Tuesday, June 13, 2017

REVIEW: 'Orange Is the New Black' - Negotiations Grow Intense Because of Daya in 'Tied to the Tracks'

Netflix's Orange Is the New Black - Episode 5.08 "Tied to the Tracks"

While Taystee sits down with a negotiator, Red and Blanca put their own plan into action. Gloria counsels Daya and asks Caputo for a favor.

It was a shocking moment last season when Daya picked up the gun and pointed it at Humphrey and McCullough. It was shocking because it was Daya, who has always been such a passive character. Her story for the season didn't seem like it was building up to that moment. That moment itself was designed as a cliffhanger. What would happen next after the system finally breaks apart? But it was difficult to understand why Daya was the character at the center of it. Why did she chose to pick up the gun in the first place? She has continued to be a passive and supporting character this season as well. Her story hasn't been central to the narrative. She wasn't the person who truly started the riot. But she did help escalate it quickly with the gun and shooting Humphrey in the leg. The structure of this season means time has moved slowly. So, it has taken awhile for Daya to truly process what she did. As such, it seems like the show is providing an explanation in hindsight. It's using the eighth episode of the season to explain the decision that Daya made back in the fourth season finale. That's a little lame. But it's also centered around a couple of significant choices that a number of characters need to make.

"Tied to the Tracks" does see Daya as a central figure in the narrative. She's the focus of the flashbacks and her shooting a guard becomes a bargaining chip when the negotiations officially start regarding the inmates' demands. She has to come to accept that it ultimately was her decision to pick up the gun and shoot someone. She has spent her entire life living according to other people. She has never had the space to explore her own passions. She hasn't had the space to fall down and learn how to get back up. Instead, she has always been listening to her mother's advice. Even when it doesn't work for her, she still falls back into the same pattern. Having Aleida in prison with her only increased this feeling. Daya has so often been defined by the other people in her life. It was a choice between Aleida or Gloria. It was dealing with Bennett and Pornstache. It was choosing between Gloria and Maria. She has always blamed others for her actions. She wants to believe she picked up the gun because it was what everyone else was telling her to do. She wants to blame peer pressure. She wants to wash her hands of it and have no guilt about whatever Humphrey's outcome will be. She wants to be removed from all of it. And yet, that's impossible. She has to accept that she did what she did and will have to own up to that. She can't be passive in this fight.

If Daya doesn't turn herself in, the negotiations between Taystee and Fig (a nice surprise that brings a personal connection to the event) will stop. The outside world didn't know that a guard had been shot. The Governor has been striving for a peaceful resolution to this riot because he doesn't want any more blood to be shed in this prison. He did so not knowing that that had already happened. The inmates are hoping for amnesty for any crimes that happen during the riot as long as no one dies. Humphrey isn't dead yet. But things aren't looking too good for him either. Yes, Daya isn't totally to blame for his current status. Maureen is too. But no one knows that except for Suzanne. Daya shot him in front of so many witnesses. She was always going to have to face some kind of punishment. It was just a question of if the prison community would embrace her because she represents what they all believe. Or if they would throw her away in order to advance their own agenda? The show has been very smart in analyzing why these characters make the choices that they make. The outside world labels them criminals who will never do any better because that's the way they inherently are. Meanwhile, the show has suggested that it's really the system that's failing them. It's the mentality that the system has grounded into these inmates that makes them turn on each other in moments like this. And that is particularly devastating.

