula July 12, 2016, 12:08 pm

    This post! YES! I agree 100%.

    I’ve fallen in love with the same characters you describe but at the beginning of every season that drops, I find myself approaching it with apprehension. I wonder what new horror will be revealed. The “accidental” death of Poussey by the only “good” guy in the building was just plain lazy writing and gave us white people another excuse.

    I’m uncertain I will be watching next season because I agree with you, it’s obvious things are not going to end well again.

  • ALLY July 12, 2016, 3:02 pm

    I have to say I completely agree with you on the fact that they wound up giving a bit too much credence to the Blue Lives Matter side of things.
    HOWEVER. I really must offer a counterpoint. As one of your melanin-deficient readers, I cannot tell you how much wokeness this storyline has evoked amongst my pigment-deprived sistren. Watching Poussey die so senselessly during a peaceful protest has sparked sudden and profound awareness in many of my friends. And the fact that the guard is NOT a bad apple is actually the right move, because if he WERE the evil one, we could all just say “ok, he’s the bad guy, and obviously it’s his fault.” But the wonderful nuance is that it’s not HIS fault, it’s the fault of so so many of the officers, of the administrators, of the SYSTEM. That is the genius of this narrative move, I think–racism-deniers or just plain ig folks are FORCED to confront the idea that YES, lethally racist behaviors even happen to the GOOD GUYS. Isn’t that incredibly valuable? Isn’t that more powerful than it coming from just another racist ignorant power-tripping a-hole?

    • Meaux September 4, 2016, 1:44 pm

      I garee with you that making the “decent guy” the murderer was the right move BUT I disagree with you on the nuance – the nuance is IT IS his fault even though we believed he wasn’t a bad guy. Lethally racist behaviors don’t just happen to good guys – there is an actor and in this example just because the guy was sympathetic didn’t excuse the act or make him a victim of that act. He may also be a victim of the system but he is the one who killed Poussey

  • Maggie July 13, 2016, 6:50 pm

    The death of Poussey was supposed to leave you feeling conflicted. That was the whole point. You want justice for your favorite character but you also want lenience for a good guard who was also wronged by the system. If it had been as simple as good vs. evil, then it wouldn’t have been edgy, it wouldn’t have made you feel the same way. Caputo may have supported the guard in the press conference, but I never felt that the writing staff was trying to say that Blue Lives mattered more. Caputo is spineless, and we saw that throughout the entire season. Just when we think he’s doing the right thing, he switches it up because he’s playing politics. Probably a necessary evil for the job that he has. For the race wars: the slurs against the black characters cut deep. The white supremacists are supposed to be the antagonists, the bad guys. You’re supposed to hate them, and that’s why there’s an overuse of racial slurs against the black characters.

    The writers did their jobs by creating controversy, by giving good characters the short end of the stick, by making you angry and making you sad, by rewarding the bad guys, by not providing justice. Because this is all reflective of real life. This was by far the best season of the entire series BECAUSE it left us all feeling torn to pieces at the end.

    • Emily July 14, 2016, 9:04 am

      “You want justice for your favorite character but you also want lenience for a good guard who was also wronged by the system.”

      I disagree — I don’t want lenience for Bailey. He wasn’t wronged by the system, the system consistently gave him a pass and then he murdered someone. They just set it up to leave us feeling like he was wronged, which unfortunately reflects what we see everyday in the news.

      I hear the argument from some saying that art should reflect real life, but when we never see a happy ending in real life it might be nice to see one on screen. As others have said, if Caputo had spoken up for Poussey, rather then defending Bailey, maybe it could have been an example of what “doing the right thing” looks like.

      This season was traumatic. And not in a good way. It didn’t make me want to take action against state violence — REAL LIFE is doing enough of that. It just made me feel like fighting against the system is hopeless. If a fictional TV show can’t even imagine a happy ending what hope do we have of seeing one in real life.

