So, now that enough time has passed since the release for most people to have seen it, I am going to review the fourth series of Orange is the New Black (OITNB). I do have a slight tendency to get obsessed with things when I really like them, and I can definitely say I became obsessed with this latest series over the several weeks that I managed to stretch watching it over out. In my opinion, OITNB is a show which can be described as many things at once; deep, funny, poignant, relatable and unrelatable, full of brilliant characterisation… Although I do think that at times it walks a fine line when it comes to being saccharine or more fictional than realistic, I think it is also important to remember that; 1. it is set in a minimum, not maximum, security prison and 2. it is a television show…
With regards to this fourth series in particular, I would argue that it was the best since the first series! I know that many people have commented on it being much darker than in previous years, and I do appreciate this, but I still believe that, like all great drama, it is a combination of the tragic and comedic. And, let’s be honest, there doesn’t seem to be that much comedy in the world right now anyway. I did, personally, feel that the flashback trope was underused in this series as I would have liked to learn more about the backstories of even more characters. However, I do recognise that there was a lot going on in this series and so there was not necessarily the space for flashbacks. Plus, some of the ones we were treated to were quite brilliant!
Another feature of OITNB that I think is quite unique to it is that it doesn’t really need a specific (or set of) antagonist(s) to be it’s ‘Big Baddie’. The tragedies that happen in this series spiral out of the toxic environment created by MCC and their mismanagement of the prison which in itself is a comment on wider issues of corporate greed and society’s attitude towards the prison population. The dynamic of issues taking place in modern day america, and indeed around the world, is represented in the show in a way that can be a bit too close to home. I know it barely needs saying, but the killing of a young black woman by a young white man in authority is painfully poignant, but the way in which OITNB shows the act and it’s impact from various angles is what makes watching it develop so engrossing.
One of the highlights of this series for me was the return of my favourite character, Nicky Nichols. I was so excited when I first saw her on screen again that I watched the scene where Sophia sets off the fire alarm about four times. The poignancy of her finally falling off the wagon again just before she gets released from Max is so sad, but also shows the cyclical nature of things in Litchfield as a breeding pace for bad habits rather than correction. As always, her interactions with the other characters were brilliant, especially the smoking crack in the cornfield scene, for their utter sarcasm and biting realism. The changed dynamic between her and Lorna now that Lorna is married is also really interesting and I just hope that she finds a way to help Lorna out of the spiral of paranoia she has got herself into.
The last thing I wish to mention is spoilers! As someone who prefers to have some modicum of will power and not totally binge watch an entire series in one, I had massive problems with the amount of spoilers around OITNB. Having made an effort not to ruin anything for myself, I found out details around how Piper’s Nazi brand was changed to a window by Red, the name of the character who died and that Daya would end up holding a gun all from either the titles of articles I didn’t even want to read, or comments in articles which I had already ensured were themselves spoiler free. Next year, I will have to try and stick to somewhat of an internet blackout before I finish all the episodes!
Anyway, if you can’t tell, I really loved this series and can’t wait for the next.
Let me know your opinions either about Orange is the New Black or this review in the comments below!