[Warning: This post contains spoilers for Season 6 of Orange Is the New Black. Read at your own risk.]
For the most part, Season 6 of Orange is the New Black was a total bummer. With the exception of Daddy (Vicci Martinez)'s appearances, there was very little to look forward to. The bleak, slow-moving season tried to deliver new big bads with Carol (Henny Russel) and Barb (Mackenzie Phillips), a pair of sisters who had it in for Freida for selling them out decades ago. But the show's attempt to paint them as anything other than background fodder ultimately failed. However, they aren't even close to this season's biggest misstep.
This season's most glaring letdown was how the show handled Taystee (Danielle Brooks), who deserved a far better story than she's been given. When we first met Taystee on Orange back in Season 1, she had a decent future ahead of her. She was smart, and she had a strong will and a huge heart. She was someone to root for. However, any hope we had for her future is all but gone now that she's been found guilty of murder -- a crime she certainly did not commit.
The finale saw Taystee get convicted for killing Piscatella, which will see her receive a long sentence that likely will keep her behind bars for as long as the show continues. After Poussey's tragic death at the end of Season 4 and Taystee's failed attempts to get justice for her best friend in Season 5, we desperately needed a win; Taystee needed a win. But here we are, and it's as though everything Taystee fought for and all her hopes for justice don't matter. Instead, the show has only gotten infinitely darker, and Taystee's storyline this season was nearly too painful to watch.
While Taystee was facing down her trial, we had to see her endure physical and emotional abuse at the hands of Hellman, Max's most vicious guard, with virtually no support around her. Her close friend Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore) sold her out to save her skin and Suzanne (Uzo Aduba) was kept segregated from her friends for most of the season in B Block. Even Taystee's friend from before prison Ward (Susan Heyward), who is now a C.O. at Max, ultimately abandoned Taystee when she detailed her abuse to reporters. This endless parade of emotional torture is not the future we foresaw or wanted for the woman who was once considered the comedic relief of the show.
It was even more frustrating to see Taystee's story hijacked by Caputo (Nick Sandow), whose emotional investment in the case was often prioritized over Taystee's in the most alarming way. Rather than dig into Taytee's journey as a black woman caught up in an unjust prison system that wants to see her thrown away for a crime she didn't commit, the show chose to silence that important voice and instead focus on how all of this was affecting Caputo, her White Savior who ultimately failed at his job. Why did Captuo's bumbling attempts to get the charges dropped take precedence over Taystee, the person who should be at the center of this important story?
Much like the criminal justice system which gave Taystee a raw deal, this show essentially threw Taystee away this season without even giving her a real shot to tell her own story. With Orange returning for Season 7 next year, there's a chance that Taystee can appeal her sentence and ultimately find the justice she most certainly deserves. But after three straight seasons of watching this show fail Taystee, I'm not holding my breath
Season 6 of Orange Is the New Black is currently available to stream on Netflix.