So season Four of Netflix’s acclaimed prison drama has well and truly landed and as the TV adventurers we are here at Off The Record we thought we would offer you some maladjusted thoughts on the latest series.
Of course these are just our opinions and we’d love to know if you agree or disagree with any of them but as the usual caveat goes, there be BIG FLASHING NEON SPOILERS within me hearties, so if you haven’t binged the season yet you may want to avoid this post.
Go eat some oat bars or something.
Ok…well, what are the hits and misses of OITNB this cycle? Is it ten dead flies or a cute little baby mouse in a cup? This is what we thought…
- HIT: The racial tensions between the ethnic groups finally erupting into violence. The divisions between the whites, blacks, Hispanics and other cliques inside Litchfield was always present in the previous three series, offering a palpable overarching sense of threat. But in season four these stopped being background noise and finally reared their ugly head to go front and centre in the action; showing the series’ proven commitment to plot development and slow burn drama.
- MISS: As much as we appreciate new characters and new arcs, some of the latest additions had way too much screen time, taking the limelight away from already established and fascinating personalities. Judy King (a remarkably unsubtle take on that well known middle class crime-bomb Martha Stewart) is overused and obnoxiously simplistic. And if we never see another threesome like her again we can pretty much die happy. The number of new guards introduced in one go is also jarring and threatens to unsettle the balance of the narrative. Piscatella for his part is an intriguing addition especially in his battles with the long suffering Caputo but to change almost the entire cast of CO’s under him and the entire way they treat the inmates felt heavy handed for the most part.
- HIT : The treatment of mental illness. Now, this may well be an unpopular opinion because there seems to be a backlash on the old Interweb at the moment against characters like Lolly and Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ Warren. Viewers seem to have been ok with the two of them acting kooky and adorably messed up on the outskirts of the story but as soon as their mental health issues led into real world, genuinely upsetting/dangerous situations, they seemed to become a turn off for many. We however totally disagree with this. We think it’s more important than ever to show that while mental health can be entertaining, its dark side and negative consequences have to be shown too, so that its impact on society at large stops being brushed under the carpet. Hell, you only have to see what happens to Healey and the inmates he tries to help to see what mishandling these kinds of conditions can lead to. And kudos too to both the writing staff and Lori Petty & Uzo Aduba by the way ; they blew us away with their acting in this series. Keep it up, all of you. You’re doing important work.
- MISS: Nicky’s storyline. Again don’t misunderstand us- like Big Red we love Nicky, she’s the unofficial truth teller of Litchfield and has a beautifully tragic air about her. However it would have been nice if the writers could figure out a new storyline for her, rather than falling back on the old addiction/quitting arc that’s already been done before. She really deserves better than that.
- HIT: Poussey’s flashback. Just plain fabulous.
- MISS: Daya. After presenting her as one of the most innocent and naive inmates in the show previously, there were plenty of narrative opportunities to offer to her this series especially with her mother being released and giving her a chance to carve her own niche. Having her wander about for most of the thirteen episodes as a non-entity simply to allow her to fall in with Ruiz’s Dominican Gang and set up the chilling finale felt uneven in terms of tone and patchy in terms of storytelling. To go from a nothing figure to the focus in one minute is a ploy that very rarely works on screen.
- HIT: Blanca (or Bianca if you’re a lazy racist old white woman.) Her backstory was short but oh was it sweet and beautifully fleshed out. We love ya, unibrow!
- MISS: The Neo-Nazi Girl Band. It was funny for a brief period but quickly became tired and unrealistic. (Although on a side note: Skinhead Helen as a character name is genius.)
- HIT: The dialogue. Some of the lines this season were fantastic, even though as usual they were blink and you’ll miss them. Lines like Morello’s, ‘You know the girl whose name sounds like that Phil Collins song’ (meaning Kikudio) . Or Lolly: ‘Come on! Shirt up, bra down, floobies out, face slack. Dead girl porn. Cosby dream shot!’ when trying to get Alex to pretend to be dead so she can take a picture made us laugh out loud. Just outstanding.
- MISS: The Guard initiated fight scene. Sure it was dramatic but we just couldn’t get over how distasteful and gross the whole thing was. It left a very sour taste in the mouth.
- HIT: She is and always will be one of our favourite characters. And not only for her sweet moves.
- MISS: The Ending. Now before you pitch a fit yes, we’re not gonna lie, we cried. Yes it was dramatic and horrifying and truly memorable. All of which you want from a series denouement. ..the pacing was just kind of off you know. Tragedy requires build up and the quick succession of events in the last two episodes seemed rushed somehow. Which is not to say it wasn’t mesmerising, it just felt a little hurried and unplanned in terms of action. And what should have felt dehumanising and soul crushingly poignant didn’t quite hit the emotional mark. Which is a real shame.
Anyways, there you have it, our thoughts on the pluses and minuses of season four.
You have anything you wanna add, then send us a comment.
Or write it down on a piece of paper, attach to a paper clip and slide it under our door.
Whatever works for you.