Orange is the New Black was always a series that was enjoyable. It stayed a long of the line of a series worthy of watching and most definitely an enjoyable series but not a series that stood above the rest. With Season 5 it no longer stayed a long the line of just another series worthy of a watch and a few shout outs. It became the series I always wanted to see. It hit legendary status on my series viewing experience. A platform that has really only been hit by three series that felt complete in every sense of the word. Season five had all the fixings to get lost in the season and deliver the most bold and profound storyline the show has dared to explore while still keeping true to thing that matters most in the world of television; Characters.
While Piper Chapman is still techinically the lead character of this series the show has definitely learned where the strong actresses are and which characters need to be the central focus and when. This season it belonged to three characters. Taystee, Red and Daya.
Daya will be the first one discussed as she was the first character who really had a major impact on the events that transpired over the course of season 5. Daya without her mother in prison with her wanted to feel heard and feel like she had a place within the prison. Daya makes a life altering decision for all the prisoners when she shoots the guard in the leg. It plays out through the narrative as Daya becomes the one in charge as she is the one with the weapon. Daya as most people would takes the reigns but instantly sees the pressure of the now escalating prison riot. Within her story was the acceptance of ones own choices and how you can only really hope for better for the ones you love. With her mother gone she tried to grab one moment of acceptance which took away a lifetime of experiences in the outside world away.
Red comes next. Kate Mulgrew has always been one of the highlights of the series thus far and Season 5 of course took her character in a new almost unexpected turn with the abuse of speed and the frantic searches to prove Piscatella had alterior motives. It allowed for emotional moments of role reverseal between Red and Nikki which were some of the best scenes they have shared together. Red was always strong for her girls and her family and this time it was there turn to show their solidarity with her and take down Piscatella when things escalated. While on the subject, the episode featuring flashbacks to Piscatella’s past was one of the best use of the flash backs to date. It added depth to a character who in order to feel like the seasons big bad needed more dynamic and purpose within the story.
Of course the guards and their lack of respect for the inmates gave way for the best performance of the season and definitely the biggest character progression and that is Danielle Brooks as Taystee. Poussey’s death and her subsequent rally for justic were Taystee’s driving anger to display emotions we have seen very seldomly in this series. It lead back to everything we constantly read every day about needless violence against black people all over the world. We get Taystees thirst for justice as it is time for change and for people to pay for their actions. This played out very heavily in two scenes. The first one a small brief scene where Taystee meets Poussey for the first time in the library. It was small, short but it was an absolutely beautiful and emotional scene from a writers stand point to show how deep and how far that connection grew. The second was the scene where Taystee is the voice who speaks instead of Judy King. It was brave and the message behind what she said was a message that holds true. People deserve rehabillitation, they deserve the right to be treated with respect and not like animals while in prison. Stop with the needless violence and stop forgetting that everyone should face justice for their actions.
Orange is the New Black definitely took on a much darker tone for the new season and with the way it ended it is definitely up in the air about where the show will go next. Will the remaining inmates left in the pool all survive? Will the show decide to focus on the core group as they are relocated? Its some tough decisions to make as a show runner but if they continue to make smart and tension filled decisions like they did for season 5 then season 6 will be just as good. If they choose to bring in new blood to Litchfield it may end up taking a step back and becoming the slightly formulaic show that it once was.
It definitely makes sense to show perspectives as they begin to integrate back into normal life as it is a minmum security prison and their chances at Parole would be significantly higher. It has definitely elevated itself to legendary status for now. Whether it stays there falls primarily on the writing staff. With two seasons left on the current renewal deal with Netflix there is most definitely the question about considering the shows inevitable final season. It’s popular and that always has a major impact on situations moving forward but first and foremost it is a story and I hope it does not try and stay on for 10 seasons just to end on a mediocre final few seasons.
Netflix right now has an early candidate for drama of the year and with the ending we were given summer 2018 should prove to be just as eventful as summer 2017 for the inmates of Litchfield. Will it take the next step towards cementing a legacy or will step back towards familiar ground that tells a predictable and less intense story. Only time will tell and waiting is something fans of this series have grown accustomed to.