Saturday, July 27, 2019

REVIEW: 'Orange Is the New Black' - The Guards Compete for a Promotion at the Expense of the Inmates in 'Just Desserts'

Netflix's Orange Is the New Black - Episode 7.02 "Just Desserts"

Piper earns her keep by babysitting. Aleida pressures Hopper to go for a promotion. Random drug searches put the heat on Alex. Daya gets an offer.

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 next episode of Netflix's Orange Is the New Black.

"Just Desserts" was written by Brian Chamberlayne and directed by Andrew McCarthy

There is the inherent belief and optimism that the systems that uphold our society will actually protect us when injustices occur. When the worst happens, it's comforting to believe that there is somewhere to go in order to ensure that the right and just actions are taken afterwards. But too many systems fail. They don't protect the people in the ways that they are designed to do. Too often people have their stories questioned and belittled or the punishment doesn't line up with the reality of the crime. The series has done a powerful job in highlighting just how broken the system can be. It's all a hierarchy in which the inmates are the lowest rung of society and are often abused as a result. Suzanne is just now coming to the realization that the world is not fair. She doesn't deserve to be in max. She has remorse for the crime that got her arrested and sentenced. Her mother understands that she needs to be in a place to get the proper mental treatment. And yet, the system is failing her and there is nothing that she can do. Even getting a shot for taking pudding cups won't amount to much. Nothing will change. Instead, the inmates can only look forward to more bleakness in their future. Of course, the show has been interested in telling stories from the guards' perspective as well. McCullough is seen as a woman angry at the world who mostly takes her frustrations out on herself. She has been victimized in the past. No one in her military unit believed her when she came forward with her story of sexual assault. She was held at gunpoint during the prison riot. And now, she is presented with a choice on what to do after finding Alex with drugs and trying to frame Hellman for the possession. She could report either of them. But there's no sense that Hellman would actually get punished. So instead, she feels the pressure to act just like the rest of the guards. She has to remain silent and actually take advantage of the system in which she has a little piece of authority. It doesn't matter that she makes eight thousand less than her male counterparts. Addressing the prison's drug problems wasn't going to change that. That is so depressing. It means that Alex remains in her perilous situation of needing to sell drugs because she is beholden to a guard. McCullough sees it as her opportunity to actually make something of her life. It's her acting the same as everyone else. That doesn't make it okay though. It just shows how systemic all of this corruption can be. There may be hope given that Ward is hired as the new warden after Fig is forced out. She gets the job mostly by appealing to Linda's best interests of stability. But she may also present as someone with the same moral sense of what this job should entail. That may provide some reason to be hopeful. But again, this show isn't going to magically fix the many broken aspects of the system. It's too large for the disruption of one company to create meaningful change. So instead, the inmates just have to find their best chances at living. Piper has to trust whatever Alex has to do to survive in max. She doesn't need to know everything. She doesn't need to worry. Sure, she should have reason to worry. But Alex doesn't need to be completely honest right now. Being paroled doesn't mark a significant escape from the system though. Maritza also makes her return to the narrative as someone who got early release. It's nice to see her again and the opportunities denied to her in her pursuit of a better life. She may be more reckless with the terms of her parole. But that too shows the system's inability to teach inmates how to reenter society. And then, Maritza gets caught up in an immigration raid when she doesn't have her papers. As such, the cycle may just be playing over again to abuse the most vulnerable among us.