  • B. Munro July 25, 2016, 10:16 am

    Your piece is spot on & thank you.
    It seems that almost everywhere else you look online that people are still raving about how much they just love it.
    I’m caucasian & can see that the group of all white (w/ the exception of an Asian woman) writers- are desperately missing the point.
    If I were Black I’d find issue with it as well.
    You can just so easily see that they are a group of bleeding hearts, randomly coming up with story lines & desperate to have every white character look beyond ugly, racist & evil.
    Granted, there are still people out there like that, but this was ridiculous.
    Each story line is obviously disparate from the next so that everyone on the writing team gets “their moment.”
    How dare they not put Lavern Cox’s acting abilities to better use.
    And the choice to kill Poussey was just random.
    I felt like I was watching a show written by a group of high school girls.
    And why on earth do they not have a few more Black writers on a show with so many Black actresses?
    I’d be insulted too if I were you, and I’m insulted for you.
    The first season was wonderful.
    After that it was non sense.
    Of course we keep coming back to see if by some miraculous chance it might be turned around with each season, but sadly this is not the case.
    I’m done with it.

  • Dolaris August 26, 2016, 10:14 am

    I just watched the episode where piper gets jumped by the spanish chicks and branded.

    How could piper be so dumb, the minute that fat girl said let’s talk outside I knew what was going to happen. I thought piper was smart?

    ok, so I hate this season, and if piper doesn’t get some sick revenge on the spanish chicks I’m gonna stop watching, so could someone save me some time and tell me if maria and her crew of scags get shanked?

    thanks,

  • Mira August 29, 2016, 5:03 pm

    I’d like this season BECAUSE everything went to hell. Prison isn’t a comedic experience, people are turned inside out from being on the inside. Tragedy happens and Caputo defending the guard is great because it shows how deep privilege and favoritism runs in not only the workplace but life. It may have been a bit flat but I like that it got grittier and realer. I’m sorry if you wanted a light comedy about prison.

  • Shawna September 11, 2016, 10:02 am

    I actually really liked the season. It was heavier than we’ve ever seen before, but I think they’re starting to get really into what a bad system our prisons are.

    That was one of the points of Poussey’s death. She didn’t deserve it, Bailey never wanted to hurt her and didn’t mean to, and the situation occurred because of a sh!t system and untrained guards. It’s not just evil people who kill others. I blame Bailey in the way that I blame others in similar situations in modern times and in history – if it wasn’t him, it would have been someone (anyone) else. That kind of situation is crap for whoever is in it. That absolutely excuses nothing, but the point is that Bailey isn’t the big issue. Bailey should still be fired and prosecuted, no question – but it was accidental manslaughter, not murder in the first. Crucifying him wouldn’t change anything – the prison still gets off free. Bailey is cannon fodder for them. That said, the system and those pulling the strings did murder Poussey, and that includes Caputo. They made things very unsafe and didn’t care. Don’t care even now. The people who created that situation should go down for murder, all of them. When this kind of thing isn’t an isolated incident (and it’s not), it’s generally not one person responsible. To take down one person is to let the rest of them go, and that’s not okay.

  • Poussey Galore March 5, 2017, 9:02 am

    None of you have heard of Shakespeare I see. Life is a tragedy. Life most often has no hope. All of these people and the situations they find themselves in are metaphors of things that happen daily to people’s lives. Are they realistic? Yes and no. That’s why they call it fiction. I agree that the series jumped the shark and lost some of its heart and charm. Piper is horrible now and we don’t care nor do we care of any possible redemption. I get it. But to care about people we hate, that is the struggle of our humanity as well as for writers. You are not supposed to be happy. Not supposed to like them. That’s the point. But I do think you are projecting when you think the white writers are making police sympathetic. Very smartly, they intentionally create false sympathy for them – and they accomplished exactly what they intended; for us to loath them. As far as race, I love that the show shows that black people can be just as lame, stupid, heartless, insesitive and cruel as white people.

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