The new season of Orange is the New Black is one of the highlights of my year and has been for some time – but the last few years have let me down.
With that in mind, I approached Orange is the New Black season 6 with a bit of hesitation when it was added to Netflix last month. I was excited to see what was about to unfold after the mess that was the prison riot, but had no idea how it would be handled, who I’d see, what the inevitable new characters would be like and if anything good would happen to the regulars that I’ve grown so fond of. That’s most of them, by the way. Except Piper. Nobody cares about Piper after the first season, right?
Now, after finishing all 13 episodes – in a slower time than usual, but real life happens – I have to say I don’t know what I was worried about.
The season as a whole was incredible. Most of the new characters were brilliant additions, and even the ones I hated served a perfect purpose, but more on that later. I was almost constantly on edge, laughing or annoyed at what was happening to Tasty and her prison pals. Though whether or not you can call them pals after what goes on this season is questionable.
Vicci Martinez is one of the highlights of this season. The former Voice contestant plays new character Daddy, one of the top dogs of D-block. OINTB is her first major acting credit, but surely won’t be her last. Daddy’s background episode (State of the Uterus) gives a clear explanation of who she is. Her relationship with Daya (played by Dascha Polanco) is interesting to watch. It brings lightness to what promises to be a dark run of episodes – but the reminders that it isn’t as pure as it seems are constant and welcome. Daya has her own journey this season which finally puts her back in the forefront. And it’s because of Daddy and the power struggle in the prison that she shines. I want more of Daddy. I want to know more of her background. I want to know what happens next. Vicci plays the part perfectly and makes the character, albeit pegged as a villain, very likeable.
Then, on the other hand, is Madison (or Badison, depending on who you ask), played by Amanda Fuller. Madison is completely unlikeable. She’s an awful, awful character – but crucial. Her accent is jarring. Her attitude is terrible. Her mannerisms make my eyes roll. But, like Daddy, she pushes the action forward. The explanation behind her flawed personality is very interestingly explained in the episode Changing Winds. It also proves she’s really not as scary as she makes out, though her inmates clearly don’t know that. If only they had Netflix inside, eh? She’s the guard dog of C-block, working for Carol.
Carol (Henny Russell) and sister Barbara (Mackenzie Phillips) are the real Big Bads of OITNB season 6. They’re the omniscient, omnipresent forces behind Daddy and Madison. The season is pushed by an extreme case of sibling rivalry that ultimately ends with a rather bloody – but very satisfying – scene. Their backstory proves they’re plain evil. It explains why the season is going the way it is. Their relationship is tense and fiery, but there’s a real connection that forces the plot along and makes it unexpected at times. Unlike the late Piscatella (Brad William Henke), the sisters are more comedic villains than twisted or terrifying. And although they bring a much needed lighter feel to the Netflix series, the finale paves the way for a proper baddie in the already confirmed seventh season.
As expected, the new prison guards are awful. A handful of them are rather attractive, but that’s soon forgotten by their actions. Caputo (Nick Sandow) practically redeems himself, but I can’t help but have a soft spot for him regardless. He’s a loveable fool who never quite gets his way, but his heart is always there. Fig (Alysia Reiner) is consistent in her HBIC state of mind but this time there’s a sweet vulnerability to her, brought out by old Beercan himself. And Linda (Beth Dover) is a whole new person now she’s back on the outside – albeit with a wig on her head thanks to a nasty outbreak of lice moments before her release. While there might have been sympathy for her last season, there’s none here and it’s obvious that not all villains are locked up. The finale twist with Blanca (Laura Gómez) is particularly cruel.
As mentioned already, the season as a whole makes me hopeful for what’s left to come after a few years of letdown. But the finale – the final few scenes, anyway – leave a little to be desired. There are so many things left unanswered, which means there’s plenty to cover in season seven. The viewer is dragged away from the action inside – the long awaited kickball game – and brought almost full-circle to the first ever episode. The early release of an inmate is the final glimpse of OITNB season 6 and it left me scratching my head. With this show, my heart is with the women behind bars. While I hope the seventh season answers everything I’m dying to know, I also worry that it will focus a little too much on the outside.
But the main thing I want to know – I’m praying to find out – is how my personal favourite character Maritza’s doing. Flaritza forever.