I'm extremely upset, and I have been all weekend. (MAJOR spoiler warning for Orange Is the New Black's fourth season ahead!)
Ever since I finished season four of Orange is the New Black on Friday night, I've been in a state of mourning for Poussey Washington, and for my love of this show.
In the second to last episode of the season, Poussey (Samira Wiley) was accidentally murdered by Bayley (Alan Aisenberg) during what started as a peaceful protest in which all of the prisoners stood on tables in an effort to get the abusive, unreasonable, and irritatingly awful guard Piscatella (Brad William Henke) to resign. Piscatella ordered the guards to get the women off the tables, and in the ensuing chaos, Poussey ended up dead on the floor after a scuffle with Bayley.
After Caputo announced live on TV that he would not be firing or pressing charges against Bayley (mostly due to the fact that viewers and Caputo know that Bayley is a rare sweetheart who didn't mean to kill anyone), the other prisoners revolted, and got ahold of the gun that one of the other guards had snuck into the prison. The season ended with Daya (Dascha Polanco) holding the gun while the guards surrendered.
I don't know where Orange is the New Black is going after this, and at this point, I'm not sure I care. I don't want to watch the show without Poussey, and I don't want to watch a show that's willing to kill a character like her.
Poussey was a bright light on the show who rarely made decisions I struggled to support her in. Her entire storyline, especially this season, was about love. She just wanted to love Soso (Kimiko Glenn), and she just wanted to love Judy King (Blair Brown) despite her many faults, and she just wanted to make the best of her unfortunate situation until the day she would finally get out of there, and hopefully get the job that Judy was promising her.
Litchfield's sweet, multilingual book lover with the incredible singing voice made the tougher times easier to get through. She was a breath of fresher, less infuriating air, and now that air is gone, and I do not think that's a good thing for the show. In fact, I think it ruined the show. Maybe it could have been less worse once, before the past few months featured killing sprees, both on scripted TV and in real life, but I doubt it.
I've argued before for death on shows, but that opinion has changed. I still think it can be an interesting storytelling device, because grief is interesting and universal, but it can also be a cheap storytelling device meant simply for shock value, and that is what it has become.
OITNB has always been a show filled with both very good and very bad, which is to be expected when chronicling a bunch of women in a prison. The bad was never pleasant, but the discomfort and unhappiness it caused could be somewhat lifted by the good. The good was Poussey, and Poussey spent almost all of her storylines fighting for good.
Now, however, there is only bad. Not only is the best character dead, but she was killed by the nicest guard whose only real offenses were that one pepper spray incident and helping Piper with her panty business. Who's supposed to enjoy this plot twist? What is the point of having the nicest authority figure in the prison kill the nicest prisoner, who also happens to be a black lesbian in a happy relationship? Where can we go from here?
In a year filled with the deaths of LGBT characters on TV (and unfortunately LGBT people in real life as well), Poussey's death is particularly painful. This is not even an apocalyptic show, unlike The 100 or The Walking Dead, both of which killed off lesbians this past season. Those deaths were sad and unfair, but were also surrounded by other deaths, which doesn't make them any less sad, but does soften the blow a bit.
This is not a show that makes a habit of killing people off, unless they're truly dangerous. This show is mostly a comedy, and seems to pride itself on being a positive portrayal of women of all shapes, sizes, colors, and walks of life, while also unraveling the intricacies and injustices of the prison system.
Yes, police brutality and abuse of prisoners is a problem, but this was not the way to portray it. Poussey's death, along with other developments like Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning) basically forgiving the guard who raped her, just because he was nice to her and apologized, turned what started out as a funny, interesting season into an ugly, uncomfortable thing that I no longer enjoyed watching.
Not even a hilarious, molly-fueled threesome was enough to make me feel OK about a world without Poussey Washington, or to make me ever want to go back to Litchfield.
I'm just tired of sadness, and when that's all that some of my favorite TV shows seem to want to give me, I get tired of them, too.