In 2014, Netflix’s prison series Orange Is the New Black was nominated for the Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy. Something about that seemed off, not because Orange didn’t deserve the recognition (it did!), but because look at the shows it was competing against: Louie, Silicon Valley, Veep, The Big Bang Theory, and Modern Family (which, of course, won). Those are all indisputably comedies, if only because they’re somewhere between 22 (or even less) to 30 minutes long. Episodes of Orange regularly stretch to an hour. A year later, the rules were changed: “Any series where the average length of an episode is approximately 30 minutes is eligible to enter as a ‘comedy’; any series where the average length of an episode is approximately 60 minutes is eligible to enter as a ‘drama.’ Producers may formally petition a new academy industry panel to consider their series’ eligibility in the alternative category.”
The update means that Orange Is the New Black is now only eligible for Outstanding Drama Series, and it was nominated as such for the 2015 ceremony. The 2016 finalists won’t be released until July 14, but according to Gold Derby, Orange has 5-to-1 odds to be nominated and, presumably, lose to Game of Thrones again. That’s for season three, though. Season four premiered last Friday, and while I usually forget everything that happens on this series between seasons (and every Netflix series besides Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and BoJack Horseman; a justifiable consequence of the all-at-once model), I don’t think that will be an issue for these 13 episodes. They’re, by far, the show’s most memorable, best work yet.
And the darkest.
As our own Jessica Toomer wrote in her glowing review, “Murder, drugs, race wars, corporatization, overcrowding, human-rights abuses,” these are just some of the fun things you have to look forward to in season four. Oh, and don’t forget the suicide attempts, frank discussions about rape, human branding, and multiple episodes that are almost too depressing to watch.
This is not Game of Thrones we’re talking about, it’s Orange Is the New Black, which, again, was once deemed a comedy by the Emmys. Modern Family isn’t funny, at least compared to Veep, but Orange is a different kind of not funny. Still, I can’t say enough good things about season four; I also can’t say much of anything about season four, for fear of spoilers. But I will “ruin” one thing, because it’s the worst scene in an otherwise sparkling season.
In episode nine, “Turn Table Turn,” Flaca (played by Jackie Cruz) and Maritza (Jane the Virgin‘s Diane Guerrero, who recently wrote a memoir, In the Country We Love: My Family Divided, about her parents being deported when she was 14) are killing time during a meal by playing a game of Would You Rather. After debating whether they’d run over an old lady in the street or turn the wheel and crash into a wall (“I think I mow her down” “Me, too”), Maritza asks, “Gun to your head, do you eat 10 dead flies, or an alive baby mouse?” The answer is indisputable. You obviously eat the flies.
I’ve had crickets, I’ve had ants, I’ve probably even unknowingly swallowed flies in my sleep, and honestly, they’re not bad; they taste like crunchy noodles. Eating 10 flies at once is like shoving 10 raisins into your mouth. It’s over in a second. Meanwhile, a live mouse? You’re going to feel that, to use Maritza’s description, wiggling “jelly bean” sliding through your body. (Don’t Google “what happens when you eat alive animal.”) And yet, she still chooses the living mouse over the dead flies, because the wings “would stick to your tongue and your tonsils and everything.” So? Later in the episode, Maritza’s decision comes back to haunt her in an uncomfortable scene so disgusting that cleaning up shower poop (poor Morello) seems pleasant by comparison.
Twitter gets it.
I think the moral of the story is: If you ever get thrown in prison for grand theft auto, and a sadistic guard makes you eat an alive baby mouse because he overheard you and your friend playing a “gun to your head” game after he nearly catches you smuggling drugs using a van, ask for the flies instead.
Otherwise, great season.