‘Orange is the New Black’ fans, prepare for stir crazy Season 5


A scene from ‘Orange Is The New Black’ Season 5.

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Orange is the New Black” has always been more about characters than story, but the structure of Season 5 — after the fourth’s emotional cliffhanger — puts that formula to the test, as the prison-uprising plot line drags on until it’s easy to start feeling a little stir crazy.

On the plus side, the reaction to the tragic death of Poussey at the hands of a prison guard feels powerful and genuine, as the lingering fallout from that incident exposes the grief and anger stemming from a single death. The scenario creates a strong showcase for some of the sprawling cast, perhaps especially Danielle Brooks as Taystee.

That said, the upside-down nature of the riot scenario — with the inmates in charge, subjecting guards and administrators to indignities and abuse — becomes tedious, even within a concentrated time frame.

“It’s like a party, except terrifying,” Morello (Yael Stone) says of the riot.

“Terrifying,” however, leaves the building pretty soon; rather, the teased-out story arc feels more leisurely than binge-worthy. And while the hostage scenario yields amusing moments such as the prisoners’ list of demands — some serious, others wholly ridiculous — it’s hard to escape a sense that the writers have essentially stretched seven episodes worth of story into a 13-episode season.

So what’s left? A fair number of clever one-liners and character beats, such as an African-American prisoner referring to Lifetime as “the white-lady channel,” a TV interview with a parolee that naturally goes off the rails and Uzo Aduba’s crazier-than-usual antics as Crazy Eyes.

There is also, inevitably, the ebb and flow of key relationships, most notably the impediment-laden romance between Piper (Taylor Schilling) and Alex (Laura Prepon), who saunter through the mayhem surrounding them with near-equal doses of bickering and self-absorption.

The series began, it’s worth remembering, from Piper’s perspective, providing a wide-eyed window into this prison world. That dynamic dissipated long ago, with Piper receding into the ensemble as a dizzying array of personalities have filled the void.

As a sign of the show’s popularity and importance, Netflix extended the producers a significant vote of confidence last year by renewing “Orange is the New Black” through a seventh season, so the gates of Litchfield prison won’t be closing any time soon.

Intentionally or not, though, that long lease translates in this latest run into a lack of narrative urgency. While the comedy-drama still delivers its share of colorful flourishes, season five plays like a sentence that should have been commuted for just so-so behavior.

“Orange is the New Black” premieres June 9 on Netflix.

Trademark and Copyright 2020 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.


Latest News

More News