Welcome to Litchfield 2.0, where prisoners roam free, make demands, and force the guards to strip to their underwear and perform in talent shows. It’s a chaotic free for all, and it’s highly entertaining. After patiently waiting an entire year to see the conclusion of Daya’s standoff with CO Humphrey and the impending Litchfield ladies’ riot, the return of season 5 Orange Is the New Black certainly did not disappoint viewers with the way shit went down– and oh did it go down.
While it’s unlike OITNB to devote an entire season to just 4 days in the lives of our favorite minimum security prisoners, I think focusing solely on the events of the riot made for the strongest (and most insane) season yet. While the show still keeps its political agenda, communicating powerful messages of human rights, race and gender equality, what I found most enjoyable and captivating about this season were the connections and unlikely bonds made between the prisoners in the face of chaos and change, and in this lack of order, the moments that brought to light the true character of these women.
Before I introduce some of the biggest players in the Litchfield prison riot, as well as the most entertaining and satisfying team-ups of this season–this is your *OITNB SEASON 5 SPOILER WARNING*, ’cause we about to get into it.
MVP #1 – Taystee
It’s a no-brainer, but we have to talk about my girl Taystee. It was Taystee who riled up the forces after hearing Caputo’s less than honorable message on Poussey’s murder, inciting not only the other black inmates to call to action, but unintentionally inciting all of the other prisoners as well, stirred up by the outrage. Not only was Taystee the one who initiated the riot, but she was the one who lead the effort to collect a list of demands from the prisoners through use of democracy, (although stunned and hurt that the arrest of CO Bayley was only #9 on the list, right before Flaming Hot Cheetos and Taki’s, she claimed “Democracy is bullshit!”) and it was Taystee who met with Zigarello and Caputo to discuss these demands in an articulate and savvy way. Out of everyone involved in the riot, it was Taystee who had the most honorable, sincere intentions of change, progress, and justice.
In short, Taystee not only held the most vital role in the riot, but without a doubt I believe Taystee, particularly Danielle Brook’s shining performance as Taystee, has become the most compelling aspect of the entire series. Taking command this season, Taystee is badass, soulful, smart as a whip, and willing to do whatever it takes to seek justice for Poussey.
MVP #2 – Daya Diaz
Sweet, innocent Daya stunned audiences at the end of season 4 when she picked up Humphrey’s gun and unleashed her inner gangsta, leaving viewers an entire year to wonder what fate the seemingly hardened inmate would choose for the scum-of-the-earth CO. At the return of season 5, her inner-conflict is more apparent, and when she ultimately makes the decision to shoot Humphrey in the penis (although the gun kicked and she got him in the leg) she seems to immediately regret her actions, as the other inmates start debating what her badass nickname will be when she’s inevitably sent to MAX.
Although Daya does pull a 180 and eventually joins Alex Vause and the other peaceful prisoners at the riot refuge zone in the prison yard, it’s undeniable Daya’s fateful decision to shoot Humphrey was the turning point for the riot, as Maria even says “too late is way in the rear view.” Daya eventually turns herself in sacrificially, so that they other prisoners won’t be held responsible.
MVP #3 – Maria Ruiz
Even though Daya held the gun, Ruthless Ruiz didn’t let that stop her from taking charge and leading the round-up and imprisonment of the guards. She and the rest of “Spanish Harlem” later hosted a theatrical assembly in which she humiliated the guards in front of the inmates, in violating ways that they as prisoners experience daily. Later, Maria changed her tune upon discovering Caputo never put through the extra time on her sentence, and she therefore shied away from the chaos that was still unfolding inside the walls.
Of course, Maria had possibly the biggest upset this season when she back-stabbed Gloria Mendoza, stealing her idea to free the hostages in exchange for time off her own sentencing–even though we still aren’t sure how well exactly that idea panned out. This was extremely troubling for me, as Gloria and Maria are two of my favorite characters. I mean, who wants to see two of their favorite characters go and do each other dirty like that?? Even though I was deeply saddened for Gloria, when Maria was reunited (though briefly) with her man and her baby in the finale, I found myself reduced to tears, cradling a box of tissues.
MVP #4 – Gloria Mendoza
Although Gloria was on team “keep the peace,” her efforts to pull back the riot and keep Humphrey alive were commendable. She was looking out for the well-being of Daya (on behalf of her promise to Aleida, recently released from prison), and although she knocked Daya out and took the gun away from her, we all know this was an act of motherly tough-love, and it was for Daya’s own good. While everyone else was losing their shit in an apocalyptic-like world of disorder, Gloria also attempted to keep the inmates day-to-day running somewhat normal, and continued to cook the rioters and peaceful prisoners alike their daily meals.
|”The only way out, is for us to come together.”
