The real story behind Orange Is The New Black's most upsetting scene.

WARNING: This story contains spoilers for season five of Orange Is The New Black. Proceed at your own risk.

Thirteen episodes. Three days. Two deaths. One riot. Countless acts of brutal violence.

In season five of Orange Is The New Black we see the worst of the women of Litchfield Penitentiary, as the rules system that governed them for four seasons is broken down.

Listen to this special episode of Mamamia’s TV podcast The Binge to find out the real story  behind Orange Is The New Black season five. Hosted by Laura Brodnik. 

The bottle format of the season, spanning mere hours as the riot heightens, allows heroes to rise and former favourites to fall from grace as their desperation peaks.

It’s a season of light and shade, with comic relief coming from #blacklattesmatter, the Litchfield Idol talent show and Flaritza’s YouTube channel.

But thanks to Desi Piscatella, it is also the darkest season yet.

With the control of ‘his’ prison taken away, Piscatella plots to enter Litchfield and live out his demented revenge fantasy.

In a scene that is reminiscent of a low budget horror flick, he stalks and abducts women one by one, and ties them up to watch as he cruelly brutalises Red.

Red’s family – Piper, Alex, Boo, Nicky and Blanca are bound with electrical tape and the women struggle helplessly as the guard takes his knife to Red’s hair, partially scalping her in the process and stripping her of her dignity.

The episode 10 scene has been dubbed ‘torture porn’ and it left us shaken.

The episode was filmed on the day of the US election,  and writer Lauren Morelli told The Hollywood Reporter the actors were feeling especially broken and vulnerable, and drew on those emotions.

“It’s a set full of women and I think a lot of women in our country felt very threatened by the election. It was somber. It was definitely somber, and that probably fueled us to go further than we might have,” she said.

Boo, Piper and Alex watch as Piscatella tortures Red. Image: Netflix

In an interview with Vulture, Brad William Henke (Piscatella) shared the story behind the shocking scene and his character's motivation.

In season five we see a flashback to Piscatella falling in love with an inmate and Henke says he believes this backstory humanised his character.

"I loved this guy, and for whatever reason, I let my guard down and got hurt. And I swore that I would never let my guard down again. That’s why I have to be a hard ass, keep structure, and can’t be friendly with one person and not with another. I feel responsible," he says.

Even his backstory couldn't turn him into a truly sympathetic character though, with the scene ending in murder, and Piscatella's story ultimately ending in death.

Even a backstory of heartbreak can't redeem the uber-villain Piscatella. Image: Netflix

The scene where he breaks Vause's arm is all the more impressive when you discover that Laura Prepon (Alex Vause) directed the scene in her directorial debut.

So what is it like torturing your director?

"I’ve never felt so taken care of or so much like a director made my performance better... It was written and we rehearsed all that with a stunt person the week before. But, as Piscatella, he’s not thinking he’s gonna break a person’s arm. That’s, she jumped on my back and I had to subdue her and then she triggered me."


For many fans, the scalping scene where Piscatella removes Red's hair with his knife was difficult to watch. Henke says this scene was particularly gruelling, taking six hours to film.

The violent scene was too much for some fans. Image: Netflix

"Sometimes it’s me pulling her hair, sometimes it’s me having fake hair in my hand, pulling her hair, and then dropping the fake hair. And then sometimes it’s a stunt person in a wig so I can really do it," he says.

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Considering the entire season revolved around the inmates fighting for justice for Poussey's murder, it was unexpected to see Piscatella's justice come within moments of his crimes. It was also a surprise that amidst the violence that pulled season five together there were only two deaths - Piscatella and CO Thomas Humphrey - both guards, both reprehensible characters.

His quick and unceremonious death comes via friendly fire, as the SWAT team enter the prison and, mistaking him for an inmate, shoot him square in the head.

"I read the whole script and thought this could not be a better end. It’s poetic," the actor says.

What did you think of season five?

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