“The only way out is for us to come together.”
Orange is the New Black’s charged fourth season continued Jenji Kohan’s work in establishing Litchfield Penitentiary as a microcosm of every issue surrounding the injustices of the prison system. From racism to economic discrimination to sexual abuse, the increasing cruelty of the prison’s officers and management alike built to a controversial climax of brutal, unnecessary violence and a full-fledged uprising. Even by the show’s cliffhanger-friendly standards, the image of Daya (Dascha Polanco) holding a knelt C.O. at gunpoint before a crowd demanding vengeance was quite a way to leave the show for a full year.
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The wait’s almost over, though, and Netflix has released its official trailer for season five of the show in advance of its June 9th return. From the looks of it, the riot was just one more step in the continuing deterioration of prison conditions. And while four seasons of Orange’s hyper-dramatic storytelling have left many of the characters at odds, the big story this time around seems to be the growing public buzz around Litchfield’s abusive practices, especially in the wake of its takeover by a for-profit prison corporation.
OITNB has become a very different show from where it began, but the changes are welcome; by more closely tying the story to its real-life contexts, what started as an offbeat character dramedy has evolved into one of TV’s more politically relevant (if occasionally questionable) series. And with season 5 continuing an arc that’s been building since season three, the show will have the chance to further explore the limits of how far a unified front can go against the indifferent cruelty of American misconceptions about what jails are and should be. In the meantime, enjoy poring over the trailer’s hints and clues until next month.