Written by Dylan Brandsema
Orange is the New Black Season 4, Episode 1
Season 4 of Orange Is The New Black picks up exactly where the end season 3 left off. There’s an influx of new inmates marching into Litchfield, and nearly everyone else is having a party of their own at the nearby lake.
The episode begins, however, with an abrupt, sudden shift into violence. Lolly (Lori Petty) suddenly saves Alex (Laura Prepon) from the grips of Aydin. Aydin is a hitman disguised as a guard sent by Kubra to murder Alex for turning him in — a plot which has developed at a snail’s pace since the beginning of Season 2. The scene says a lot about how the show wants the audience to feel — especially with the Lolly repeatedly stomping Aydin’s face in. The third season ended on a mostly happy and uplifting note. Yet, the cliffhanger of leaving Alex in the shed, possibly about to be murdered, was a potential double-edged sword in what was otherwise a positive, mostly conclusive season finale. This premiere episode, which is for some reason titled “Work That Body For Me,” takes us from 0 to 60 in a split second. It shows us the immediate outcome of the situation, and makes room for the season to have a fresh start…well, kind of. We’ll come back to that.
The majority of the episode consists of nearly the entire immediate cast standing (or sitting) together in large crowds, conversing with one another. As the new inmates flood in like a herd of elephants, the staff and other inmates find themselves scrambling to stay organized and find room to keep everyone – and everything – in order.
One of the advantages of this show having such a dedicated and passionate fanbase is that it doesn’t always have to have something happening every second to keep the audience interested. OITNB has so many characters – many of whom we’ve been with since the very beginning – and even when they’re just hanging around and talking about nonsense, we’re still interested in what they have to say. They might be criminals, but, in general, we like these people. They’re our friends. It’s a bit like a sitcom in that way sometimes, and it’s nice to have an episode – especially a premiere – remain interesting and compelling without having to throw us into 100 things at once. Yet, it also does something that most shows wouldn’t do without seeming like it’s trying too hard.
One of the new threads that does begin is expanding on the newfound, kind-of-romantic-but-also-kind-of-not relationship between Crazy Eyes (Uzo Aduba) and Maureen Kukudio (Emily Althouse). We were first introduced to Kukudio in last season’s “Mother’s Day.” However, it isn’t till now has her presence become primary to the show and its character relationships. Currently, almost nothing is known about Kukudio. This sense of ambiguity surrounding brings a sense of mystery to the show that hasn’t been there since the very beginning of the first season. There’s a scene in Caputo’s (Nick Sandow) office where he opens her file to read about what she’s in for.
This could have easily been a scene of unnecessary dialouge, arguing, and extraneous supplementary character banter, but it is indeed a scene of subtleties. Caputo opens her files and raises his eyebrows in disgust. He and Kukudio give each other an uncomfortable, awkward stare. Scenes like this are the kind that prove that often the best. Most believe performances come not from obvious outpourings of emotion, but from simple, quiet movements and subtle character details. Kukudio is a mysterious and interesting character who will obviously play a big role this season. It’s worth noting that the official Orange Is The New Black Wikia page for her character says in the personality section, “Note: still needs to be elaborated”. I sense a backstory episode will be on it’s way shortly.
There are also four major new threads going into the fourth season of Orange Is The New Black:
- A potential overpopulation problem in the prison brought on by the sudden arrival of new inmates.
- A clash between not only old staff and aggressive new staff, but new staff and old inmates.
- The eventual, and perhaps very dangerous physical repercussions of swimming in the nearby lake.
- The lingering issue of Alex and Lolly being found out following the killing of Aydin. About that, however…
The end of the episode takes a dark, ominous turn when Alex discovers that Aydin is, in fact, not dead. His body, which was rolled up into the corner of the gardening shed and covered with a tarp, had instead been laying in the dirt all day long, teetering somewhere between consciousness and comatose. In an another almost-wordless scene featuring a terrific performance from Laura Prepon, Alex bites the bullet and makes the decision to suffocate him, putting him out of his misery. This is followed up not long after by a montage of Alex, Lolly, and the obligatory just-the-fun-of-it help of Frieda (Dale Soules), cutting and chopping up his corpse, then hiding his scattered body among the flowers outside, all of which is gleefully set to Papa Roach’s “Last Resort.”
In the last shot of the episode, Freida stands leaning over a fence looking ponderously over the flowerbank; “These flowers look nice,” she says. This is Orange Is The New Black at it’s most morbid and most grim. But it is also it at it’s most ironic and totally self-aware of it’s darkly comic storytelling methods. If this doesn’t set the tone for what the 4th season is going to be, I don’t know what can.
OVERALL RATING: 9/10
Dylan Brandsema is a staff writer for Pop-Break specializing in film and television. When he isn’t writing reviews or spending too much analyzing the medium, he’s writing and directing his own independent films as well as drinking way too much soda. Currently at full-time film major at Full Sail University, Dylan eats, sleeps, and breathes everything related to the cinema. You can follow him on Twitter @SneakyOstrich69.