Perhaps Netflix’s most celebrated and adored shows amongst viewers worldwide, there’s something about the girls of Litchfield Penitentiary that makes for brilliant television. The show has seen beloved characters come and go during its now fifty-two-episode run, and in the midst of new blood in the internment’s prisoners and guards, season four delivers its funniest slew of episodes yet, but they also make for immensely tragic and dramatic storytelling.
Picking up from season three’s conclusion, Piper (Taylor Schilling) has made her stamp as Litchfield’s leading mobster, or try-hard gangster, loud and proud. Meanwhile, Alex’s (Laura Prepon) past is out to haunt her once again as she and Taystee (Danielle Brooks) are chosen as Caputo’s (Nick Sandow) personal assistants. Poussey and Brooke (Samira Wiley and Kimiko Glenn, respectively) are Litchfield’s blossoming power couple, while Crazy Eyes remains her most troubled yet loveable self.
As Litchfield’s sprawling characters spend their dutiful time behind its dilapidated fences, Orange takes a turn for the surprising. Far surpassing a run-of-the-mill prison dramedy, the latest season sees the show tackle relevant social commentary to its most powerful degree. Season four will undoubtedly make you laugh and cry by arguably delivering the most important Netflix season the year has to offer.
As Piper’s innocence slowly faded into the vicinity of Litchfield’s worst, her freshly infected tattoos would signify a dangerous change for the show’s leading lady. Where the previous season left Piper in an odd and questionable state, the latest season sees Piper at her most ferocious and indeed hysterical self. Running a panties enterprise behind bars, Piper’s criminal ego is out on display as she attempts to establish street cred and most hilariously, accidentally formulates a white supremacy group behind prison walls. It’s the absurdity and sheer outrageousness of Piper’s predicament that brings out the hilarity in this chapter. All the more, Taystee’s newly appointed role as Caputo’s secretary delivers gut-busting moments; even the simple phrase “sideboobrulez” will be enough to elicit a laugh or two.
While premiering to a tumultuous and uneasy start, the season balances its numerous character profiles and story arcs for well rounded, riveting viewing. Season three saw Alex Vause (Laura Prepon) confronted by her former employer’s hired killer, and she is now led further into unexpected predicaments that deepen into chaos.
In other areas, Caputo has failed with his previously hired guards and now resorts to former Army officers to keep Litchfield safe from further disarray, and the show’s power couple, Poussey and Brook, deliver the show’s most cutesy romantic relationship to celebrate.
As last season teased, we’re introduced to Judy King, a television celebrity made famous by her cooking programming. A hilarious and unprecedented character, King’s new and fresh-faced persona cannot help but resemble fragments of real-life counterparts such as Paula Deen and Martha Stewart. King’s tax frauds and unwarranted racist remarks make for hysterical comparisons.
Most surprisingly, the latest season of Netflix’s beloved series sees the program at its most satirical and its most socially relevant. Tackling white supremacy under the leadership of Chapman remains a hysterical section of the season, however, the writers tackle the topic of prejudice with utmost sincerity and importance. Just as Black Lives Matter and events of police brutality make headlines in our news cycle, Orange is the New Black tackles these themes with glimpses of satire and hilarity, while keeping scenes charged with social relevancy and heartbreaking, tear-jerking predicaments. Such commentary was clearly present in the writer’s room this season, and results in a season that pushes heartfelt, thought-provoking moments of both drama and comedy.
While season three received mixed reactions, Orange is the New Black has clearly strived for brilliance since its debut. Reaching high for its fourth season, showrunner Jenji Kohan shows that this beloved Netflix series still has many stories to tell. Encapsulating hysterical laughs thanks to genuine comedy, season four delivers balances proceedings impressively with dramatic weight. The season punches home with a penultimate episode strong enough to shatter millions of hearts and a season finale cliffhanger tough enough to leave viewers with utter sadness, the perfect close for a chapter than packed in poignancy and commentary mirroring modern-day America. All in all, Orange is the New Black season four delivers one of the most riveting and important binges Netflix has to offer.
THE REEL SCORE: 9/10