On Friday, June 17th the fourth season of Orange is the New Black was released on Netflix. In case you need a refresher on where we left off with our Litchfield inmates, here is my recap of season three.
I have to say, this was my least favorite season. In season one there was a lot of humor. In season two there was a clear villain. In season three we learned more and more about each inmate through powerful, and at times shocking, flashbacks. This season felt to me like it had gratuitous violence and not enough heart to balance the heartbreak.
That being said, let's discuss some of the most memorable moments (good and bad).
*SPOILER ALERT! Do not read on if you do not want to know anything about the plot or characters in season four.*
A new inmate arrived at Litchfield, Judy King. If Paula Dean and Martha Stewart had a love child, it would be Judy King. On her first day Judy is given a private room with just one roommate (Yoga Jones) and routinely receives special treatment, even after a video is released of her making racist comments.
For a few episodes Taystee and her crew try to snap photos of Judy to sell to US Weekly magazine, providing a few moments of levity from an otherwise heavy season.
We also saw a new group of corrections officers descend on the prison, most of whom are military veterans (MCC, Litchfield's parent company, decides to hire them "for the discount"). They include: Desi Piscatella, the gruff captain who refuses to follow orders; Thomas Humphrey, the complete asshole who tortures the inmates for sport; Baxter Bayley, a Litchfield local who finds himself the cause of a heinous crime and Artesian McCullough, the blond beauty who tries to show compassion, but is overruled by her male colleagues.
I found Baxter's story incredibly sad. Through flashbacks we learn that he grew up in Litchfield and never really amounted to anything. He couldn't even keep a job at the local ice cream shop because he gave away too much free ice cream to pretty girls. In the looks at his past we see that he had actually encountered a few of the Litchfield inmates long before he came to work at the prison. In the second to last episode he kills one of the inmates (more on that in a minute) and it's so shocking because he wouldn't hurt a fly. He wouldn't even know how.
C.O. Humphrey turned my stomach on multiple occasions, especially when he forced Maritza Ramos (black eye liner, drives the prison van) to choose between eating dead flies or a baby mouse. I actually feel sick typing this and remembering that scene. After I watched that episode I felt physically ill for days. In the final five minutes of the season finale, it looks like C.O. Humphrey may get what's coming to him. I really, really hope he does.
This season, Joe Caputo gets a lot more screen time. As the new prison warden he is tasked with handling an influx of new inmates (the body count doubles) and reporting a murder in the prison on live television. He spends a lot of time this season dealing the prison's parent company, MCC. He even begins a romance with one of the corporate executives. I have to say, my favorite scene with him all season is when he goes to the prison trade show, CorrectiCon, with his new lady friend and they are reading aloud the possible breakout sessions they can attend that afternoon with titles like "Taking Max to the Max." As a public relations person who normally writes those titles for my clients' sessions, I couldn't stop laughing.
Season four, like season three, also had a decent amount of flashbacks to help us learn more about the inmates. We discovered that Lolly was a journalist who got fired from her job for trying to write conspiracy theory stories. She wound up living on the streets and selling coffee to locals from a shopping cart.
We learned that Maritza Ramos was a cocktail waitress who used to intentionally spill bottles of vodka and try to convince the guys at the private tables to pay for the lost booze. In one particularly painful scene she tries to steal a car by pretending to be a stranger's wife.
One of the most fascinating back stories was Blanca Flores (known for her unibrow). Blanca was a live-in aid to an elderly white woman. She fell quickly for the woman's gardener. When her patient caught onto her crush, she fired the gardener. Upon learning this, something in Blanca snapped and she slept with the gardener in the house, in the woman's room to get back at her! Who knew she had such a scandalous story!
The toughest flashbacks to watch were definitely the moments leading up to "Crazy Eyes" eventual arrest. For all four seasons I have been wondering what she possibly could have done to wind up in prison. This season we learned she was a greeter at a store like Target or Walmart. She was living with her sister (remember, Suzanne is adopted) and her sister decides to go out of town with her boyfriend, leaving Suzanne alone for the weekend. During that time she wanders to a public park where she sees a young boy who is a regular customer in the store. She invites him back to her house to have popsicles and play video games. When the boy wants to leave and Suzanne protests, he tries to sneak out through the fire escape. Suzanne attempts to pull him back inside, but winds up pushing him off the ledge.
The hardest episode to watch this season was episode 12, where our beloved Poussey Washington is killed by C.O. Bayley in the dining hall. The inmates are staging a peaceful protest by standing on the cafeteria tables. The C.O. team is instructed to get them down from the tables and somehow Poussey ends up pinned beneath C.O. Bayley. He's sitting on her with such weight and force that she can't breathe. I feel sick as I type this.
Watching the way MCC and Warden Caputo handle Poussey's death is enough to enrage even the most passive person. To think that this could be happening in prisons across America and that no one talks about it or does anything about it is such a heavy thought that it's hard to really think about it for more than a minute or two without feeling nauseous.
The season finale ends on a cliffhanger, with Daya standing over C.O. Humphrey with a gun. With her mother out of prison, her child in the foster care system and C.O. Bennett nowhere to be found, it seems like she has lost the will to live. Will she shoot him and extend her time in prison, possibly for life? She will she pass the gun to another inmate? We'll have to wait 12 months to find out.
Tell me, did you finish season four? Did you like it as much as past seasons?