Sunday, August 4, 2019

REVIEW: 'Orange Is the New Black' - Life at Max Keeps Moving Forward for the Various Inmates in 'Here's Where We Get Off

Netflix's Orange Is the New Black - Episode 7.13 "Here's Where We Get Off"

Tearful farewells, emotional tributes, new beginnings. Say goodbye to the women of Litchfield.

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 series finale of Netflix's Orange Is the New Black.

"Here's Where We Get Off" was written by Jenji Kohan and directed by Mark A. Burley

Orange Is the New Black doesn't conclude by magically fixing a broken system. In fact, a core mission of the show is that the system may be too big and corrupt for any idealistic individual to fix. And yet, the stories it told about the people caught up in it were extremely important. The system can be absolutely soul-crushing. The audience has gone on such an extreme journey with this show. There have been plenty of highs but a number of really significant and tragic lows too. This final season was preparing the viewer for Taystee's death because she gave up all hope. She was condemned to a life in prison for a crime she didn't commit. There was no reason to hope for a better conclusion for her either. The system can often make people feel like failures in that way. As such, it made Tiffany feel like it was a binary choice in regards to rehabilitation. Either one got better during their time in prison or they didn't. Because of Luschek's failings, she felt that she was broken and beyond redemption. It didn't matter what the test results actually were. She felt like a disappointing failure who no longer had a reason to keep on living. But it's also a broken system that allowed those feelings to fester while providing easy access to the drugs that would end her life. It's confirmed right away that she has died from an overdose. That's enough to make Taystee feel bleak about her own existence. It provides Linda with the justification to fire Ward as the warden as well. That gives this entire finale the sense that things will soon revert back to the antagonistic way that things were always managed in the past. Max will no longer be home to the programs intended on improving life for the inmates and to ensure they have a chance at better and more production lives when they get out. And yet, Ward helps Taystee find the strength to survive. Taystee is crushed by the weight of everything that has happened to her with no one noticing just how much pain she is enduring. She is ready to end it all knowing that life will keep on moving without her in it. She was unable to help Tiffany in her time of need. But it's also comforting when she gets that final goodbye with Suzanne, who understands this to be a part of life. She has come to accept that people come and go. She will survive because that's what being a mature adult actually means. It's such a celebration when Suzanne and Dixon perform at the memorial service. That's very emotional. But it's even more so when it comes to Taystee making her fateful decision. She only comes back to life because Ward has given her the GED test results showing that all of her students have passed including Tiffany. As such, there is reason to feel hopeful about what the system can provide. This is such a significant signifier of what is possible in the world with the right motivation. Taystee may not be able to find any justice for herself. But she can still make a difference in other people's lives. That's the work that can fill her soul once more. She was the victim of so much trauma. And now, she is hoping to give back. She may not stop the corruption and drug trade that flows throughout this prison. But she can sure put the effort in to ensure that the people she cares about get the tools they need to also survive and thrive. That may be the most comforting lesson of all. This finale ends with several of the characters facing bleak endings. Red is losing her memory. Lorna isn't getting any serious help beyond standard medications. Karla will more than likely die in the desert trying to get back to her kids. The show presents all of this as just a part of life within the system. It calls attention to the issues while making sure that the audience can't ignore it in the real world either. These are the injustices happening every day. This is just a small portion of the complications that come up as they affect this large array of humanity.

Sometimes people are just trapped within these cycles and can't get out. That's the tragic truth when it comes to Aleida and Daya. The system has a way of transforming people so that they no longer resemble who they once were. Daya's journey hasn't always been earned or easy to understand. However, it's stark that she now employs her younger siblings in order to keep her drug addiction going on the inside. Aleida feels like she has to be the one on top running things as a way to protect and care for her children. That's her responsibility as a mother. And yet, she also feels the impulse to kill Daya because of the risk she poses to her other children. That's the sad state of affairs as she now understands them. That means that she too is likely to spend the rest of her life in prison. The show leaves that open-ended. It's unclear if Aleida succeeds in her desire to kill Daya. But that shows how power can be so corrosive. Daya played a role in many of the tragic outcomes that occurred in this final season. She did so because she felt like there was no more damage that could be done to her. She killed a guard and believed that had to fundamentally change her. It didn't have to. The season always aspired for stories of redemption that showed how prison defines who these women are afterwards. That story thread was the most blatant when it came to Piper. She was the character whose entire journey was seen over the course of the series. She was the entry point into Litchfield. And now, the series ends with her parole officially coming to an end. She has the freedom to do whatever she wants now. And yet, she feels burdened by the impossible choice she has to make in her personal life. The show doesn't make it easy for her. She doesn't get the happy ending that everyone wants to believe can happen. Prison doesn't receive the romanticized treatment. The show has always run that particular risk with a few of its twist across its run. Piper believes that what she has with Alex is special and not just because they were in prison together. She is willing to put in the work in order to keep their relationship special until Alex is also released. But Piper's life has changed because she went to prison. She has sought a new perspective on the world as a result. She may still not know what to do. Things don't completely work out for her either. She is just working a lowly Starbucks job at the close of the series. And yet, things are uplifting because she is choosing to be with Alex even after she is transferred to Ohio - reuniting her with many of the inmates who were lost to the system following the riot. In fact, that's the element that makes all of this feel like it is coming to a close. This is a story about people. These are all women who have made mistakes. They are serving time together. They are abused by a system that doesn't wish to acknowledge their humanity. Some of them have better endings than others. But that's just a part of life. It's the part that includes just showing up and putting in the work to prove that they are worthy of support and love. That's what Cindy is hoping for when she makes her big plea to her family. She knows that she has a lot of work to do. But that's also the tragedy of what life is expected to be for so many people. It is an ongoing struggle to survive with constant temptations that could rip away one's identity. Nothing will come easy. Taystee's new fund may not work out in the end. But the idea that it could fuel the outside activism to acknowledge the stories this series told may hopefully make a difference for someone somewhere. That is enough to know that this show defined so much of what this modern era of television is capable of doing.