Warning: if you haven’t finished watching Orange is the New Black, season four, then leave now. This article contains some fairly huge spoilers!
Season three of Orange is the New Black ended with a moment of almost unadulterated joy. As a broken fence panel allowed the inmates to flee the prison yard, and run to a lake nearby, we saw them laugh, swim and splashas they enjoyed an – albeit temporary – taste of freedom.
Soso – suicidal just a couple of episodes before – floated contentedly, hand in hand with Poussey. Pennsatucky – who was raped by one of the guards earlier in the season – played games while sitting on the shoulders of her emotional support Boo. Flaca hugged Gloria. Daya hugged Aleida. And Red and Norma watched everything, peacefully from the pier.
Flash forward to theend of season four, and one inmate is dead, the others furiously rioting after the prison’s official statement failed to even mention her name. In vast contrast to the sequence of love, friendship, and hope that saw out season three, season four ends with desperation, anguishand rage. With Dayanara Diaz – once sweet, now angry –pointing a gun in the face of a guard, and a hundred inmates screaming for her to pull the trigger.
How did we get here? How did we go from that hopeful, joyful day in the lake, to this devastating, bleak and brutal season four finale?
While the inmates had various issues to deal with over the course of – the much darker – season four, what ultimately caused the death of Pousseywas the influx of new, brutish guards. (Ironically, the most innocent probably being the one who actually killed her).
Their policy of never second-guessing each other’s decisions made them reckless and dangerous, and they got increasingly sadistic over the course of the season.First, it was rough searches of the Latina inmates, culminating with making Blanca stand on a table – without food, and with no where to urinate other than down her own leg – for days on end. Then, it was turning a blind eye as Humphrey took Maritza into his house. While his fellow guards thought that he was probably sleeping with her, he was actually forcing her – at gun point – to eat a live baby mouse.
Things really came to a headthe day that the garden wasdug up, and the dismembered body (buried by Red, Alex, Freida and Lolly) wasfound. Ignoring Caputo’s orderto sit tight and wait for official instruction, Piscatella and his team instead beganinterrogations.
Humphrey – supervising a group of inmates waiting to be interviewed – decided to spice up the evening, and make two of them fight. Crazy Eyes, and Maureen.
Tragically, prior to this point, Crazy Eyes (Suzanne)had really been making progress. With the love and support of Taystee, Poussey, Black Cindy and Watson, she hadn’t acted out, or been violent, or done anything crazy at all, all season. But, egged on by Humphrey, and taunted by the angry Maureen, she snapped.
Afterwards, nothing her friends could say would convince Suzanne that she hadn’t done “a bad thing”.
Bayley – what with his moral compass – told Caputo what had happened, but, by threatening a mass walk-out if Caputo tried to suspend any of his staff, Piscatella quickly shut down any idea of Humphrey being punished for instigating this gladiator style fight.
Realising that Litchfield“crushes anything thats good. Its like a monster that has grown too big for its stubby little legs, and now its stumbling around crushing whole cities”, Caputo tells the young Bayley to get out while he can. Before it’s too late.
Unfortunately, Bayley doesn’t heed this advice (at least not quickly enough), and before he knows it, he’s caught in a peaceful protest that’s quickly turning violent.He’s got his knee on Poussey’s back, but he’s distracted, trying to fend off a furious Suzanne.
Then, just a couple of minutes later, Poussey – optimistic, cheerful, fan favourite Poussey – is dead. Suffocated by the inexperienced guard only trying to do his job.
What makes Poussey’s death truly devastating is the fact that every partof it – and every part ofthe events leading up to it – is tragically ironic. It would have been easier to swallow if it hadn’t been Bayley – one of the few guards attempting to be a good person – on her back. If Poussey hadn’t just been offered the possibility of life outside prison– in the shape of a job offer from Judy King – dangled in front of her.
If it wasn’t Crazy Eyes – trying to wrench Bayley from her friend’s back – that made it impossible for him to hear her begging, “get off”.