ByMark Anthony Wade Lynch, writer at
Trying to become Earth's Mightiest writer or at least one that people look for.
Mark Anthony Wade Lynch

Orange is the New Black is loved for its comedy value and for being a different sort of socially conscious TV show. Since first hitting the small screen in 2013, the series has touched on a range of hot-button issues including racism, police brutality, transphobia and sexual assault. But in between the weightier themes there are moments of levity and mirth to balance the heaviness.

Season 5 of continues to be great and compelling TV. While the new episodes aren't as full of drama as the previous season, it has nonetheless been an extremely entertaining season. One particular episode worth revisiting is "The Tightening," in which the creative team behind the show took what was largely a very comical season and surprised fans with an injection of horror.

Note: Spoilers ahead for Orange is the New Black.

First, A Quick Recap Of Season 5, Episode 9

Prison guard Desi Piscatella has finally had enough of the torment he's received at the hands of the Correctional Emergency Response Team, who he feels haven't been taking him seriously. The actions of antagonistic Red, who posted personal photos of Piscatella to the world, is the final straw. He breaks into the prison in the middle of the night, and that's where the horror begins. In full protective gear, Piscatella starts stalking the prisoners, taking out anyone affiliated with Red or who gets in his way.

But it wasn't the guard's sneak attack that made this episode so much like a horror flick — it was the way he crept through the shadows in his black riot wear, coupled with some seriously disturbing music. When he attacked, it was swift and brutal, a masterful treat for fans.

But random acts of violence do not a horror movie make. There were also the one-liners and mocking asides that acted as a shout-out to the genre we love.

How 'The Tightening' Paid Homage To Horror

There was one scene in particular, when two inmates, Maritza and Flaca, were chanting creepily in a dark hallway, à la The Shining. Then there was the eerie phone call from the two meth heads, asking to "check on the children," which was reminiscent of When a Stranger Calls. And when the inmates realized what was going on, there was a joke about it being the mother the whole time. Even after all the hostages were unearthed, there was still torture left for Piscatella to mete out, and while it may not have been graphic, the point was made.

Could this be a regular occurrence on Orange is the New Black? Will we see more themed episodes? Perhaps not. This seemed like a one-off plot device to move the story along and add some much-need lightness among the emotional charged episodes we'd endured. Regular gimmickry wouldn't work with a show like this.

While some critics having been less than kind about "The Tightening," they did concede that it served a purpose, with Vox writing:

It at least gets the series to a place where it can explore one of its favorite themes, the difference between justice and mercy.

While unabashedly cheesy yet purposeful, "The Tightening" marks the point where this season of OITNB really starts to hit viewers in the heart. Hopefully fans kept watching long enough to get their payout during the final quarter of the season. Those among us who did headed to Twitter to voice our positive reaction to the series and especially its finale.

Orange is the New Black, Season 5, is streaming now on Netflix. What do you think about this season? Sound off in the comments below.


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