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Orange is the New Black, Season Five

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The popular Netflix dramedy has made it to its fifth season, and although Orange Is the New Black continues to blend in comedic moments in every episode, it’s the most complex and darkest season yet. Fans of the show who love the show’s combination of outrageous humor with pulpy, women-in-prison action, know that season four ended on the eve of an uprising at Litchfield, the minimum-security facility that has been the setting for Orange Is the New Black since it premiered. The season four finale left viewers with one the prime villains, Correction Officer Thomas Humphrey, portrayed with sadistic flare by actor Michael Torpey, kneeling on the prison floor with a pistol pointed to his head. An errant bullet escalates the action into a full riot and long-suffering Dayanara played by actress Dascha Polanco, was the unlikely shooter.
Michael Torpey and Dascha Polanco
Unlike previous seasons, all of the action in season five occurs within a three-day span during the riot, a device that works well at times and fails at others. The writers spread the action among the supporting characters and season five has reduced the protagonist, Piper Chapman played by the amazing Taylor Schilling, to a second banana. In addition, actor Michael Harney, who has portrayed Litchfield’s counselor, Sam Healy since the series’ inception, is missing in action. We last saw a suicidal Healy walking into a psychiatric institution. Have the writing team of Orange Is the New Black, scrubbed his character from the show, or, will Healy return in season six? Fans will have to wait a year for the answer.

Taylor Schilling, Orange Is the New Black
Danielle Brooks and Uzo Aduba, Orange Is the New Black
The real star of season five is the marvelous Danielle Brooks who has emerged a star with her portrayal of Tasha ‘Taystee’ Jefferson. In past seasons, Taystee’s role is primarily comic relief, but not in season five. She leads the revolt, and has to decide what is most important to her, avenging the death of her best friend, Poussey Washington, or improving the conditions at Litchfield. Brooks has grown into the role over five seasons and the writers finally have written an arc that allows the actress to bring her explosive presence to the small screen. Uzo Aduba continues to amaze as the disturbed but brilliant Susanne.
Uzo Aduba, Orange Is the New Black
Jackie Cruz and Diane Guerrero as Flaca and Maritza

The most delightful paring of the season belongs to Jackie Cruz and Diane Guerrero as Flaca and Maritza. The two actresses bring needed humor and a sense of fun to the show as wannabe makeover artists and YouTube stars who broadcast the rebellion online.

Unfortunately, another pairing on the show simply doesn’t work and makes annoyance an art form. The talents of Emma Myles and Julie Lake are wasted in the thankless roles as Leanne and Angie, two mean-spirited, racist meth addicts who create havoc throughout the riot. While no one can deny that their acting is solid, the writing team forces the characters to go from one vile action to another, with no sense of awareness of the brutality of their acts or character arc. The characters remain just as sadistic and racist as they were in earlier seasons, their actions cruel and redundant, and viewers never watch them grow. Whoever penned their segment not only turned off viewers, but also cut two gifted actresses off at the knees.

Emma Myles and Julie Lake
Orange Is the New Black

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