Friday, July 26, 2019

REVIEW: 'Orange Is the New Black' - Piper and Alex's New Struggles Push Them Apart in 'Beginning of the End'

Netflix's Orange Is the New Black - Episode 7.01 "Beginning of the End"

Piper struggles to adapt to life after Litchfield. Alex promises to keep her nose clean. Daddy's infidelity angers Daya.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the season premiere of Netflix's Orange Is the New Black.

"Beginning of the End" was written by Jenji Kohan and directed by Michael Trim

Piper has always been this show's most privileged main character. She has had such a different experience in prison than the rest of the ensemble. The series has always been framed around how much time she has left. But now, she is out in the real world once more during the final season. It's a change of perspective that also highlights how much life has changed for her since she went away. When she entered prison, she did so with the clarity that it would only be for a few months and she could quickly return to her life with Larry and Polly. But now, those characters haven't been important or necessary in a long time. And Piper finds herself living in her brother's spare bedroom and really struggling to keep up with the demands of her parole. If the show's most privileged character is struggling to this extent, then the entire process has to be absolutely crushing to anyone who doesn't look like her. Right now, her focus is on building her life up once more while also pinning from afar for Alex. The two of them were married in the season finale. It's not until the end of this premiere that they reunite. But they do so as two people who no longer share the same life. The experience of prison bonds the inmates together even though this hour also closes with the reveal of just how alienating this entire experience can be. There is a crowd of people in this place. They all have different experiences and expectations from all of this. It's not some shared sense of community that makes them all stronger. Prison changes everyone. There is the hope that it can provide rehabilitation. And yet, it mostly just puts into context just how much Piper has lost along the way. She's not envious of the life that she once had with Larry. She is just more aware of the privilege she has long had. That awareness doesn't necessarily make her life any better or worse. It just makes her desperate to hold onto any remaining sense of dignity she may have left. However, she still gets fired from a Thai restaurant she never would have stepped in before going to prison. Meanwhile, Alex is forced into a dangerous situation where she has to step up and fill the void of the prison's drug market. Barb and Carol are dead. Daddy dies here as well. Madison is sent to solitary. Alex doesn't naturally present as a good drug dealer or someone who knows the ways to avoid getting caught. She is just all about survival. Right now though, she is forced into selling even though she doesn't want to do anything that could make her life more difficult. She too wants to get back to Piper as soon as possible. But their lives are already so far apart. It's disheartening because it proves just how depressing all of this can be. That's not even getting into the systemic oppression that comes from the abuses of the for-profit institutions that currently control these inmates' lives. The show has exposed the failings of the judicial system. Taystee was found guilty of a murder she didn't commit. Suzanne knows that she didn't do it. And yet, she accepts it as the truth because she believes in the earnestness of the systems that our suppose to protect the people of this country. This premiere largely just steps into the lives of what the main characters are doing at the start of the final season. It once again shows that any kind of initial relief that came from the kickball game was short-lived. But it should be very fascinating to see if that remains the tone for the final season overall. All the joy has been sucked out of so many of these characters across seven seasons. They deserve better but it remains unclear if any of them will be able to get anything notably different than what has always been apparent.