ByKara Hedash, writer at
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Kara Hedash

began as a story about Piper Chapman's journey as an inmate at Litchfield Penitentiary but has grown into something much larger since that first season. The series, created by Jenji Kohan, is based on Piper Kerman's memoir Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison, but the show takes a deeper dive into the lives of many inmates. Kohan has repeatedly called Piper the "Trojan horse" of the show as she became the bridge into the world of Litchfield in order to give the other women an opportunity to share their story. Even though Piper (Taylor Schilling) remains one of the prominent characters this season, she takes somewhat of a backseat as Taystee (Danielle Brooks) stands tall as Season 5's central character.

Note: Major spoilers for Orange Is the New Black's fifth season below!

Taystee's Role In The Riot

Considering we witnessed the the events of Season 4 a year ago, it's easy to forget that the women in the prison are still feeling the immediate effects as this season takes just moments from when last season ended. Taystee is still filled with rage after what happened to Poussey (Samira Wiley) and that plays a big part in inciting the riot that is the focus of this season. Rather than running wild after the inmate takeover, however, Taystee decides to do something constructive with the opportunity.

Taystee's primary goal is to get justice for Poussey but with that comes the issue of mistreatment from guards, untrained prison employees, poor living conditions, and minimal access to things such as healthcare and education. Taystee, along with her close friends Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore), Alison (Amanda Stephen), and Janae (Vicky Jeudy), take charge at the forefront and become the ones to make their demands and messages known to the media. In a series of powerful scenes led by Taystee, she makes a tearful speech about the failing prison system for people of color and fires back at the prison's bribe by burning the supplies they were given.

'Orange Is the New Black' [Credit: Netflix]
'Orange Is the New Black' [Credit: Netflix]

With the help of Caputo (Nick Sandow), Taystee leads the negotiations on behalf of the inmates and makes a number of valid points regarding the current spending by MCC. Her eagerness and mentality when negotiating with Figueroa (‎Alysia Reiner) made her a force to be reckoned with and the inmates' only hope for positive change.

In The End, Did She Succeed?

As the season went on and the stakes became higher, it started to seem unlikely that there would be a peaceful resolution. The majority of the hostages escaped and the inmates lost a lot of the leverage they had for negotiation purposes. There wasn't enough of a united mentality for the prison to give up, so many of the inmates made the situation worse when SWAT finally intervened. To no surprise, the armed SWAT members did not hesitate to use violence in securing the prison, even with the most innocent of inmates.

While the rest of the inmates were being split up and transported away from the prison, the future of Litchfield looks bleak. Taystee comes face to face with Piscatella (Brad William Henke) in the bunker and proves in a way that she did get a win. With a gun in her hand, she finally has a chance for payback for the guards' involvement in Poussey's death but she decides not to pull that trigger. In a moment of realization, Taystee understands that by killing him, she sinks to their level. Just as in any kind of police brutality case, is justice ever served? Nothing will bring back Poussey but at least she can keep her dignity as she faces the next set of challenges.

Why Danielle Brooks Was The MVP Of The Season

'Orange Is the New Black' [Credit: Netflix]
'Orange Is the New Black' [Credit: Netflix]

' portrayal of Taystee has always been one of the stronger and most interesting roles in the series and OITNB Season 5 only strengthened that. There were a multitude of emotional scenes starring Brooks front and center which really underscored her place as a pillar in the series. Her tearful pleas set the tone for the season and a lot of credit goes to Brooks and her performance. The vulnerability needed for certain scenes must have been a grueling process but she nailed it. The flashback scenes gave more insight into Taystee's past and solidified that she doesn't have a family outside those prison walls; Litchfield is her home and her friends are her family, she has nothing to lose to protect them.

As a fan of the series and of Danielle Brooks, I hope some of these performances are acknowledged for award consideration. It is important to add that this latest season of will not be eligible until the 2018 Emmys due to airing so late in the season but I find it hard to believe that Danielle Brooks' performance would be a difficult one to forget.

Orange Is the New Black's fifth season is streaming now on !

What did you think of the performance by Danielle Brooks? Tell us in the comments below!


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