The following contains spoilers from Season 4 of Orange is the New Black.
It’s been nearly a week since Netflix released season 4 of Orange is the New Black and if you binged over the weekend like we did you’ve spent the first half of the week still reeling from this season’s developments.
Things are different at Litchfield when a new crop of “no-nonsense” guards and the arrival of extra beds brings more inmates, less available jobs and raises tensions at the women’s prison. Piper unintentionally becomes the leader of a white supremacist group and jeopardizes her panty business when she goes after Maria and her gang–who begin their own panty smuggling business. Mr. Caputo, drunk off his newfound power as the warden, grapples with losing sight of his prisoner’s as people vs. MCC’s bottom line. Taystee gets a job as Caputo’s assistant and Red has competition as Healy’s favorite when new inmate Judy King arrives.
Season 4 of the prison comedy-drama tackles several current social issues including mental illness, rape, police brutality, and white privilege. There’s even a scene mocking how easy it is to purchase an assault riffle.
Much of the season pulls on our heartstrings as we watch Lolly Whitehill (Lori Petty) unravel, find out why Suzanne Warren “Crazy Eyes” (Uzo Aduba) is in prison, and watch the enraging abuse of power from the new guards. While those moments elicit some tears nothing was more heartbreaking to watch than the death of beloved character, Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley), who died during a staged peaceful protest that turned fatal when a distracted guard suffocated her as he pinned her down to the floor with his knee. The scene, which intentionally draws comparisons to the deaths of Eric Gardner, Michael Brown, and Sandra Bland struck a nerve with fans.
Oh. My. GOD!!!!! #OITNB
Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.
— yvette nicole brown (@YNB) June 19, 2016
They killed off my favorite character??!!!! The love of my life?Never watching #OITNB again. Maybe I will. But it'll never be the same 😰
— goddess layniebug (@malaynap) June 19, 2016
I had to take a second away from #OITNB. It got a little too real for a second 💔
— Amber Patrice Riley (@MsAmberPRiley) June 19, 2016
Man, I get what story you wanna tell, I get that some stories are important to tell, but not like this. Not like this. #OITNB
— Maryne La Eh? (@MaryneeLahaye) June 19, 2016
— Joy (@deadgirl31) June 19, 2016
The scene struck a nerve with actress Samira Wiley too, who knew her character’s death was coming a year ago.
“I felt a lot of things. The first thing was shock and confusion. You’re on a show for so long and you feel a part of it and then, all of a sudden, you get news like this, and it’s a real shock…At the end of the day, I honestly feel pretty honored to be able to be the person or the character or the actor they entrusted with the responsibility of bringing this story to light and bringing this story to a bunch of people in whatever parts of America or whatever parts of the world where this hasn’t really permeated their world yet.” the actress told Vulture in an interview.
The writers of Orange is the New Black are no strangers to using the show as a vehicle to comment on social issues. In the past they have used their characters to address issues concerning the effects of mass incarceration, racism and privilege, and gay and gender issues. Using the death of Poussey at the hands of Bayley, one of the better guards creates complexity in the situation.
“…it was a really smart decision on their part because it is complicated. All life is complicated. You could’ve had one of those asshole guards be the one to do it, but then that would’ve made your feelings so cut and dry. It wouldn’t have been complicated like life is.” Wiley said.
Though Wiley will no longer be on the show, she already has a 5-episode role on the third season of You’re the Worst, the comedy drama that follows a couple’s dysfunctional relationship. The new season premieres Wednesday, August 31st on FXX.