As we reach the halfway point of the new season of Orange is the New Black, some characters are facing arguably their bleakest moments of their stay so far in Litchfield, some are facing their silliest and some, well, some are facing downright surreal hypothetical choices-turned-reality. Yes, we seem to have reached that time of any season where there is some definite episode filler, before we start hurtling towards the climax of the season. Sure, these episodes aren’t always up to the high water-mark of quality we’ve become accustomed to in OITNB, but it’s still OITNB and therefore still legitimately more entertaining than most of the shows on your telly box/games console/tablet/smartphone.
Piper, in these episodes, has to face up to the consequences of her actions of being a massive dick to everyone, as her new bunk-mate, Alex and seemingly the rest of Litchfield turn their backs on her, allowing Maria and her crew to get revenge for her getting time added onto Maria’s sentence, and also accidentally starting a race war (hey, it’s easily done) against the non-white prison population. And boy, do they get some serious revenge. The intense scene of Piper being branded by them with a Nazi symbol, is one of the hardest to watch in the show so far. It leaves Piper in an understandably dark place, and it’s a slight shame then, that this is so quickly relieved by the end of the next episode. Red helps fix her freshly made, still warm, monstrosity, by turning it into a tattoo of a window. It seems like too much of a let-off, as it could’ve been quite interesting to see how low Piper could end up, but it did allow Red to offer this killer line: “When God gives you a swastika, he opens a window. And then you remember, there is no God”. We know it makes no sense whatsoever, but hey, we’re suckers for any line delivered in a fake Russian accent by Kate “Captain Janeway” Mulgrew.
Meanwhile, one of our other favourite characters, Lolly, gets her own back-story, as we see how she slipped from a journalist, to a homeless bag-lady, due to her mental illness. Lori Petty once again nails it, as she manages to create an entertaining, but still sympathetic character, without (mostly) relying on too many crazy tics to sell Lolly’s illness to the audience. We’ve said it before, but we sincerely hope she becomes a series regular in the show, as she most definitely deserves even more screen-time. There still seems to be that elephant in the room (or rather, the dead hit man buried in the vegetable garden) though, between her, Alex, Red and Frieda. It seems increasingly likely that Lolly may actually not survive to the end of this season, but let’s pray for entertainment’s sake, that’s not the case.
The return of Nicky is another big story line in these middle batch of episodes. However, her return to the drugs is clearly not pleasing most of her old friends, although it does offer us a surprising scene of crack-smoking between her, Alex and a rock-bottom Piper. Red plays the role of mother with Nicky (she’s not angry, she’s disappointed) and eventually, Nicky appears to relent and offer to give up the bad stuff once again. It’s great to see Natasha Lyonne back in OITNB, as the character has always felt like such an integral part of the whole series and Litchfield seems a rather empty place without her sarcastic, wise-cracking, ways.
From great characters then, to ones that are slightly less so, and we hate to say it, but we’re still not enjoying Judy King. She just feels far too much of a caricature and her interactions in these episodes with the newly Judist convert, Cindy, still feel forced. From the revelation of Judy’s racist children’s puppet show from the 80s being unearthed on You Tube, to the attempts to get her in a compromising photo with Cindy, none of it seems to really work as a story. However, we do manage to get a genuine laugh out loud moment from her, when she reveals to Cindy how her and her ‘limey’ chef friend called Nigella (no last name revealed, but we think you can work it out), used to get high and end up making out with each other.
Finally, we reach the truly bizarre nadir of the season so far. After Maritza’s drug smuggling tactics whilst she works as a van driver, are found out by one of the slightly odd new guards, he decides to reveal that he’s not just a slightly odd new guard, but a full-blown psychopath. He takes a hypothetical “would you rather…?” game that he overhears her and Flaca play and decides later in the episode to make it a literal reality. It ends with him pointing a gun to Maritza’s head and asking her to choose between eating 10 dead flies or a baby mouse. It’s a truly bonkers moment, even for OITNB standards but we can’t wait to see how he copes with the “would you rather have a penis for a nose or a nose for a penis?” question.
And so, as we head towards the last four episodes, what have we learnt so far? Well, don’t mess with Maria, certainly don’t trust the new guards (especially the bat-poop crazy ones) and always make sure Red is on hand to offer wise Russian words of wisdom, or when you need an unrequited Nazi tattoo to disappear from your arm. Learn these lessons, my friend, and your stay in Litchfield, might just be that little more comfortable.