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The Worst Storyline In Oz Season 4

The Worst Storyline In Oz Season 4

Before “The Sopranos” and “The Wire” changed television for good, the violent, explicit one-hour HBO drama that everybody talked about was “Oz.” The gritty 1997 series, set at a maximum security men’s prison, was one of the first shows on television to truly flaunt subscription cable’s lack of content standards. Over the course of six seasons, “Oz” featured cursing, explicit nudity, violence, drug use, and more. The strong content attracted curious viewers, but it also felt like the only way to tell the full story of “Emerald City,” an experimental unit in Oswald State Correctional Facility, as narrated by inmate Augustus Hill (Harold Perrineau).

The series garnered a positive critical reception and pointed the way for even more ambitious, experimental TV over the next two decades. Yet sometimes, the willingness of “Oz” to try out tonal shifts and plot twists also meant the show could feel ridiculous, particularly in the later seasons. One storyline in Season 4 especially felt like it came from a different genre of TV entirely.

The experimental aging drugs in Season 4 were just ridiculous

Season 4 had more episodes than the other “Oz” seasons, which might be why one fan on Reddit, u/ag425, wrote in 2019 that the 16 installments, split into two, go “a bit off the rails.” The more absurd storylines included innocent Chinese immigrants being housed in the prison, and unit manager McManus’ (Terry Kinney) trying an unconventional replacement for solitary confinement. 

However, the worst plot of the season was more something more out of a science fiction novel than a gritty prison series.

In the last half of Season 4, an experiment begins in the prison where inmates with longer sentences are offered a trial aging pill so they will age faster and be able to leave the prison earlier. Naturally, this downright bizarre solution to overcrowding doesn’t go well. One, prisoner Fred Wick (Chazz Menendez) dies thanks to the drug, while others suffer from terrible side effects.

The implementation of the concept isn’t the real issue, however. More importantly, this is a silly, fantastical storyline that doesn’t fit into the more realistic world the series had, at that point, built over several seasons. Even on a show as groundbreaking as “Oz,” an experimental aging pill belongs to a Philip K. Dick story, not a realistic HBO drama.

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