Of all the frustrating things about the time jump, this is the worst. Because by copy-and-pasting a new girlfriend into Franky’s life, and robbing us of the chance to see them developing feelings or at least an attraction for each other, you make it impossible to invest in this couple. The writers seem to have perfectly recreated the lust and power-based relationship Franky had with Kim, which begs the question: why get rid of Kim at all? I mean, I can see how they’re trying to paint Franky as someone who seeks out relationships unlikely to involve any emotional risks, but I’m not sure why you would want to go that route when you have an actor like Nicole da Silva, who plays vulnerability so very well.
Anyway, it’s delivery day in the kitchen, and Franky guides Jodie’s hand into the cavity of a dead chicken.
Inside the poor, violated (or possibly intensely aroused, no judgment) chicken, what should we find but some drugs! So even though Joan has cut off all TV access, it looks like Frankie has still managed to stream OITNB for ideas about how to smuggle drugs in her food shipments.
Sadly, Chicken Fisting 101 is interrupted by Joan, who relays the news of Bea’s sentence. Apparently Franky has been working as her stool pigeon for the last few months and Joan, in turn, cleared out all her competition with the exception of Bea. But now Joan abruptly calls an end to this arrangement, which is an odd choice because
- Joan badly needs an informer among the women
- Why even introduce the concept of their alliance if you’re going to destroy it after 30 seconds? Why give Franky a new girlfriend exactly like the old one? WHY ANYTHING???
Eschewing the carrot for the stick, Joan decides to immediately ban smoking in the prison. It’s like she wants a riot.
Sidebar, because we don’t have time to get in depth with everything: there is a new prison psychologist, who looks like Erica but is not Erica, and who is very interested in Bea’s case.
Yet another new development we’re dropped in the middle of is Bea’s ascension to Top Dog. She manages conflicts between Franky and some offensively one-dimensional Asian women, with Maxine working as her right hand.
When Maxine’s face appeared onscreen I groaned, because some part of me was hoping she would just be gone and never spoken of again. Aside from the problems inherent to a cis man playing a trans woman, last season saw her enact a staggeringly offensive scene where she pretended to be a man in order to escape.
After the exposition of the first half of the episode, the second half is breakneck action. First, Bea organizes a smoke-in to protest Joan’s cigarette ban.
Joan retaliates by taking Liz out of protection. When Bea protests, she herself gets sent to the slot. Once Liz is in gen pop, Boomer wastes no time in beating her to a pulp. As sad as I am by the direction they’ve taken Franky, no character has suffered a worse disservice than Boomer, who has gone from a lovable underdog to a bully who is not only cruel but obnoxious.
This episode’s only real surprise is that Fletch is alive! He managed to survive being run over by Joan’s van and has successfully transitioned to yellow-filtered world.
He’s still badly hurt, and when Vera visits him in physical therapy, he struggles to form words. He asks Vera to get in touch with Will for him, which means he STILL HASN’T TOLD WILL THAT JOAN IS TRYING TO DESTROY HIM. TIME HAS MOVED MONTHS IN THE FUTURE, HIS BEARD IS FULL, THE SEASONS HAVE CHANGED, BUT FLETCHER STILL HAS NOT SENT THE TEXT MESSAGE HE WAS TRYING TO SEND THE DAY HE WAS HIT BY THE MURDER VAN.
That ridiculousness aside, I’m awfully glad Fletch survived, and just as glad to catch a glimpse of the old, nurturing Vera.
Back at the prison, Bea sends a message to Maxine via lunch tray, telling her to start up a good old-fashioned riot. The women pile their mattresses into the yard and set them on fire, fending off the guards with wooden staves.
Also the fire is distractingly bad. Like, I believe that aliens built the pyramids, I believe at least eighty people killed JFK, but I will never believe those flames are coming from those mattresses. You’re an international hit now, Wentworth. Surely you can afford some better effects.
While the guards are dealing with the mattress barbecue, a small group of vigilante prisoners take Vera hostage and use her to spring Bea out of the slot. It seems like Joan is pretty much ready to let Vera die, but Channing intervenes and gives in to the prisoners’ demands. Channing wants to call in for backup, but Joan reminds him that if the board finds out about this, she’ll be fired, and then she’ll be forced to play the blackmail card. Which actually is some good writing, since it makes the prison a pressure cooker where Joan can’t call for outside help.
When Bea gets out of the slot, she demands a parlay with Joan, in which she requests that all future prison decisions be run by her.
“You don’t run this prison,” Bea says. “I do.” Joan has no choice but to agree, at least for now, and Bea leads the women back to their cells to the painfully on the nose tune of “Radioactive.”
Questions? Comments? Tears?