In season 6 of Orange is the New Black, the show’s main characters are shipped to maximum security prison to face repercussions of their explosive five-day riot. For Dayanara Diaz (Dascha Polanco), these repercussions often come in the form of swift baton blows to the shins or in broken ribs. The officers in max have a collective vendetta against Daya because she shot CO Humphrey (Michael Torpey) at the start of the riot.
From her very first appearance in season 6, it’s evident we should give an official sayonara to the old Dayanara, the quiet, moony-eyed teenager who drew anime and scowled at her mother's antics like a typical disgruntled teenager. Life, for Daya, will now forever consist of these cinderblock walls, these cellmates turned violent in their boredom, this unceasing persecution from power-hungry COs. After taking a plea deal for starting the riot, Daya is officially in prison for life.
Someone might look at Daya's circumstances — namely, a lifetime trapped with powerful people who are brutally violent towards you, specifically — and not immediately conclude she was in a prime position to begin a relationship. But that person would not be familiar with the laws governing the universe of Orange is the New Black, where the dire often rubs up against the uplifting; the grim waltzes with the hilarious. So, this season, when Daya is at her lowest point, she becomes romantically involved with Daddy (Vicci Martinez), the second-in-command of the D Block gang.
By all accounts, the Twitterverse is overjoyed with the pairing.
Though at least one person picked up on the major rub of Daddy and Daya's relationship, the bitter aura surrounding every passionate hook-up scene. You know — the whole "drug thing."
After peering more carefully into the dynamics governing Daddy and Daya’s relationship, we might want to reconsider vehemently celebrating this new prison couple. Within the ecosystem of max, Daddy (whose preferred pronouns aren’t clearly addressed in the show) is a powerful figure. She’s the primary henchman of Barbara (Mackenzie Phillips), leader of D Block, and runs the prison's heroin import. Compared to Daya, Daddy is buffered from experiencing max's violence. CO Hellman (Greg Vrotsos), an especially aggressive guard, would never think to harm Daddy. After all, he’s making a cut from her business.
From this position of power, Daddy extends a hand to Daya, one of the most disenfranchised prisoners in max. Daddy initially shows kindness to Daya in max’s dismal recess yard. “You’re a folk hero ‘round here. You took out one of theirs. I like a little lady with guts,” Daddy says flirtatiously after passing her a Snickers bar. Then, after Daya is badly kicked in the shin by CO Ward (Susan Heyward), Daddy arrives to her cell with makeshift gift basket containing shampoo — which, like Snickers, is a limited commodity in D block. But there's no such thing as a free gift basket. Tucked within the shampoo bottle are a few tempting packets of drugs.
Sure, the drugs will ease the pain — but they’ll also get Daya hooked on heroin, just like Annalisa (Christina Toth) and Tina (Rebecca Knox), the women who constantly trail Daddy. Daddy surrounds herself with people who need her, and, seemingly in the case of Annalisa, sleep with her. “Trust me, mamacita. I’m looking out for you,” Daddy tells Daya at the beginning of their strange dance toward a relationship. But is she? From an objective standpoint, it seems Daddy is grooming Daya to be reliant on her protection, her drugs, and her affection.
A very telling flashback into Daddy’s backstory reveals precedent for this pattern of behaviour. Before going to prison, Daddy ran a series of high-end parties during which beautiful women — many of whom were students — socialised with extremely wealthy and powerful men. If the women wished, they could sleep with the men, too. In this environment, Daddy positions herself as a laid-back but capable caretaker, someone who will be a trusty liaison between her women and her clients.
But the flashback's twist shows Daddy's women were never in sure hands. One evening, Daddy convinces Talia (Melanie Iglesias), a coltish newcomer to the party circuit, to go sleep with a man named Felipe because “playing with one horny rich guy” will pay off a semester. Then, Talia is murdered by that “one horny rich guy.” When the man returns seeking a new woman, Daddy concedes to his request — even when the person he asks for is Daddy’s girlfriend. When faced with a choice, Daddy saves herself (self-preservation is a theme we see repeating throughout Orange is the New Black this season).
In and out of the prison, Daddy assumes the same leadership roles. She cares for women — but doesn't actually protect them, the way someone like Red (Kate Mulgrew) did for her family. Daya will never be her “equal” in the relationship. Not, at least, until Daya starts helping with the drug trade herself — and is that an improvement?
That said, I get the impulse to stan Daddy and Daya. The characters have totally believable chemistry. In addition to shampoo and Snickers, Daddy provides Daya with companionship, the rarest and most important commodity of all in max, especially for someone ostensibly there for the rest of her life. In a season replete with abject horror, it's almost a relief to see some lovin'. While I’m happy Daya has a companion, I’m dismayed that her companion is also the individual who eased the way for her rapid descent toward addiction. By handing her those packets of drugs, Daddy essentially pushed Daya down a slide leading off a cliff and said, ‘Hey, it’ll be fun.’
The "drug thing" is why I have officially decided to stan Alex Vause (Laura Prepon) and Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) this season of Orange is the New Black. Pipex forever.
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