Wednesday, June 29, 2016

REVIEW: 'Orange Is the New Black' - The Inmates Struggle to Break Out from Oppression in 'Bunny, Skull, Bunny, Skull'

Netflix's Orange Is the New Black - Episode 4.10 "Bunny, Skull, Bunny, Skull"

The movie night selection becomes controversial. Aleida makes an adjustment. Piper worries the prison punishments are getting too medieval.

Orange Is the New Black has always presented itself as groups of people all needing to live in Litchfield. In order to survive as inmates, the prisoners need to form bonds. They need to find their place in this community. The prison has changed many different times over the years. New power dynamics emerge as old ones disappear. Now, the Dominicans are in control. They are the ones running drugs into the facility. Plus, they are the ones deciding where the rest of the groups can hang out in the prison. That's power. But so much conflict is starting to fall along racial lines. The Latina inmates have been subjected to many pat downs this season. And yet, tension is rising with the whites and blacks as well. Nothing is able to serve as an escape anymore. Movie night used to be a way for Litchfield to come together to escape the reality of their lives in prison. And now, it's a controversial moment that almost erupts into a race war because the white power people don't like Taystee's choice of The Wiz. Coates and Bayley are able to stop anything before it happens. But the tensions are really starting to boil over now. Major things are coming to a head. Not everyone will make it out of this season unharmed.

It is comforting to be able to rely on a group of friends. No matter how difficult things may get in prison, the inmates know that their friends will be there to help them through it. Prison can be such an isolating experience. Without her friends, Nicky once again gave into her addiction. Her world was made considerably worse because she was sent to max. Just because she's back at Litchfield now doesn't mean she's okay again. And yet, groups of people rallying around each other in support can be a divisive action as well. The white power people don't have names yet. One of their leaders is named Sankey but that's about it. They are all united in their belief that whites rule the world and it's unfair to be subjected to such discrimination at Litchfield. That's not right at all. But it's still a collection of friends who stand strong together and in opposition to other groups in the prison. Meanwhile, it's dangerous that the guards are all choosing to stand by each other. It was quite possibly a huge mistake to let Blanca stand on a table until she can't anymore. But it's a decision that all of the guards now have to enforce. It just continues to show that no matter how horrifying the action, the guards will never be punished because they have the power and their fellow COs will stand by them no matter what. The guards are pushing so many of these race issues to the surface. They don't know how to properly handle them and that's emerged as a huge problem this season.

And yet, a sense of community can be really damaging to the inmates as well. Prison is the sole definer of who they are right now. The show is set in prison and focuses on the daily lives the inmates and guards have to deal with. But their stints in this place only encompass a small portion of their lives. It redefines who they are as human beings. It's difficult to re-enter society. The world has changed. They look at criminals differently. Aleida's release has been teased all season long. Over the last few episodes, it was starting to feel like it wouldn't happen. She was getting too sentimental about it which basically set up things to go wrong. And yet, that doesn't happen. Aleida is released. She is able to get on with her life in the real world again. After so much talk about needing to find a job and rescue her family from the foster care system, she now actually has to do. But it's such an isolating quality to be released from prison. Aleida's friends are all at Litchfield. In the outside world, she really doesn't have anyone. She returns to society with very little money and a new reputation as a convicted felon. It's difficult to make a satisfying life out of that.

All of this makes it easy to understand why any inmate released from prison would want to return to the place. That's what happened to Taystee when she got parole back in the first season. She didn't know what to do or how to make a living for herself. So instead, she buckled under the pressure and got sent back to Litchfield. The prison offers her structure and a strong sense of self and community. Taystee has flourished in her surroundings. She has united her group of friends and stands up for them and protects them against the hardships of prison life. This episode teases that Aleida may have the same fate. She has no friends or family willing to pick her up. Instead, it's Cesar's other baby mamma who appears in a car she borrowed. Everywhere she looks, Aleida feels like she is being judged as a prisoner. She's not used to life outside Litchfield. She has so much work she needs to do but she has no idea where to get started. Her cousin spent all of her money and sold her clothes just to survive. And yet, Aleida doesn't crack under this pressure. Yes, she ends up back on the couch of Cesar's girlfriend who doesn't think she should be loyal to him during his imprisonment. This life is hard for Aleida. But she has something worth fighting for. She's fighting to unite her family and make them all proud. It's easy for her to get arrested again or fall back into a criminal life. She's certainly tempted. That still may be coming for her. But she wants to put in the effort. She doesn't want to disappoint her family like all the previous times she had.

