With a riot bringing Litchfield Penitentiary to its knees, Season 5 gets an explosive premiere.

So Litchfield Penitentiary is on lockdown, the lunatics have taken over the asylum and Orange Is The New Black Season 5 has landed on Netflix with a full-blown riot on its hands. No doubt you’re self-incarcerating in order to binge the whole lot so, for those needing a catch-up – and with spoilers galore for this and previous seasons – here’s everything you need to know on your way into this salacious slammer.


Who’s in the cast of Orange Is The New Black Season 5?


Let’s face it, Orange Is The New Black is set in a prison, so few of the regular cast are going anywhere in a hurry. But besides the return of Piper (Taylor Schilling), Alex (Laura Prepon) and the various regular gangs, a few recurring characters make a comeback. Pornstache, played by American Gods’ Pablo Schreiber, makes his first appearance since season 3 and Stella Carlin (Ruby Rose) emerges from maximum security after just a brief cameo in season 4. It was rumoured last year that Tom Hardy would make a cameo in season 4, but there’s still no sign of him, since he’s concentrating on Taboo.


How many new episodes are there?


As usual, there are 13 episodes in season 5, which makes for quite a stretch. Glow producer Tara Herrmann is co-producing once more and regular directors such as Andrew McCarthy and Phil Abraham return too, although one-time OITNB director SJ Clarkson is now directing episodes of Marvel’s The Defenders.


What did the trailers tell us?


That the power balance shifts dramatically in season 5. Opening with shots of Daya (Dascha Polanco) pointing a gun at nasty-ass corrections officer Thomas Humphrey (Michael Torpey) while inmates egg her on to shoot him, the first trailer focused on the rising riot, while later clips to merge showed the inmates taking control of the facility, denouncing their treatment and standing up for their rights. Their demands? Ice-cream parlours and anti-gravity chambers.



What’s the plot of Orange Is The New Black season 5?


Where the last few seasons have been somewhat loose and sprawling, season 5 is far more focused, happening over the course of just three days in which the riot – caused by Litchfield owners MCC trying to frame prison guard Baxter Bayley for the death of inmate Poussey Washington - changes the nature of the prison and the course of many major characters’ storylines. In early new episodes, the inmates take hostages and set about creating their own new form of society in the facility, turning it into a place of art and culture even as the authorities plan to put a swift end to their takeover. But will the messages about the truth of Poussey’s death that they send to the outside world via social media posts fall on sympathetic ears? Will MCC give in to their demands? Will Suzanne’s attempts to reach Poussey with a séance work? And just how much will the inmates humiliate their hostage correction officers?


“I think the stakes are higher in this season than they have been in a while,” said Taylor Schilling, “just by virtue of the compressed time and seeing people in compressed circumstance really raises the stakes. It’s exciting to watch, I think for all of us.”


And does Daya pull the trigger? Dascha Polanco told the Hollywood Reporter she was in two minds. “She might pull back and think about being a mother and not wanting to miss the opportunity of being with her child. But a woman going through postpartum — at that point, they’re very fragile and very sensitive.”


What are the reviews like?


Mixed. Vox declared the season “a staggeringly ambitious mess” and “at times borderline unwatchable”. “The show’s always-jarring tonal shifts — between comedy and drama and any other genre you can think of — start to feel as if they’re in poor taste when dropped into the midst of a season about a prison riot,” writes Todd VanDerWerff. “The flashbacks to the inmates’ lives before prison have less and less bearing on the action of the show. And there are multiple bizarre storytelling decisions, including a late-season homage to slasher films that is simultaneously played for horror and cutesy laughs. And yet it’s hard to shake. This is probably the show’s least successful season, but I’d hesitate to call it its ‘worst’ season. Its epic sweep and intimate storytelling offer up something that’s completely unlike anything else on TV — including the previous seasons of Orange Is The New Black. It’s about a dream of a better world that everybody involved knows can never come true.”


The season improves as it goes on though, VanDerWerff argues. “The final three episodes go from strength to strength. The series has never lacked for strong finales, but this one just might be my favorite. There’s a simple reason why: It’s an episode that genuinely attempts to answer the question the whole season asks. Can you build a better society? Or is it always doomed to fail because of the forces of the status quo waiting at the door to tear it down?”


“So jolty it will give you whiplash,” says The Guardian. “The main critique seems to be that there is a disconnect between its take on the Black Lives Matter movement and its brand of humour,” wrote Digital Spy, addressing the season’s many critics, “and it's true, at times. While no-one is saying that you can't use dark comedy within bleak drama, when it crosses the line into farce and hamminess, it can – and does – jar. There are catastrophic misjudgements of taste, which is more important than ever in a season that has taken on such a political behemoth. And yet… we got to the end, breathed and realised that for all of its flaws, this series was intensely emotive. We experienced pain, laughter, joy, trepidation, hope and horror. We're not saying it's perfect, but it is powerful.”


Will this be the final season of Orange Is The New Black?


Nope. Netflix have already confirmed two more seasons, running until 2019. “Three more years!” said creator Jenji Kohan.

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