Orange is the New Black, season 6, starts after the riot of season 5. The way the government and prison authorities dealt with it was the focus of the season. Some of our favorite characters made it into Litchfield Max, while others were shipped off to distant prisons never to be seen again.
I’ll get to some of the characters in this prison drama in a minute. First I want to give you a rundown of the American System of Justice as implemented by the court system and for-profit prisons.
- incompetent investigators
- coercive plea deals
- false charges
- unjust rulings
- racist results
- indifferent & cruel guards
- drug-riddled prisons
- mental illness
If Orange is the New Black has not already convinced you that the American justice system is completely broken, this season will get you there.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the women who ended up in Max and what their storylines were this season.
Piper (Taylor Schilling) and Alex (Laura Prepon) were there, in adjoining cells. Before Piper was released at the end of the season, they had a prison wedding. Piper started a kickball program that may have saved Max from a gang war and Alex gave up her own chances to help Piper.
Doggett (Taryn Manning) was free, running with CO Coates (James McMenamin) and almost to Canada. She realized he was a bad guy, finally, and gave herself up to the police.
Lorna (Yael Stone) and Nicky (Natasha Lyonne) were just friends again because Lorna was pregnant. Nicky was into about everything except drugs. Lorna was thinking up baby names.
Suzanne (Uzo Aduba) eventually got back on her meds. She spent the season worrying over questions of loyalty and friendship. Whether off her meds or on, Uzo Aduba continues to make Suzanne the show’s most outstanding performance every season. And Orange is the New Black has an abundance of brilliant performances.
Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore) agonized over her decision to betray Taystee (Danielle Brooks). She did it anyway.
Gloria (Selenis Leyva) wanted to murder Maria (Jessica Pimentel). Maria wanted to murder Gloria. One found salsa dancing. One found God. Both were saved.
Red (Kate Mulgrew) wanted to murder Frieda (Dale Soules). So did two sisters who’d spend 30 years waiting for a chance to murder Frieda: Carol (Henny Russell) and Barb (Mackenzie Phillips). People were indeed murdered.
Daya (Dascha Polanco) fell for Daddy (Vicci Martinez). She called it gay for the stay, but she looked pretty into it. Daddy brought her Oxy when the guards beat her. Before long Daya was hooked. She moved on to snorting heroin and convinced her mom Aleida (Elizabeth Rodriguez) to smuggle drugs into the prison as a way to earn the money for an apartment. With an apartment, Aleida could get her other kids out of foster care.
Who haven’t I mentioned? Folks we know and love from past seasons of Orange is the New Black? Oh, yeah. Flaca (Jackie Cruz), minus her best friend, got hold of the prison morning radio show where she gave beauty tips while Cindy provided banter. Sofia (Laverne Cox) received a huge wad of cash and an early release from the prison owners. In return, she didn’t testify in Taystee’s behalf and she didn’t sue for her treatment in solitary.
I’m saving two prisoner stories. First a bit about the authorities.
Authorities? We’re so Fucked.
Caputo (Nick Sandow) is still trying to be a good guy. He does some good. He’s suspended so he uses his time to get interviews for Taystee with Politico.com. The ACLU and Black Lives Matter take an interest in her. Caputo contacts the Marshall Project. Maybe some of his efforts will pay off in season 7, but I don’t have much hope that anything will be put right.
Fig (Alysia Reiner) makes no effort to be good. She doesn’t even pretend to do her job. She goes back to work as a warden. She spends enough time in Caputo’s bed that she has her own drawer.
Luschek (Matt Peters) is as morally bankrupt as ever. He’s now in charge of recreation, which includes both salsa dancing and kickball.
CO McCullough (Emily Tarver), like other guards who went through the riot, has PTSD. She almost loses it when a bunch of prisoners run toward her during kickball practice. The guards in Max run a fantasy betting game that gives them reward points for everything from prisoners vomiting to cutting each other. Murders get the guards lots of points.
Linda Ferguson (Beth Dover) gets a promotion as a reward for her 3 days as a prisoner and her brief fling with Big Boo (Lea DeLaria). She does things to improve the optics of what happened so the corporation won’t lose any money. She renames the company. She creates promotional videos. She takes the company into the very profitable new field of incarceration of immigrants and ICE enforcement.
I’ve saved Taystee and Blanca (Laura Gómez) for last. Taystee because she takes the fall for the riot and the death of Piscatella. Blanca because she’s an example of how racist and unjust the system is.
Right, as if Taystee isn’t example enough.
Taystee pleads guilty to inciting the riot, but not to Piscatella’s murder. She goes to trial.
Everyone else takes whatever plea deal was offered in exchange for telling the investigators whatever they wanted to hear. No way would Taystee say she was guilty of murder.
Several sets of fingerprints were on the pistol that the women had. After the guards accidentally murdered Piscatella, they took his body into the pool and shot a bullet from the pistol into his body.
The coroner never pointed out that the bullet entered his body after he was already dead. The pistol was the murder weapon as far as the investigation went. And Taystee was pointing it in Piscatella’s face, according to several witnesses from the pool who knew full well she didn’t do it.
Caputo figured out that the guards must have done it and tried to bring in another forensic examiner, but to no avail. Taystee was found guilty. Everyone in authority was happy. They found someone to blame. The company looked good. It was over.
Blanca spent her time in Max wishing she could have a baby. She and Nicky concocted a crazy scheme where Diablo (Miguel Izaguirre) would provide a condom full of sperm and Nicky would use a straw to get it into Blanca. (There were some funny moments, as always, in season 6. There has to be some humor in a story this dark.)
After the verdict came for Taystee and Ferguson completed all her manipulations to make the company look good, 25 prisoners were given early release as a PR stunt. Piper, Sofia, and Blanca were among them.
Blanca was overjoyed. She said it was the best day of her life. Diablo waited outside with flowers.
One line of early release people went outside to waiting friends and family.
The line Blanca was in went outside to handcuffs and a waiting ICE bus to take them to another prison.