Worst to Best
Orange Is The New Black
Season Five

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7 Flaming Hot Cheetos,
Literally (5.6)

The title comes from a protest movement, whereby an appeasing delivery of snacks is torched by the inmates to show how sincere they are in their actions. There's a line in this episode that appears to be a prescient satire of the Trump administration, with the observation that "The President of the United States sent [cheetos] [...] America's great". However, the episode was filmed last year before the election even took place, so this is an incredibly fortunate piece of writing that lends the season an air of extra topicality. For fans there's the added bonus of a flashback that shows the first meeting of Poussey and Taystee... over a shared love of Alice In Wonderland, no less.

6 The Tightening (5.9)

An episode where Piscatella finally enters the prison, and many of the scenes are shot as a horror/suspense movie, with people being grabbed offscreen, or fleeting shots of him sneaking through darkened corridors. This is even made explicit by Nichols, who says that he's "off playing Jason from Friday the 13th, or Jason's mom, technically - spoiler alert."
     Sadly, however, any designs the episode might have towards being a nail-biting entry are undermined by the distraction of poor intershot continuity. While no-one sits and watches television looking out for a breach of the 180 degree line, the unconscious does notice these things. Look at the scene with Alex and Piper talking, Alex looking down at her book on some shots, only to be looking straight at Piper on the instant reverse. Then there's Red and Morello in the medical supplies store with Zirconia (Daniella De Jesüs). Zirconia has her hands down, only for a reverse shot to shot her hand to her face. This astonishingly poor, and uncharacteristic, attention to continuity plays a constant role in an otherwise engaging instalment.

5 Full Bush,
Half Snickers (5.7)

One of four episodes not to feature a flashback sequence, this one instead focusses on the riot, where Linda's fear finally causes her to see Boo as a potential suitor. Which is a very polite way of addressing what is one of the most sex-orientated episodes of a generally sexless season... the title itself refers to pubic hair braiding in return for chocolate.
     Highlight of the episode has to be Rosal Colôn's stunning impressions of Morello and Nichols. Her final impression of Red, while amusing, isn't so pin-point accurate so as to, as with the other two cases, make you doubt that it's really her, and that the actresses hadn't dubbed their voices.

4 The Reverse
Midas Touch (5.10)

Directed by Laura Prepon (Alex), there's a sense of urgency to this episode missing from some of the others. It also helps that the flashback sequence centres on a character still relatively fresh to the series, in the form of Piscatella. While Piscatella's presence is a little too much of a supervillain (and there's the suspicion that the character shaved off his beard in an earlier episode just to prepare for this flashback) Brad William Henke always brings a lot of drive to the part, and it makes for one of the more compelling episodes.
     The big news surrounding season five - which arguably overshadowed the content itself - was the hacking and illegal release of the season. When a post-production company refused to pay the hacker's demands - almost ironically, in a season based around forced negotiations - the first ten episodes were leaked onto torrents sites on April 29th, some six weeks ahead of the official Netflix release.

3 Storm-y Weather (5.13)

For the first time since season one, a final episode is regular length. Lauren Morelli, writer of ten previous episodes (including Breaking the Fiberboard Ceiling) once more gives an odd song montage routine, with prisoners getting ready to attack riot troops to the tune of the Dave Clark Five. As an experiment, it's one better off abandoned for future seasons (of which another two have already been commissioned) as it makes it look as if the scripts are short of inspiration, and also dilutes the end credits which use music so well.
     Thankfully the rest of the episode, while dangerously skirting close to the line between realism and all-out silliness, is of a better standard. Sure, there's silly bits, and the - spoiler! - karmaic death of Piscatella echoes that of Vee too strongly, but this is a season that tried new things. Ultimately the season is very hit-and-miss, with unrealistic moments and some scripts that tried too heavily to amuse and fell flat, but overall it worked... just about. A concluding sequence that shakes up the status quo is perhaps just what the show needs if it's to continue with any kind of real drive.

2 Tattoo You (5.12)

A satisfying episode with various plotlines coming to fruition; this one hands over the flashback to Piper and Alex, the once-nominal leads who have become bit-part players in an ensemble show. Making a comeback is Piper's husband Larry, played by Jason Biggs, and last seen in season two. Larry is reputedly unpopular with the series' fanbase, but Biggs always brings a committed energy to the part.
     With various competing plotlines, the instalment ends on a high note as Taystee realises she's thrown everything away. For trivia, then look out for the opening scene where Gloria is dragged back into prison by Ouija... both of them have overdubbed dialogue without their lips moving.

1 Tied to the
Traintracks (5.8)

Dasany Kristal Gonzalez (Daya actress Dascha Polanco's real-life daughter) plays a 14-year-old Daya in this episode's flashback sequence, and it's a stunning recreation of the character. Elsewhere, Piper introduces the ethics game of "the train dilemma" to help the inmates decide whether or not they'll turn Daya in for shooting a guard. By this stage the season is well underway, with darker, more dramatic themes, and it's a shame that the series doesn't discard the more trivial episodes and start from such a strong vantagepoint. While it was perhaps hard to accept that Daya would really shoot a guard, the resolution of her character arc makes this the finest episode of the season.

 

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