Orange Is the New Black starts off with a bang and a riot. Immediately you know this season will be different. The days of Piper’s (Taylor Schilling) fish-out-of-water stories are gone. The series has become progressively darker as the women spend more time in prison. This isn’t bad, but it’s not for everyone.
Season 5 resumes where the previous season ended. The Litchfield women are angry that Poussey (Samira Wiley) was killed and that the guard who killed her wasn’t punished. The opening scene shows Dayanara (Dascha Polanco) holding a gun as a large group of prisoners cheer for her to shoot, while other prisoners run away to get valuable items or to stay out of trouble. Chaos has taken over Litchfield Penitentiary.
The gun gives Daya power, resulting in the out-of-character decision to shoot Thomas Humphrey (Michael Torpey) in the leg. The prisoners who watched are disappointed that Humphrey wasn’t killed and start kicking him so he will die. In Daya protection mode, Gloria (Selenis Leyva) convinces Sophia (Laverne Cox) to make sure that doesn’t happen. Mendoza knows Daya snapped and that saving Humphrey will prevent a murder charge. Throughout the episode, Daya slowly breaks down as she realizes her actions will send her to max. Humanizing Daya as she struggles with the aftermath prevents this episode from completely derailing the series because the actions of the other prisoners, with the exception of Taystee (Danielle Brooks) and Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore), feel extraneous.
Now that Daya has a gun, the prisoners take over Litchfield. They hold the guards hostage, locking the guards in any available room and trying to steal valuable items, such as food and drugs. While everyone else runs around the prison figuring out what’s going on, Taystee, Alison (Amanda Stephen) and Cindy trap Joe (Nick Sandow) in his office and force him to make a video about Poussey, which goes viral. They are the only prisoners who don’t lose track of the goal: making guards treat inmates as people. The other prisoners spend the time looking for a chance at instant gratification.
The series premiere ends on a cliffhanger with Litchfield still in riot mode. Orange Is the New Black has always been intended for binge watching, which means it’s unfair to judge this season solely on one episode. However, the season premiere kept me glued to the screen, so it at least does its job, even if it doesn’t wow.
Rating: 7 out of 10
ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK IS STREAMING ON NETFLIX