Saturday, June 10, 2017

REVIEW: 'Orange Is the New Black' - The Inmates Finally Make Their List of Demands in 'Pissters!'

Netflix's Orange Is the New Black - Episode 5.03 "Pissters!"

Linda begins to see the prison in a new light, while Judy grows desperate to escape. With darkness falling, the inmates compile a list of demands.

The momentum on Orange Is the New Black can always be stopped by a weak flashback story. The flashbacks are important because they inform the audience of which characters are going to be vital in the present-day story. So, "Pissters!" makes it clear that Linda from purchasing is going to have ongoing importance as the riot gets more intense. She's not just going to be the comic relief who is following Piper and Alex everywhere because she doesn't want to be a hostage. However, the flashbacks of her life in a college sorority really aren't that great. They reveal that she may not be as dim or oblivious to the truth as she appears to be. She's not purposefully malicious. She doesn't make purchases knowing just how crummy they'll ultimately be for the inmates at the MCC prisons. But she is capable of being manipulative and selfish as well. That's ultimately what the flashbacks are about. She lets her sorority sister freeze to death because she wanted to get back to the party inside. In the aftermath, she uses it to spin a story about the girl and take her position of her power in the sorority. The messaging of this place is important as well because it's young women who see power as needing to dress a certain way and always be partying. That's a toxic mentality that has continued to influence Linda throughout her life.

Dressing up as an inmate could be an eye-opening experience for Linda. It could give her a new perspective on her job at MCC. Something she'll carry with her long after the riot is over. Having different opinions about the prison has largely been the only source of friction between her and Caputo. He knows better because he's actually in the environment and seeing what all the decisions are actually doing. Linda has been far removed from it. And now, she's in the thick of it. She's realizing that the products she paid for aren't as great as they were advertised. The uniforms and meals are horrible. It was ultimately just a way of cutting costs. Her voicing her concerns about these conditions allows her to feel like one of the inmates. Everyone questions who she is because she's a new face during a lockdown. And yet, her speaking her mind actually resonates with the inmates because they are fed up with the living conditions as well. It builds a bond that isn't real. It allows her to blend in without any suspecting her. However, they perhaps should be more suspicious of her because of what's she capable of doing.

Linda doesn't know prison rules. So, she's not great at playing this game. But she knows about Piper and Alex's dead guard. And then, she's the one delivering food to the hostages. So, she could represent a way to flip the power back to what it was before the riot broke out. This hour sees things from the perspectives of the hostages as well. They are debating whether or not the inmates actually have a gun anymore. McCullough is the one who notices that things aren't what they appear to be. Of course, she's also the one who says it would horrible to be burned alive. That's a weird and disturbing moment. It once again shows that these guards aren't really cut out for the job despite some of them having done some good things in the past. They are still all incompetent and potentially ruining the lives of the inmates in Litchfield. And right now, they are trying to figure a way out of this mess. Piscatella can't storm into the prison because Judy King is still in there. The only reason the inmates can make their demands heard is because of Judy. And yet, no one is making sure she's safe. She's now experiencing prison for what it really is. It's chaotic and messy. It's not all that effective of a story because it's Judy wandering around the halls of Litchfield getting scared. It's effective once but then it happens a couple more times - until she's taken by the white supremacists.

But it's important that the inmates are figuring out what they want their demands to be. So far, the riot has just been one massive celebration for the majority of the inmate population. It means something more for Taystee and her friends. Meanwhile, Maria is the one seemingly in charge largely because she gives off a sense of authority. Maria working with Taystee is what ultimately makes the democratic process spread throughout the prison. The inmates may not all have similar demands. Most don't understand or appreciate the severity of the situation. It's absolutely heartbreaking when Taystee learns that getting justice for Poussey by getting Bayley arrested for her murder is only the ninth most popular demand. To her, it's the priority. She can hardly feel happy knowing that Bayley is out there as a free man. Of course, the audience knows that's not exactly the case. Bayley returns after being absent from the first two episodes. He's wallowing in his misery too. He wants to be punished but is in too much of a drunken stupor for the police to do anything about it in a timely manner. However, the show has to be careful with how much Bayley it incorporates this season. Yes, he can be a sympathetic character too. He was put in this situation because of corporate greed and will be the scapegoat of the crime. But he still did kill Poussey. He is still a murderer who was responsible for this tragedy. All of those feelings are clear throughout the cast as the show explores the different sides of the situation. It makes it much more complicated. Taystee just wants peace and justice for her friend. And right now, all she seemingly gets is Suzanne making sure the spot in the cafeteria where Poussey died becomes a memorial. That's such a moving and emotional scene. It reminds the characters of what's truly at stake - even though most forget about it two seconds later.

