Oz: Season 4 (2000)

DVD Cover (HBO Studios)
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Overall Rating 87%
Overall Rating
Ranked #1,079
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Connections: Oz

The daily lives of prisoners in Emerald City, an experimental unit of the Oswald Maximum Security Prison where ingroups - Muslims, Latinos, Italians, Aryans - stick close to their mutual friends and terrorize their mutual enemies. --TMDb
Review by Chad
Added: August 14, 2012
Season four was quite a bit longer than the other seasons, so though it may have taken a little longer to wrap it up, I have finally put the nail in the coffin of the final episode. Yes, it's time once again to revisit the Oswald State Correctional Facility, otherwise known as Oz, and see what's going on with those crazy characters and dangerous delinquents. Standard disclaimer applies: Oz is and will always be my favorite television show of all time, so there may be a little bias in this review.

I'm also going to state once again that I'm assuming you readers have watched the previous seasons, and thus, there will be spoilers for them in this review. If you've never seen the show, start with season one, not this one. Without further adieu, let's get this show on the road as there is a ton of stuff going on behind those walls, as always. One of the big storylines for this season is McManus getting fired and replaced by Martin Querns (Reg E. Cathey), a man who has radically different ideas on how to run the cell block. He immediately begins transferring white inmates out and bringing black inmates in, with the idea being to create a utopia of "brothers" where anything goes... except violence. Yeah, McManus got fired for the constant violence, so as long as Querns puts an end to that, his job will be secure - even if it means allowing drugs and rape to run rampant. Adebisi is the ringleader for the prisoners, but this new way of life in Oz does not sit well with Said and the other Muslims... and they intend to do something about it.

Meanwhile, Beecher is trying to settle his differences with Schillinger, and he does so by helping to find Schillinger's son Hank and reunite the two. Things do not go well for any of the three men. Shirley Bellinger returns to death row after miscarrying, an undercover police officer enters Oz in an attempt to root out the big drug pushers, former officer Clayton Hughes goes off the deep end, Dr. Nathan is raped, Said begins helping prisoners get new trials, and yes, Beecher and Keller's relationship continues down a rocky road. This isn't even a fraction of the numerous plot devices being thrown around, so I'll leave the rest to the virgin viewer.

This season was actually a little different than the others. You see, every other season ran for eight episodes, while this one ran for sixteen - a double season, if you will. The reason for this was HBO asking for additional episodes to fill their programming schedule, and thus, what was to be a normal season turned into an extra long one. You can definitely see this play out on your screen: the eighth episode ends with what would have been a huge cliff-hanger and a great way to wrap up the season, and we then move immediately on over to other issues in the next couple of episodes.

It's pretty easy to tell that the latter half of the season was hastily written: characters come and go more often than usual (likely due to other obligations), storylines pop up with minor and / or new characters, and things happen that have no real meaning in the grand scheme of things but to take up an episode or two. For example, one episode finds a bunch of Chinese immigrants being housed in Oz and how they interact with the prisoners. They are there for two episodes, and then - poof! - they're gone. Another episode revolves around an investigative reporter (think Geraldo) doing a story on the prison which involves him visiting and meeting the prisoners. This lasts for one episode and takes up the majority of the time, and then it's over and done with.

Surprisingly though, none of these latter episodes are downright bad; hell, they don't even hit the "average" mark. Granted, I can objectively see that they were cobbled together at the last minute, but they are still damned entertaining and some of them do actually contribute to the show as a whole. New characters are introduced that will stand the test of time (I always liked Burr Redding, the new leader of the homeboys), while some other huge bombshells are dropped. Yes, these episodes may have been written at the last minute, but don't write them off because of that - they're actually quite good.

Other than that, the show is still running strong and it still has me ready to dive into even more episodes. The characters and the actors playing them are still highly enjoyable, while the stories that they tell are still as captivating as ever. As is always the case with this show, there are a lot of things going on and a lot of different characters and ideas vying for your attention, but it's still damned entertaining even in a season where half of it was thrown together at the last minute. That is a huge testament to the abilities of all involved. I do have to dock a single point for some "filler" episodes, but that's all I'm going to knock off since even those episodes were damned good while the rest of the season was simply fantastic. 9/10.
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