Like last season, the fourth season of Orange is the New Black starts off light and airy, with plenty of gaffs and goofs to keep me giggling heartily. Sure it’s intercut with Sofia suffering in solitary and the murder of a guard, but overall, the show maintains a lighter tone and feel. Then about halfway through, we start to get down to the nitty gritty of the show, the dark episodes, the upsetting topics. This season gets particularly topical with its depiction of police violence and race related problems throughout the prison. A White Power group is introduced this season (whom Piper somehow ends up in charge of… to a devastating consequence), which elevates the Us vs. Them motif that has been prevalent throughout the series. We have a new set of guards who are all (or most) power mad and take their position as guards of these women to sick and twisted levels. And the biggest upset of all, a prisoner is killed during a peaceful protest in a horrifying way, reminiscent of the recent real death of Eric Garner.
OITNB has never shied away from heaviness and this season is no exception. The abuse of power among the new guards, as well as the inmates, is oftentimes very hard to watch. One guard, Humphrey, or Humps, forces Maritizia, at gunpoint, to either eat 20 dead flies or one live (very young) mouse, after hearing her play this hypothetical game with Flaca. Piper gets Maria in trouble and against all odds, Maria ends up getting more time… and retaliates with bloody vengeance. Lolly's voices and her undiagnosed mental illness get plenty of airtime, each scene more upsetting than the last.
There's been a lot of controversy regarding the death of Poussey, specifically the way that she died. Speaking as a white woman, I truly don't feel I have the right to comment on it in a political sense, only to say that it was horrifying and visceral to watch and I felt ill after viewing it. Piper's branding also shocked me to the core and I truly don't think I'll ever be able forgive Maria and her crew for it. It's an unthinkable act and I was disgusted by it.
I don't think I'll be able to re-watch this season but I truly believe it was excellent television. It was hard to watch but well executed, written and acted and I'm already counting down til Season 5.