New season, new characters.
This post for Orange Is the New Black (OITNB) Season 6 contains spoilers.
I’m glad the show saved itself from the horrible Season 5 last year. Last year’s season focused on the prison riot and it was poorly written; everything was messy and all over the place, it was frustrating to watch. I’m happy to say that Season 6 (2018, created by Jenji Kohan) has picked up its pace and delivered an overall great and focused narrative this season.
Season 6 illustrates the aftermath of the prison riot that took place in Season 5. The prisoners have now departed from their minimum security facility to different maximum security facilities all over America; though most of the main characters have been moved to the maximum security facility located in Litchfield Penitentiary—which is the same location as where they were locked up before, but in different blocks.
This show may have started out with a main focus on Piper, but it has definitely evolved into exploring new characters. Like previous OITNB seasons, this season introduced four new characters—all of whom had their individual backstories told in different episodes, a format that has been used since the first season of this TV show.
I particularly enjoyed the sisters Barbara and Carol’s backstory that was told in parts through the episodes: “Look Out for Number One” (S06E03), “Chocolate Chip Nookie” (S06E10), and “Be Free” (S06E13). It was quite amusing to see how their deaths, caused by one another at the finale, was the result of a misunderstanding and their own faulty memories of the past. Both of them were put into prison because over 30 years ago, they killed their youngest sister Debbie by trapping her in a car, and then pushing that car into a freezing cold lake during winter. The way the scene was depicted made their characters so sinister; it was intriguing yet awful to watch sisters killing their own sister. And of course, credit has to be given to the actors Lauren Kelston and Ashley Jordyn, who played the younger versions of Barbara and Carol respectively.
Suzanne remains my favourite character of OITNB so far. I loved how this season started the first episode “Who Knows Better Than I” with her crazy antics; it helped kept the show lighthearted and comedic, which is a different vibe compared to last season. There is a lot to be learnt from Suzanne as a character; she’s loyal to her friends and the littlest things in life keeps her happy. A particular quote she says in “Chocolate Chip Nookie” really stuck with me.
There were many subplots ongoing in this season; one of it being the feud between Gloria Mendoza (Selenis Leyva) and Maria Ruiz (Jessica Pimentel). I was totally lost as to why Gloria was angry at Maria, but it was basically because Maria stole Gloria’s idea to free the hostages last season, thus making Gloria lose the opportunity of visiting her son in the hospital. Their subplot didn’t interest me because I had forgotten what their argument was about in the first place. Maria really redeemed herself in the finale by preventing another prison war from happening, but it’s sad how she got set up for the riot charge and was given another 10 years to her sentence—I guess that’s how karma works?
This season also didn’t leave out any of the horrible prison treatment brought upon by the prison guards. In “Who Knows Better Than I”, we already see two male prison guards trying to satisfy some sort of sexual fantasy by forcing Gloria and Maria to kiss each other on the lips in order to prove that they have made up. Everything is kind of ridiculous, though their behaviour definitely can’t beat Desi Piscatella’s (Brad William Henke).
In the finale episode, Linda Ferguson (Beth Dover) who was promoted from her head of purchasing position to VP of strategic planning, introduced the new immigration detention centres that will clearly be one of the main focuses of the next season. It was heartbreaking to see Blanca Flores (Laura Gómez) being dragged away by ICE after she stepped out of Litchfield Penitentiary. I’m keen to see what follows her character next season and how the relationship with her boyfriend Diablo (Miguel Izaguirre) will turn out.
This season also saw the contrast in terms of privilege between Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson (Danielle Brooks) and Piper. At the end of this season, Taystee lost her case and was convicted for murdering Piscatella; she will serve a life sentence for something she didn’t do. Despite some evidence being on her side, I wasn’t surprised that she lost because TV writers will never ever give the audience what they want—which is justice. And besides, Taystee’s injustice is probably a fictional retelling of what goes on in society for people of colour.
I’m happy for Piper though because after six seasons, she’s finally free. She was supposed to serve a 15-month long prison sentence for money laundering; and even though for audiences it has been 6 years since the show aired, in the show’s timeline, Piper apparently has 8 months left on her sentence if she wasn’t granted an early release. I’m excited to see what Piper will do on the outside—maybe start another soap or panty business?—and how she will cope without her wife Alex Vause (Laura Prepon), who has 4 years left on her sentence.
Sidenotes on OITNB Season 6:
- Flaca’s (Jackie Cruz) prison sister Maritza (Diane Guerrero) did not make an appearance this season; she is said to be somewhere far away, as she was one of the prisoners to be taken to another maximum security facility in the country.
- I wonder what happened to Norma (Annie Golden)? She’s the only other supporting character that I care about that didn’t make an appearance this season.
- Some might also complain that this season feels different with the disappearance of Soso (Kimiko Glenn), Yoga (Constance Shulman), Gina (Abigail Savage), Leanne (Emma Myles), Big Boo (Lea DeLaria) (she did appear briefly in Season 6), Janae (Vicky Jeudy), and so on; but honestly, they aren’t the important part of the story for this season, so their disappearance didn’t really matter to me.
- I love Lolly’s (Lori Petty) guest appearance in Season 6, she’s such a quirky and adorable character to watch on-screen.