Her strategic plan to release the guards and “run like hell” in order to see her son was heroic, yet she confessed to the wrong person, as Maria selfishly stole her idea and left Mendoza helpless on the wrong side of the fence.
MVP’S #5+6 – Red and Flores
Probably the most oddly satisfying team-up of this season, Blanca Flores and Red Resnikov find themselves searching for dirt on Piscatella together. While you can thank these two for the discovery of Piscatella’s past murder of an inmate, and their attempt at capturing the giant, power-hungry demon, they each made solid contributions to the riot individually as well. Flores was the first on the scene to lock and secure all the exits so no uninvited guests could break in, and when their plan backfired and Piscatella started gathering up the inmates one by one, it was Red who located the kidnapped women, locked away in a basement closet.
Flores: “Once you start scratching the surface on somebody, it’s crazy the kind of shit you find.”
Red: “That’s why I try to keep my nails short, don’t want to scratch too deep and hit crazy.”
MVP’s 7+8 – “Flaritza” Flaca and Maritza
What do everyone’s favorite prison besties, Flaca and Maritza, do when they get their hands on a phone? Use it to film and post their own beauty vlogs, duh. Besides using their talents to pamper and spruce up their fellow inmates, Flaca and Maritza get the last word in the riot by recording abusive mistreatment by the riot police and posting it on their vlog, before they are each forcibly taken out of the prison. We also can’t forget, it was Maritza who pushed CO Humphrey to the ground when he first reached for his pistol at the end of season 4, sending it spinning in Daya’s direction. Kind of a major riot play in my book.
In the end though, we suffer the ultimate heartbreak as the two are purposely split up and herded onto two different buses, their destinations unknown. Will the two ever be reunited, or is this the end of “Flaritza” as we know it?
MVP’s #9+10 – Ouija and Pidge
Ouija and Pidge held it down throughout the majority of this season as the vigilant captors (and intimidators) of the hostages– even if they did resort to snorting coffee grinds to keep themselves awake (which, by the way, do NOT attempt at home, kids, they suffered dearly for this in the realm of uncontrollable bodily fluids.)
Epic team-up: In an unlikely partnership with the Nazis’, Ouija, Pidge, Sankey, Skin Head Helen, and Brandy stake it out in a final stand-off against the riot-police. It’s almost heart-warming to see them nod to each other in mutual collaboration, as they wield sharp objects, barricade doors and fashion makeshift slingshots to be used against the riot police–even though shortly into this carefully orchestrated rebellion they were each rolled into “human tacos” and dragged out of the prison side by side.
MVP’S # 11+12 – Angie and Leanne
Although more often than not Angie and Leanne are mad annoying, when the meth-heads have the gun in their possession (and therefore the power) they choose to host a talent show starring the hostages, which made for some…interesting scenes…and actually created some universal bonding among the inmates. Despite having her favorite finger shot off, Leanne makes the ultimate decision (while neck deep in a bucket of bleach) to become a better person. Obviously, this revelation means that she and her fellow meth-loving bud, Angie can only redeem themselves if they set all the inmates’ paperwork on fire, which they manage to execute right before being hauled away by the riot police. Despite all the childish de-pantsing they did this season, you have to admit this was a solid contribution to the cause.
MVP #13 – Frieda
Last but certainly not least, Golden Girl Frieda makes it on the list of MVP’s for not only creating a secret bunker out of the old abandoned pool house for the women to seek refuge in, but it’s Freida who rescued the captured inmates by taking down Piscatella with a home-made tranquilizing dart. Plus, Suzanne “Crazy Eyes,” (drugged up on the lithium Black Cindy gave her in panicked efforts to contain her hysteria) might owe her life to Frieda, who just so happened to have an epi-pen laying around her emergency stash.
Epic team-up: We are left with an emotional cliff-hanger at the end of season 5, as a motley crew comprised of Frieda, Suzanne, Black Cindy, Taystee, Red, Piper, Alex, Nicky, Gloria, and Flores are linked hand in hand as the riot police blow open the door to their bunker. Standing tall and keeping what’s left of their dignity, it’s a powerful final image for a season that exudes themes of unity and solidarity. Though now we are left to wonder, which of our most beloved inmates will live to see the premiere of season 6?