“God Bless America” Orange Is the New Black: Orange Black or Bleak: S7 E11 (Netflix)

Orange, Black, or Bleak S7 E11: “God Bless America”

OITNB Final Season Hero 1.jpg

Several years ago, I decided to do a deep-dive into the Netflix show Orange Is The New Black to help explain things that folks watching the show who don’t have a background including incarceration might not catch. Seven seasons later, I am still rolling.

I am not a woman, which is a huge weakness of the coverage. I do consult with friends who did time in women’s facilities and try to ensure accuracy.

I did time in a state and not a federal facility, another huge weakness.  I try to consult with friends who did time in federal facilities and try to ensure accuracy.

If you haven’t been listening to the Decarceration Nation Podcast my most recent guest was Alec Karikitsanis from Civil Right Corps. We discussed everything from his work in Ferguson to his work to end cash bail. We met up at the Smart on Crime Innovations Conference in New York City a little over a week ago.

Only a few episodes left….sigh

Oh, and if you have enjoyed this journey with me, one of the other shows that I write about, Mr. Robot, is starting it’s final season on Sunday night. Check back here for my recap on Monday.

If you have not watched OITNB before *Spoiler Alert*

5. “Her hair needs an ambulance”

Welcome back Sophia!

It is really sad to me that one of the best, and most important, characters in the history of Orange Is the New Black has been reduced to guest spots but I was still damn glad to see her walk into the “parole” office. 

Not sure what I think of her advice here...Sophia says, “I did my time, you and your hair should do the same” but that is not the way I live at all. I think about the people I left behind in prison every single day. For me, and I can only speak for myself here, I cannot unsee the things I saw or forget the people I met. 

I certainly get the desire to move on, and her right to do so, but while I have become a much better person since incarceration, the folks inside will always be my brothers and sisters and I cannot forget all the ways in which our criminal justice systems are broken.

Piper Kerman, the real Piper Chapman, is the same way. She now works in a prison and goes around the country talking about criminal justice reform. Sophia is one of my all-time favorite characters, but I do not agree with her at all this time.

I do agree with Piper’s parole officer that she needs to decide what she wants to do with her life, I think they teased that she might become a writer and we know that is what really happened but nothing ever developed from that storyline.

Did I mention how great it was to see Sophia again?

4. “That’s not a loan it’s a redneck kickstarter”

Kudos to Orange Is the New Black for creating the Poussey Washington fund which is set up to grant microloans much like what Taystee is starting to cook up on the show:

The fund that launched Thursday features eight nonprofit organizations that focus on a range of issues surrounding prison and criminal justice reform. The hope is that viewers who are impacted by the Emmy-winning series — and the timely but shocking death of Poussey Washington, will be motivated to show their support. The seventh season ends with a title card that prompts viewers to visit crowdrise.com/PWF.

The question is not IF people come back, 96% or more of all people in prison are coming home. The question should be HOW people come back from incarceration. We need to create better off-ramps from prison back into society and we MUST give people the resources and tools necessary to return successfully.

Caputo is right, it is great to see Taystee back being her excellent, optimistic, and forward-imagining self. But, we can all make a difference in ensuring this show continues to matter to real folks coming home from real prisons.

3. “I can’t work with children, remember”

Piper is right, staying away from where kids are is a pretty normal condition of parole or probation. Parole conditions are variable based on your offense, but there are a ton of them that are applied pretty generally. For instance, almost every formerly incarcerated person on supervision is prevented from having any contact with other people with felony backgrounds.

Anyway, it is really hard to like Vause much after this episode. McCullough, who seems always about five-seconds from a total nervous breakdown, asked Vause explicitly about if she was serious about their new relationship. For Vause, who one-thousand percent knew how fragile McCullough was, to totally emotionally abandon her makes her anything but lovable IMHO. 

Many people will focus on McCullough stalking Piper as she returns home from the ball as the real issue here. Sure, McCullough is all kinds of melting down, but Alex knew this and went after her anyway. Alex was the priming pin, the trigger, and the grenade in this scenario. 

I am not sure what I think about Piper, Alex, and Zelda yet, but I am fairly certain after this betrayal, that I have way fewer positive feelings about what happens to Vause at the end of the show. 

On the other hand, I have certainly done terrible things like this in my earlier life, I suppose it will have to do with if she takes responsibility for what she has done and tries to become a better person. Regardless, what she did to McCullough was brutal.

2. “The big slot is for the noodle casserole”

I have already written a great deal about the national tragedy being reproduced during the last few seasons of Orange Is the New Black. Frankly, I can’t even remotely understand how judges, much less ordinary citizens, can continue to allow children to be treated in such a cruel and callous manner (much less adult immigrants and asylees.

We are all going to look back and be ashamed we did not do more once this shameful period of our nation’s history concludes (if it ever concludes).

In other news, Gloria’s phone gets exposed by Karla Cardova, Blanca pulls off a miracle and gets to challenge her previous case, and Karla and Shani get deported (terrible for all).

1. “Ice cares about the baby so much they want her to keep it until they deport her”

Fig has really turned into one of the best characters on the show. Yes, she was ultimately responsible for most of the awfulness of several seasons but between the demotion, her rehire and hooking up with Caputo she has grown a conscience and become, in her own way, a crusader for justice.

Hard to imagine making a bigger sacrifice than taking an abortion pill in order to smuggle another pill to one of the ICE detainees who had gotten pregnant as the result of rape during her journey to the United States.

She also unfailingly gives Caputo great advice that he almost always ignores. In a sense, he is right to ignore it, since it is critical for him to take responsibility for the many bad things that he has done but at the same time, from a strategic perspective, she is almost always right.

Let us not also forget that being in a relationship with Fig has made Caputo a much better person...the Season 4 crisis was, to some extent, precipitated by him being an absentee warden in pursuit of power at MCC and it was in the transition from Linda to Fig that he actually started to become a decent human being. In fairness, it also seems to be Caputo who changed Fig for the better, she has actually started to care about people too.

Unfortunately, the world mostly runs on Linda’s. But it would probably be better if the world were run by more FigPutos.

Unlocking The Gates



New recaps will come out once a week (usually on Sunday mornings).

Lots of things have happened since last season, I am now a policy analyst at Safe and Just Michigan, a consultant with #cut50, and still the host of a podcast. I am still a member of a Criminal Justice Reform organization called Nation Outside (The Voice of the Formerly Incarcerated) but I am not speaking for Nation Outside in any official capacity.

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