Orange is New Black season four is finally here, and despite my best attempts to not marathon it in a few days, it was too hard to stop watching. I will be doing a full opinions on the entire season later on, but for now let’s look at the finale Toast Can’t Never Be Bread Again.
This should go without saying, but this article contains major spoilers for the final episode of OITNB season four. Consider yourself warned.
I won’t go too much into the details of the overall season, as I mentioned that’s for another article. But overall, Orange is the New Black’s fourth season was fantastic, despite the darker tone hanging over the whole thing.
A theme running through the season was the dehuminsation of the prisoner’s by the terrifyingly black and white Piscatella, who did not seem to view them as human beings. Despite Caputo’s bumbling efforts, things only got worse as the episodes trundled on.
The conditions the prisoners were in, while on the surface seemed okay, rapidly became more inhumane. This was emphasised with officer Humphrey, who despite being a psychopath-in-training and a danger to the prisoners, was protected by Piscatella.
After an entire season of Piscatella’s rule of tyranny, the prisoners finally decide to stage a peaceful protest to get him fired, realising that getting Humphrey fired achieves little. At first, it seems that the bitterness between the various cliques in the prison will get in the way of the greater good, but the defiant Flores (you the real MVP) stands atop a table in silence.
We are treated with a triumphant scene of all the prisoners banding together, but the sweet taste of victory soon turns bitter in our mouths. Piscatella, continuing to be blinkered by his black and white view of the world, orders the guards to pull the prisoners down. As you might expect, things rapidly escalate from here as Susanne loses it.
Poussey, who has always been one of my favourites and one of the main characters of this season, stands forward to protect her. Also throughout the season, we had the characterisation of officer Bayley, a kind hearted officer who is one of the few rays of goodness in the officer side of things.
However, it is him that leads the the huge heartbreak of this season. He pins the teeny tiny Poussey to the ground, but his attentions are quickly drawn by Susanne, who is continuing to be violent. Unbeknownst to Bayley, he is slowly suffocating Poussey under his weight, and she quietly dies in the penultimate episode.
My eyes widened and my heart broke, but at that moment there was still hope. It wasn’t until Taystee saw her and started screaming and crying, that my already shattered heart broke into a million pieces.
The following episode takes on a somber, heavy tone as Poussey’s close friends grieve, and even others who didn’t know her feel the loss of her bright spirit. Here, the threads are laid for the huge cliffhanger season finale, as not only is there grief, there is also a lot of anger. Misdirected anger at other prisoners, but also anger at Bayley, who is seen as a murderer by the ladies of Lichfield.
When Taystee overhears Caputo’s press conference with the robots from MCC, the powderkeg of anger is lit. Running contrary to the “story” from MCC, that Bayley was “dangerous”, Caputo instead infers that Poussey was violent and that Bayley will be returning to the prison.
And thus, the underlying “race war” that’s been happening all season explodes, as all the groups erupt into a riot and begin walking to a centre point. The guards, unsurprisingly, just batten down the hatches and watch as the girls all move towards each other in what will be an ugly clash. Just before that can happen, the vile Humphrey comes in, trips, and reveals the gun he stupidly snuck into the prison.
Here we get the epic cliffhanger: Dayanara, apparently without hope now that her child is in the foster system, picks up the gun and points it at Humphrey leaving us to wait in horror to find out if she will throw her life away.
As great as this cliffhanger is, the real impact of the finale comes from the flashbacks to Poussey’s life before prison. After seeing one adventurous night where she met drag queens and a performance troupe pretending to be monks, the last we see of her is her smiling face, so full of hope. You know those pieces of my heart? I felt like the showrunners stepped on them and just ground them into the dirt.
As heartbreaking as this was, it showed the real power behind the final two episodes of season four. We should all be talking about the epic Tarantino style scene of Daya holding a gun on Humphrey as the camera swoops round the prisoner’s call for blood. And yet, we’re all talking about the horrible loss of Poussey.
The way they executed her final scenes, and the episode that followed it, really exemplified just how much of a pointless, stupid loss this was. It was powerful, heartbreaking and will stay in our memories for a long time. That takes skill to pull off. Any show can do a character death, but it takes skill for it to have as much impact as it did here.
As much as I’m mad at them for killing her off, the showrunners have to be congratulated here. What did you think of the season four finale?