The list of demands that Taystee and Maria post in the end don't seem unreasonable either. The fact that they have to ask for basic living conditions just proves just how destructive and corrupt this system can be. It's all wrapped in the idea of what one thinks the purpose of prison is suppose to be. Is it to punish people for the serious crimes they've committed in life? Or is it to rehabilitate those people to make sure they live better and healthier lives when they get out? For MCC, everything is ultimately about profits. Making sure Bayley is arrested for murder is probably the demand they'll easily accept because it aligns with their corporate interests as well. They want him to take the blame so the situation goes away as quietly and quickly as possible. The rest could be a debate of what counts as luxury. Do these inmates deserve to have access to quality health care and a GED program? Those programs went away because MCC saw no financial benefit to having them. They installed the work program because the inmates could make even more money for them. It's just a business where the inmates suffer so others can profit. Outlining a way to make the situation better for the inmates while still being profitable to the company will be the way out of the riot. But it's still a precarious situation because the inmates are asking to be seen as human beings who deserve to be protected. They are fighting against a corporation that simply wants to look down on them as second class citizens.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Pissters!" was written by Rebecca Angelo & Lauren Schuker Blum and directed by Phil Abraham.
  • Red and Blanca make for an interesting and unexpected character pairing. And yet, it feels tossed to the side to give them something to do without making too much progress too quickly. They are both searching for leverage. But something more is going on with the energy pills they've taken.
  • An answer is given to the "Where is Coates?" mystery? He's hiding out in the ceilings of the prison. Instead of trying to deescalate the prison riot, he's constantly spying on Pennsatucky. It's incredibly creepy. He deserves to be punished. And yet, she sees him and continues masturbating anyway.
  • It is so emotionally and tonally jarring to go from the moving moment in the cafeteria where Suzanne builds a makeshift memorial for Poussey to a food fight started because Flaca was more interested in her phone than Maritza. It just continues to show that some characters are too selfish to care that another inmate has dead.
  • Piper and Alex helped Linda because they are trying to be better people. They are trying to turn over a new leaf. They don't want to be corrupted by prison life. And yet, that good gesture could come back to hurt them - especially once they realize that Linda is in a relationship with Caputo.
  • Yoga Jones is upset with the white supremacists for breaking a lock to smoke in the work yard largely because then she can spot Judy running around. This door to the outside world being unlocked could be used against the riot should the authorities outside learn of it. But here, it's largely played for the joke that is Judy dealing with the reality of prison life.
  • Boo strutting around in Caputo's suit is incredible. Again, the balance of comedy and drama this season has been incredible tricky. But this moment works incredibly well because it's Boo pampering herself because of the riot.
  • Daya is seemingly becoming more immature with each passing episode. She wasn't the brightest or most hardened criminal when she arrived at Litchfield. But she picked up the gun for a reason. That decision is still pretty murky. And now, she just wants to be a kid who's not in charge. She no longer has the gun. She just wants to nap and steal fruit from the kitchen. She'll be hit with a reality check soon though.
  • Taystee and Soso are the ones mourning Poussey's death the most. So, it's interesting that they haven't really interacted this season. Taystee is trying to find justice through action while Soso is wallowing in her grief. It's cathartic for Soso when Suzanne makes the memorial in the cafeteria. But that will only heal so much.

As noted in previous reviews from this show, 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.