‘Orange Is The New Black’ is four seasons deep, so far. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)
After watching Season 4 of “Orange Is the New Black,” the news that the show was renewed through seven seasons is daunting.
The fourth is its heaviest season yet, but it is also its most packed. There is too much going on. With a million different storylines, there is no real central plot line and it gets overwhelming.
Between the prison administration changes, the overcrowding with the influx of new inmates (including a cooking show star who is treated like royalty, à la Martha Stewart), and the traditional flashbacks, it can be tough to keep up with what is going on if you’re not paying close attention.
By the end, you forget the whole season started with Alex killing a guard and burying him in the prison yard garden. The guards themselves are fiercer now and the prison life is definitely more realistic, to the point that it can get uncomfortable, which is a good thing for the show.
But Piper’s character is what has come to feel unrealistic. I’m not a huge fan of who Piper has become. Her transition into hardened prisoner feels fake — when she says “I’m gangster” (with the r), I’m embarrassed for her. It feels fake because I think after she’s released she’ll go back to who she was when she was with Jason Biggs. Piper might have some edge on the outside, but the gangster persona is not who she is.
And speaking of uncomfortable, what the hell was that scene where Lorna and her new husband have verbal sex in the visiting room? That’s the most uncomfortable moment in a season where an inmate has to eat a live mouse and Piper gets a swastika seared into her arm. It gets pretty real.
However, the first season is still the best and at the rate the show is going, it will need all seven seasons to play out the drama it has introduced. The flashbacks are also different here in that they don’t show why the subjects ended up at Litchfield. Rather, they help explain an aspect of each person’s general character, which I don’t care about as much. And if you didn’t feel bad for Mr. Healy before, you will after you see him once mistake a homeless woman for his long-lost psychotic mom, only to have the woman decline his sad pleas to still have dinner with him after he realizes she’s not his mom. It’s heartbreaking.
I’ve always thought the most impressive character is Taryn Manning as Pennsatucky and she was especially strong in this season. Pennsatucky is similar to Manning’s characters in Crossroads and 8 Mile, but she is able to play this one with more depth and that works in her favor. Forgiving the guard who raped her is a poignant moment in this season.
The show certainly still has entertainment value, but I find myself not really caring whether or not Daya pulls the trigger on the guards. I’ll watch Season 5 and maybe 6, but I feel like I’ll lose steam on this show before Season 7.