Why 'Orange Is The New Black's Cliffhanger Was Bullsh*t
Last week, Netflix dropped season four of Orange Is The New Black. Fans rejoiced over the return of compelling criminals Red, Taystee, Nichols, and Sophia (too name a few). Then fans wept over a certain soul-crushing spoiler. A review of the season will come once we’ve gotten over the devastation that last shot caused in our rickety hearts. But can we move back just a bit and talk about this season’s cliffhanger? Because that was tons of bullshit.
All season long, change at Lichfield has been brewing discontent. The prison population boom shifted power to the Dominicans. Piper’s retaliation created an unintended White Power gang. The new guards have been bullying and outright abusive, sparking outrage and rebellion from the inmates. A sleep-deprived Red being publicly harassed by that ogre Piscatella was the final straw. The whole prison literally rose together, standing on the cafeteria’s tables in a peaceful protest. But things turned violent when the corrections officers were ordered to pull the women down.
Still struggling with guilt over beating her former paramour Kukudio into a purple mess of flesh, Suzanne (A.K.A. Crazy Eyes) freaks out. And when baby-faced guard Baxter Bayley tries to contain her, things went from worrisome to lethal. Poussey Washington was suffocated, recalling to the audience the real-life murder of Eric Garner by the NYPD. Following the Black Lives Matter narrative we’re all too painfully familiar with, newly minted warden Joe Caputo stood by the guard Bayley, calling him a victim. Worse yet, he didn’t even say Washington’s name during the press conference, a reference to “Say Her Name” , which arose after death of Sandra Bland in police custody.
Enraged by Caputo’s speech, Taystee sparks a not-so-peaceful protest. Mixing everyone’s collective anger, outrage and boredom it quickly evolves into a full on prison riot. The inmates tear down the halls and convene around celebrity Judy King, who’s about to be released to spare the private prison another PR nightmare. Of course that grotesque guard Humps is packing heat. As responsible a gun owner as he thinks he is, he drops it. And off the deadly weapon goes, skittering to the feet of…who?
There’s a lot of inmates who the gun going to would have had huge emotional weight. Imagine if it had gone to Taystee’s crew. Never a violent person, Taystee has been pushed to the edge by the cold-blooded murder of her friend, who was young, gifted and black. Or consider if Watson, who’s already punched one of those big-mouthed white supremacists in the mouth, got it.
What if—after untold time locked away in the inhumane conditions of solitary confinement “for her own protection”—Sophia had her hands on this shaky implement of control? Or how about Blanca? She’s spent all season rebelling against the “stop and frisk” racial profiling of these new C.O.s, and has endured public humiliation at there groping hands again and again. Or Ramos, who was forced to eat a baby mouse at gun point by this sick fuck. What about Soso? Sure, you don’t think of her as violent, but when her protest ended in the death of her lover, who knows what this grieving activist might do with that gun.
Each of these choices would have left us with a gut-wrenching mix of exhilaration and worry as we await season five. Because on one hand, yeah. After all the horrendous abuse we’ve seen him gleefully heap on the women of Lichfield, I want to see that masochistic motherfucker bleed go down hard. Let him be the Ramsey Bolton of Orange Is The New Black down to the karmic payback for his cruelty! But on the other, whoever put their finger on that trigger is guaranteed a ride down to max, and mostly out of the show. And I don’t want that for any of the above.
So maybe it’s a mixed blessing that Daya picked up the gun. Despite starting off as one of the main characters of the show, Daya was sidelined for much of season four. Maybe because without a baby on the way or Bennett around, she’s not even a little bit interesting. Daya has been sulking off to the side, occasionally arguing with her mom, and dabbling in Ruiz’s gang. She’s really done nothing memorable this season until that moment. So, I call bullshit.
As much as the writers have done incredible things with this season of Orange Is The New Black and especially within the final two eps, this is a major misstep. Having spent so much of the season concerned about other characters, why give this big moment to Daya? Yes, this ties into her arc of rebellion against her mom. Who’s she gonna be? A drug-runner in Ruiz’s crew, risking more time in prison? Or an upstanding inmate who might have a better chance of early release with the new influx of people? Too late for that. As soon as she aimed that gun at Humps, Daya is guaranteed for a sentence add-on. And considering Ruiz got 3-5 years for Piper’s panties frame job, just imagine what’s in store for Daya.
Touching that gun dooms Daya to max. So, she’ll be spirited away from Ruiz’s crew, as she already is from her baby, her beau and her mom. And with how little time we spent with her this season, and frankly the fact that her storyline has long been the weakest in the bunch, it’s hard to get too riled up about that.
It was a smart move that Orange Is The New Black made their last image of the season, not this moment of Daya-driven drama, but a shot of Poussey. Daya’s arc—even as it is ongoing—can’t compete with hers. Smiling at the twinkling of a late night New York City, Poussey is radiant and ready to begin a new adventure, one we desperately wish we could follow her on. Alive and wondrous, she looks right back at us. And then this flashback stings, challenging the audience to look at Black Lives Matter and the people whose lives have been so arbitrarily cut short, just like this fictional character we’ve come to love so much it hurts.
Kristy Puchko lives in
perpetual fear that ice cream will become self-aware New York City.
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