For the fourth season of Orange Is the New Black, Spencer Kornhaber and Sophie Gilbert are discussing the series via recaps, taking turns to analyze one episode at a time. Spoilers abound; don’t read further than you’ve watched.
Episode 12, “The Animals”
Read the review of the previous episode here.
This was, beyond doubt, one of the most engrossing, well-plotted, timely episodes of television that’s come out in years, but I couldn’t watch it again right now if you paid me. I made four pages of notes on a legal pad and they end with the same word written three times: Poussey.
The lament that prison changes people is an oft-repeated truth on Orange Is the New Black, but up until now it’s mostly been prisoners saying it. In this episode, directed by Mad Men’s Matthew Weiner, it was Caputo instead, warning Bayley that if he didn’t leave Litchfield and do something else, he’d turn into a monster, “stumbling around crushing whole cities.” This place, Caputo said, “crushes anything good.”
This was exemplified in the cruelest fashion imaginable in the final scene, by the literal crushing of Poussey, a tiny woman with the biggest smile (and heart) in the prison. Yes, morality is complicated in this show, but P’s soul was hard to doubt—she was unequivocally one of the sweetest people in Litchfield, whose crimes amounted to possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana (for which she got six years). At this point, having known most of the prisoners for four seasons and learned their histories, almost anyone’s death would have been gutwrenching. But the fact that it was Poussey who was suffocated by Bayley as he wrestled with a hysterical Suzanne seems deliberate: The point was to fundamentally shock both the inmates and the viewers—to say that the system is so broken that this could happen to anyone, and has.