SPOILERS

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Danielle Brooks as Taystee deserves some awards for her work this season. And it was so damn cute to see the moment when “Amanda” first met “Mackenzie.”

Maritza and Flaca’s friendship is so kindred that I’m almost glad they went to prison and found each other. I’ll be interested to see how compelling the effect of their separation will be next season, and how long it will last. 

But on the subject of less delightful pairings, Piper and Alex and not nearly as interesting together as the writers believe. They work best as antagonists, to each other, and in general.

I question to what extent the moral relativism and the writers reluctance to take a clear stance contributed to the general unevenness in the season’s tone. OINTB has always been both a comedy and a drama, but it balanced those aspects far more artfully in the past than it managed to do this season.

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So many character motivations ran the gamut from unclear to utterly baffling. Why was Daya, of all people, the one to pick up the gun? And once she did, why did she shoot? Why was Red, of all people, the one determined to take down Piscatella? And why on earth did she think coaxing him into the prison was a good plan? Why did Piscatella reciprocate this singleminded vengeance? Or risk his job to break into the prison and terrorize the inmates like a horror villain? Did I forget things from last season that would’ve made this make more sense? The flashbacks certainly didn’t pull their weight on this score the way they usually do.

I felt like too much focus was given to secondary and tertiary characters as the vast majority of the central cast had nothing in particular interesting to do, and with the exception of the black girls, were the least connected to riot activity. I understand why logistically —the most involved would, in the aftermath (ie. following season), be given the harshest punishment and not allowed to return to minimum security (ie. the show.) But the result is that too many scenes are dependent on characters whose names I haven’t even learned.

Overall, I felt like the riot had a lot of potential that it didn’t really live up to.