You don’t need a television show to tell you just how hard prison life can be, but season four of Orange Is The New Black does help to further reinforce the fact into your memory.
It’s been four years since we were introduced to Litchfield Penitentiary and its many inmates, but a lot has changed since the early days of Piper’s incarnation. If you’ve not yet seen or finished this season, I’m going to try and keep it relatively spoiler-free – I won’t name names and big plot points.
We left season three with Alex fighting for her life in a greenhouse and the inmates enjoying a swim in the near-by pool. Season four kicks off immediately on from the last season and keeps the action coming – to an extent.
The first few episodes are quite slow-paced. Once we go over where we left, things all tend to quieten down for a bit. That ultimately means that minor side-stories end up taking a bit too much time – when a plot about snoring ends up becoming one of the core focuses for about three episodes, it starts to wear thin very quickly.
The first half of the season is going to divide fans of the show. Those who are looking for the conflict, drama and shenanigans will have to hold tight for a while this time round, and it may make for a slow start for many. Stick with it though and you’re treated to a hell of a roller-coaster second half – the writers of the show have upped the ante in terms of violence and shock (there’s two notable scenes that turned my stomach over).
The general basis of the season is that there are new inmates aplenty and, I mean, aplenty. It’s actually quite overwhelming at the start. The prison is overcrowded, you start to wonder who the hell that girl is and where she came from (is she new or was she always there), but you get used to it in the end. With new inmates, comes new prison guards and they’re determined to leave an impression on the inmates.
What I enjoy about OITNB is that there is never really any ‘main’ characters as such. In Season one, it was definitely Piper and Alex focused but since then it’s become such a more ensemble-based piece. There’s some episodes where you’ll never heard of a certain character and then they’ll become a main plot point in the next. I also like that certain characters who are usually stuck in the background are given perfect chance to shine this time round. You get to know them a bit better.
There’s a lot of social commentary going on in this season. Race, class, views, health and sexuality are all heavily covered and it may make for uncomfortable viewing for some. As one of the biggest shows on Netflix, you have to applaud the writers and creators for being so honest and tackling these issues head on. You can definitely sense that some of the biggest stories in divides in America have inspired the story lines this year. Early on, I was reminded of the Sandra Bland case, and it’s important to have these issues addressed on such a huge platform.
The first few episodes do take their time and it does make you question whether you should stick with it or actually go outside and experience what life has to offer besides television but stick with it, and you’ll find yourself hooked once more and incapable of turning off. Yes, Netflix, I am still watching, next episode please.
I’ve touched on the important aspects of the season but it’s important to mention that the season does still bring the funny. You have the regular culprits bringing out their famous one-liners and some of the plots do make you chuckle. But come prepared with a tissue too as for every bit of laughter, there’s something that’ll break your heart right round the corner.
Previous seasons, such as season two with Vee, had a character as a villain. This season, the villain seems to be society itself – perhaps one of the greatest and scariest villains of all time.
How does it compare to the rest? I wasn’t much of a fan of season three. It let me down a little and didn’t capture my attention. At the start of this season, I was worried it was going to go the same way but there’s one pivotal point where you realise it’s all getting good again and all of a sudden you finish episode 13 and wonder what to do with your life now.
Only 12 months to wait for season five…