The system failed these woman. And now, Daya is going to pay for it because she was the one who actually picked up and fired the gun. She was a representative of the entire prison community. But she still had a choice as well. She has finally come to accept that. She turns herself over to Fig for a longer sentence at max. Aleida seems to think that they could fight this charge. It would be her word against a crippled man's. She could spin whatever story seh want in the hopes of ultimately staying at Litchfield (likely with more time) instead of being transferred to max. But Daya is preparing herself for what's about to come. It's her finally seeing the world clearly. She's tying up loose ends. This could be the last time the audience sees her. It would be a fitting and complicated ending. An exit that is more interesting than the character was for most of the series. Of course, having Elizabeth Rodriguez as a series regular probably means this isn't the last we'll see of Daya. But it's still very powerful to watch as Daya calls Delia to tell her the baby is still alive and should live with her. It's a very emotional and effective sequence. Yes, it's complicated because Pornstache is there as well being very creepy and clingy. But it's also Daya accepting that she has failed and wants a better life for her daughter than the system can give her. That's moving even though being raised by Delia will have its own difficulties.

All of this essentially means that the negotiations will be able to continue. They've dealt with one of the big issues. The inmates are fine with handing Daya over to the authorities for some new trial. They justify it as holding true to the causes that they actually care about. Taystee needs to get justice for Poussey's death. That's her top priority. It was less popular overall amongst the inmate population. But it's still important to her. Keeping the negotiations open is the only way she's going to achieve that. It just sets an important precedent that they are willing to sacrifice any of the other inmates in order to get what they want. That could come back to hurt them eventually. It's also why there are so many divisions amongst the inmates right now too. Gloria doesn't reach out to the negotiating committee to help her get furlough so she can see her son in the ICU. Instead, she goes to Caputo who connects her directly to Jack Pearson at MCC. So, she may be potentially selling out the rest of the inmates for her family. It's a choice that she is willing to make because her love for her son is so great. But it could come at a cost too. The same is also true with how the Latina inmates treat Suzanne. They keep the prison facade with the hostages going for a little while. But they still choose to end it by tying Suzanne to a bunk. It's their choice because they have no compassion for what Suzanne is going through. They are acting this way because it's the way things have been done to them in this system. They don't know any better. And that is ultimately the system's fault. If it showed the inmates compassion or the idea of rehabilitation, then perhaps none of this would have happened. And that's definitely the saddest realization amongst all of this.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Tied to the Tracks" was written by Carolina Paiz and directed by Michael Trim.
  • The surprise of Mary Steenburgen and Pablo Schreiber returning is ruined a little bit by their "Special Guest Star" credit in the early going of the episode. With Alysia Reiner, it's fine because she's put in a couple of guest spots in each season since she was fired from her job at Litchfield. But Delia and Pornstache's returns were big surprises ruined by contractual obligations.
  • The failings of the system are also evident in Pennsatucky's story. The inmates agreed that she would serve community service. But now, they aren't actually allowing her to do that. The meth-heads and white supremacists are ganging up on her to ensure she can't do anything. They were the ones fighting for more punishment. And now, they got it because they didn't give rehabilitation a chance. Instead, they only sparked more violence.
  • However, it's a little weird that Boo chooses her new romantic connection with Linda instead of protecting her friend Pennsatucky. It just rings a little untrue. She has gone to bat for Pennsatucky when everyone else is ready to punish her. But here, she's too concerned with new pleasure to actually care. That doesn't make much sense because their friendship has been such a great story.
  • It's great to see Taystee has done the research to battle against Fig's claims that there simply isn't the money to pay for all of their demands. The inmates have seemed out of their depth and unprepared in this situation before. But this moment is so rewarding because Taystee has the knowledge to actually make a difference and gain the upper hand in the negotiations.
  • An answer is finally given as to what's going on with Red and Blanca. The vitamin pills they've been taken are actually speed. It's such a relief that this horrible running story is finally over. It also produces such a moving moment between Red and Nicky where the roles are reversed. Nicky is now the one comforting Red while she's high. That works because of their history.
  • However, Red and Blanca have also led a dangerous man into the prison. They were so obsessed with getting Piscatella into the building to sign a confession for his crimes that they didn't even think about the lives they putting at risk. And now, he has broken in. He's wearing full riot gear too. He does it to prove to the other officers that he does know what he's talking about. That's very dangerous and a precarious way to end the episode.

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.