After the explosive prison riot in season 5, Orange is the New Black is back with a powerful, hard-hitting sixth season.
If you’ve been watching, you’ll know Piper and her ‘prison family’ were the only inmates found in Frieda’s secret bunker, after psycho-guard Piscatella is shot by the riot control team. They are all moved to ‘ad-seg’ in Litchfield’s maximum-security prison. Piper struggles with the first few days as she toils over where Alex is, and misinterprets Red’s message, mistakenly believing that she is dead.
The season diverges from its normal style, venturing into the surreal, as we see a Chicago-style delusion, relating to each of the Litchfield rioters, through the eyes of Suzanne or ‘Crazy Eyes’. Suzanne continues to have mental health problems as investigators question her about the death of Piscatella. Uzo Aduba’s role as Suzanne is an important one in many respects because she is representing many real-life inmates who are suffering from mental health problems in prison.
But whilst the TV show has a great track record for diversity, these characters’ stories are genuinely interesting in their own right. There is no sense of tokenism because these women are the story.
As the investigation heats up, many of the rioters are pressured into giving evidence against their friends. Natasha Lyonne who plays ‘Nicky’ is the only inmate who tells Red that the investigators have offered to drop the charges against her if she provides evidence that frames Red for the premeditated murder of Piscatella and for inciting the riot.
Nicky’s character does a lot of good in this season; she helps Barbara stay sober, tries to stop Lorna from joining a gang, and convinces her to stay away from the game of kickball in the final episode.
Also, Laura Prepon’s character Alex protects Piper from Madison Murphy – one of my favourite characters this season because of her cringe-worthy corny jokes, innuendos, and nicknames. These characters are still working through their problems and through their good deeds the season brings a neat conclusion to their individual journeys.
Furthermore, these storylines force the spotlight on a more positive aspect of relationships in prison, which are not recognized as widely in the media as violent ones.
The storyline that I was most interested in was the feud between Barbara Denning and Carole Denning, but Carole certainly made the better villain. There was also a lot of focus on Tasha Jefferson’s story as she becomes the main suspect for the murder of Piscatella. She fights for a not guilty verdict, whilst supported by the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. This is one of the most significant storylines in the whole season because it highlights the injustice against black inmates in the American prison system.
To find out how the show concludes, you’ll have to watch the drama unfold and enjoy the season yourselves on Netflix.