Welcome to Litchfield 2.0, where prisoners roam free, make demands, and force the guards to strip to their underwear and perform in talent shows. It’s a chaotic free-for-all, and it’s highly entertaining. After waiting an entire year to see the conclusion of Daya’s standoff with CO Humphrey and the impending Litchfield ladies’ riot, the return of Season 5 #OrangeIstheNewBlack certainly did not disappoint with the way shit went down — and oh did it go down.
Focusing solely on the events of the four-day long riot, Season 5 proved to be the strongest (and most insane) season of #OITNB yet. While the show still keeps its political agenda, communicating powerful messages of human rights, social justice, race and gender equality, what I found most enjoyable and captivating about this season was the message of unity and the unlikely bonds made between the prisoners in the face of disorder and change, and in this lack of order, the moments that brought to light the true character of these women.
Before I introduce some of the biggest players in the Litchfield prison riot, as well as the most entertaining and satisfying team-ups of this season, this is your OITNB SEASON 5 SPOILER WARNING.
Move over Piper — this season belongs to my girl Taystee. Badass, soulful and smart as a whip, it's a no-brainer that Taystee held the most vital role in the riot, but without a doubt I believe Taystee, particularly Danielle Brook’s shining performance as Taystee, has become the most compelling aspect of the entire series.
"You did our girl wrong, Mr. Caputo. And we want justice."
Outraged by Caputo's less than honorable statement on Poussey's murder, Taystee not only initiated the riot, but she was the one who lead the effort along with Black Cindy, Janae, and Abdullah to collect a list of demands from the prisoners through the process of democracy, (although stunned and hurt that the arrest of CO Bayley was only No. 9 on the list, right before Flaming Hot Cheetos and Takis) and it was Taystee who met with Zigarello and Caputo to discuss these demands in a composed and civil way. Out of everyone involved in the riot, it was Taystee who had the most honorable, sincere intentions of change, progress and justice.
2. Daya Diaz
Sweet, innocent Daya stunned audiences at the end of Season 4 when she picked up Humphrey's gun and unleashed her inner gangsta, leaving viewers an entire year to wonder what fate the seemingly hardened inmate would choose for the scum-of-the-earth CO Humphrey. At the return of Season 5, her inner conflict is more apparent, and when she ultimately makes the decision to shoot Humphrey in the penis (although the gun kicked and she got him in the leg) she seems to immediately regret her actions, as the other inmates start debating what her badass nickname will be when she's inevitably sent to Max.
Although Daya does pull a 180 and eventually joins Alex Vause and the other peaceful prisoners at the riot refuge zone in the prison yard, it's undeniable Daya's fateful decision to shoot Humphrey was the turning point for the riot, as Maria even says "too late is way in the rear view." Daya eventually turns herself in sacrificially, so that they other prisoners won't be held responsible.
3. Maria Ruiz
Even though Daya held the gun, Ruthless Ruiz didn't let that stop her from taking charge and leading the round-up and imprisonment of the guards. She and the rest of "Spanish Harlem" later hosted a theatrical assembly in which she humiliated the guards in front of the inmates by violating them in ways that they as prisoners experience daily. Later, Maria changed her tune upon discovering that Caputo never put through the extra time on her sentence, and she therefore shied away from the chaos that was still unfolding inside the walls.
Of course, Maria had possibly the biggest upset this season when she backstabbed Gloria Mendoza, stealing her idea to free the hostages in exchange for time off her own sentence — even though we still aren't sure how well exactly that idea panned out.
4. Gloria Mendoza
Although Gloria was on team "keep the peace," her efforts to pull back the riot and keep Humphrey alive were commendable. She was looking out for the well-being of Daya (on behalf of her promise to Aleida, recently released from prison), and although she knocked Daya out and hid the gun, we all know this was an act of motherly tough love, and it was for Daya's own good.
While everyone else was losing their shit in an apocalyptic-like world of disorder, Gloria also attempted to keep the inmates day-to-day running somewhat normal, and continued to cook the rioters and peaceful prisoners their daily meals.
"The only way out, is for us to come together."
Her strategic plan to release the guards and "run like hell" in order to reunite with her son was also the most ballsy scheme of the riot, yet she confided in the wrong person, as Maria selfishly stole her idea and left Mendoza helpless on the wrong side of the fence.
5. & 6. Red And Flores
Probably the most oddly satisfying team-up of this season, Blanca Flores and Red Resnikov join forces to dig up some dirt on Piscatella. While you can thank these two for the discovery of Piscatella's past murder of an inmate — and their valiant attempt at capturing the giant, power-hungry demon — they each made solid contributions to the riot individually as well.
Flores was the first on the scene to lock and secure all the exits so no outsiders could break in, and when their plan backfired and Piscatella started gathering up the inmates one by one, it was Red who located the kidnapped women, locked away in a basement closet.
7. & 8. Ouija And Pidge
Ouija and Pidge held it down throughout the majority of this season as the vigilant captors (and intimidators) of the hostages — even if they did resort to snorting coffee grinds to keep themselves awake (which, by the way, do NOT attempt at home, kids, they suffered dearly for this in the realm of uncontrollable bodily fluids.)
Epic team-up: Forming an unlikely partnership with the Nazis, Ouija, Pidge, Sankey, Skinhead Helen and Brandy stake it out in a final stand-off against the riot police. It's almost heartwarming to see the enemy tribes nod to each other in mutual collaboration as they wield sharp objects, barricade doors and fashion makeshift slingshots to be used against the riot police — even though shortly into this carefully orchestrated rebellion they were each rolled into "human tacos" and dragged out of the prison side by side.
Last but certainly not least, Golden Girl Frieda makes it on the list of MVPs for not only creating a secret bunker out of the old abandoned pool house for the women to seek refuge in, but it was Freida who rescued the kidnapped inmates by taking down Piscatella with a homemade tranquilizing dart. Plus, Suzanne "Crazy Eyes," (drugged-up on the lithium Black Cindy gave her in panicked efforts to keep her calm) might owe her life to Frieda, who just so happened to have an EpiPen laying around her emergency stash.
Epic team-up: We are left with an emotional cliff-hanger at the end of Season 5, as a motley crew comprised of Frieda, Suzanne, Black Cindy, Taystee, Red, Piper, Alex, Nicky, Gloria and Flores are linked hand in hand as the riot police blow open the door to their bunker. Standing tall and keeping what's left of their dignity, it's a powerful final image for a season that exudes themes of unity and solidarity. Though now we are left to wonder: Which of our most beloved inmates will live to see the premiere of Season 6?