Life is just as difficult inside the prison as well. The guards are standing united in each other's poor decisions. No one can give food to Blanca without facing a similar punishment. Any attempt to assuage one's guilt is met with swift and concise action that can ruin the inmate's life even further. Piper wants to take some of the blame for Nicky relapsing in her addiction. But that wasn't her fault at all. Nicky had already started doing drugs by the time she offered crack to Piper and Alex in the corn. She's still desperately craving heroin despite her desire to get clean. Red is doing her best to protect her from temptation. She has the stature and reputation to threaten people successfully into not giving Nicky drugs too. That doesn't stop Luschek from giving her a joint though. Nicky can still get drugs despite Red's attempts to intimidate the entire prison. Meanwhile, Gloria is genuine in her desire to not let Daya get caught up in Maria's crew. But she only has so much influence as a maternal figure. This is Daya's first day in prison without her mother by her side. That's scary and she wants to connect with people her own age. That's understandable but it could also lead her down a dark path that includes more time being added to her sentence. Piper didn't want any of this to happen. But it's happening nevertheless. She can't talk Piscatella out of his stern ruling of the guards and inmates. All she can do is stand next to Blanca on the table. It's a decision she regrets as soon as she's up there given the reality of what it'll mean. Nor should it make her feel any less guilty about her role in the creation of the problems in Litchfield this season. But she's at the center of the drama once more which should be fascinating heading into the final few episodes of the season.

Plus, the body in the garden didn't stay buried for very long. Piscatella and the construction foreman dig it up because they needed to make a decision regarding the new structure. It's still unclear what this building will actually be used for. Everyone keeps claiming it will be a new dorm. But MCC could have some shifty aspirations as well. Piscatella makes the decision to dismantle the garden and greenhouse to help run the sewage lines. He makes it because Caputo hasn't been answering his phone. To Piscatella, Caputo has become a part of MCC and isn't concerned about the minor details of life in Litchfield. Caputo could have ultimately made the same decision as Piscatella. It would b easier to destroy the garden then use dynamite to uproot the bedrock elsewhere. But that means the body buried in the garden is unearthed. It's not a surprising plot development. It was buried with the sole purpose of it one day returning to complicate life for Alex, Lolly, Frieda, Red and Piper. They know what happened. And now, the prison administration will be trying to get to the bottom of this mystery. That basically ensures that things are about to get a whole lot worse before this season is over. It doesn't matter that Caputo is covertly trying to help Sophia's case. He's not at Litchfield running things. The chaos and dysfunction that the facility has created this season is forcing everyone into action. That is bound to have some pretty major consequences.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Bunny, Skull, Bunny, Skull" was written by Carly Mensch and directed by Phil Abraham.
  • Sister Ingalls really didn't think through her plan to help Sophia all that well. Yes, she was able to get a message to Sophia that gave her hope again. That was very rewarding - and a payoff to seeing that communication system earlier this season. But she sneezes and loses the phone during shower time - which only adds time to her stint in solitary.
  • But it's also great that Caputo listens to Sister Ingalls' plan and then takes the photo of Sophia himself. He even makes a plan for Danny to deliver it to Crystal to help with her case. He's working against MCC. But it may be too late for that to mean anything in the grand scheme of things.
  • Pennsatucky feels lost right now. She has lost Boo who was really her only friend in Litchfield. She tries returning to the meth heads but they aren't the same as before. They've become a part of the white power movement. Ultimately, Coates is the only person Pennsatucky can connect with - which is something that she should absolutely not be doing right now.
  • Maritza really did eat the baby mouse. Humphrey held her at gunpoint and she did it. She confides in Flaca. That friendship is so strong. And yet, there's not much they can do about this abuse of power either. The other guards know that Humphrey likely did something wrong but are choosing to stand by him anyway because they don't know for sure.
  • Luschek has suspiciously been missing ever since Nicky returned to Litchfield. Their reunion is an important part of that story. So, it's great that that finally happens here. He no longer wants to feel guilty about what happened because he had sex with Judy King in order to get Nicky out of max. But she rightfully reminds him that her problems now are all his fault as well.
  • Judy King really is the only inmate who could reasonably get the guards and administration to change their ways. She has done so before. But it has always been to better her life in Litchfield. She does not want to insert herself into the chaos happening during movie night. She would rather retreat to her private room than stand up for her new friends.
  • Suzanne really shouldn't be taking dating advice from Morello. But nevertheless, she reaches out to Maureen again because she really does want to be touched in that special and caring way. The two make their way to the supply closet once again. But Maureen still hasn't recovered from having her heart broken by Suzanne. So, she gives Suzanne pleasure only so she can suffer from not finishing.

As noted in previous reviews from this series, every episodic review was written without having seen any succeeding episodes. Similarly, it would be much appreciated if in the comments, the conversation would only revolve around the show up to this point in its run.