Sunday, July 28, 2019

REVIEW: 'Orange Is the New Black' - Piper, Taystee and Gloria Make Choices That Could Compromise Their Freedom in 'How to Do Life'

Netflix's Orange Is the New Black - Episode 7.04 "How to Do Life"

Piper goes to work for her dad. Vinnie visits Lorna with news. A desperate Taystee asks Daya for a favor. Caputo leads a restorative justice class.

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.

"How to Do Life" was written by Merritt Tierce and directed by Andrew McCarthy

This episode concludes with a montage that highlights the various different ways the characters are dealing with their current realities. A huge portion of the episode focuses on Caputo's restorative justice class and the various other rehabilitation efforts Ward has created. These are programs that might not last especially if PolyCon sees them as being too costly. And yet, Ward sees the value of doing them. She wants to educate the inmates so that they are best informed during their time in prison. She figures that they have nothing better to do. It's a far better incentive program than the constant fear that comes from the guards and the threat of solitary confinement. But the struggles these characters face aren't confined solely to max or ICE detention. Piper is facing them out in the real world as well. This ensemble has always had deep connections to whatever was going on beyond the walls of the prison. They have lives that keep moving forward. But they are stuck in place. Caputo presents a program that can help them accept the punishment they received for their crimes and the roles they played in them to ensure that they don't get caught up in the same cycle once more. But that doesn't appeal to everyone. This is a maximum security prison after all. There are inmates here who have life sentences. Taystee doesn't see the importance of any kind of program. She just sees it as a distraction. Something that could help fill her time in prison. And yet, she'll always return to that dark cell for the rest of her life allowing the corporation to continue making money off of her. That's not something that she wants for herself. It's the justice that has been sentenced to her though. It's absolutely devastating to see just how suicidal she has become because of all of this as well. That's the way that she is choosing to cope with her reality. It's the starkest moment included in that final montage. It also shows the varying emotional impact of the characters who comprise that moment. It's devastating to see Taystee tie those sheets together but ultimately pull back to keep on breathing. It's a solid and hugely defining moment. But it is also paired with Piper breaking her parole by drinking and eating a cookie cake. They don't have the same merit or value. Sure, it's Piper tempting fate because she feels confined by so much in her life. She is continually being punished for her crimes. Everything is defined by that. But it's hard to sympathize too much with her because she has these opportunities outside once more. That's not the fate that Taystee or Daya can hope to have one day. It's much more consequential to remain in the prison and see the actions that Alex and Gloria are taking that may compromise their own freedom. Both of them are willing to use phones in order to reach out and achieve their personal connections once more. Alex does so because she doesn't think she has a choice. The guards have put her in this situation. But Gloria does it in order to help her friends who have gotten caught up in ICE detention. Sure, the flashbacks don't add a whole lot of nuance to her choices here. It just proves that she has compassion and the hindsight to know the thought process that comes from making these life-changing decisions. She came to America hoping to provide for her family. Instead, she chose herself and alienated an entire part of her life. Only now does she accept that and have remorse over it. That too is emotionally devastating and pairs nicely with Maritza's realization that the threat of deportation is very real for her because she wasn't actually born in this country. Her mother simply wanted to provide a better life for her. That is just more complicated because of how soul-crushing the entire system can be.