Judge David M. Gutierrez shanks you very much.
Our reviews of Oz: The Complete Second Season (published February 3rd, 2003), Oz: The Complete Third Season (published April 13th, 2004), Oz: The Complete Fifth Season (published August 3rd, 2005), and Oz: The Complete Sixth Season (published September 5th, 2006) are also available.
It's a life sentence of good television.
Oz: The Complete Fourth Season continues the show's tradition of phenomenal acting and riveting storytelling. For those coming in late to the story, Level Four of the Oswald State Correctional Facility—nicknamed "Oz"—is a failed social experiment where the lowest of men reside. Nobody's innocent in Oz. For every hint of nobility or redemption, there is hate and pain.
Year Four finds the inmates embroiled in the midst of racial chaos. Martin Querns (Reg E. Cathey, S.W.A.T.), the new Unit Manager, forms an alliance with prison sadist Simon Adebisi (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, The Bourne Identity). Little by little, any non-Blacks find themselves transferred out of Emerald City. Iago-like Ryan O' Reilly (Dean Winters, Rescue Me) and sexual omnivore Chris Keller (Christopher Meloni, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) form a pact of their own. Trying to redeem Adebisi and himself, Said (Eamonn Walker, Othello) combines his Muslim forces with Adebisi's Brothers. Tensions flare, devastating Em City and leaving a number of casualties.
Em City is rebuilt with its former Unit Manager, Tim McManus (Terry Kinney, The Laramie Project), back in place. Warden Leo Glynn (Ernie Hudson, Ghostbusters) ponders his political career, while Sister Peter Marie (Rita Moreno, West Side Story) has a crisis of faith. Oz's danger level continues to escalate toward an explosive season cliffhanger.
The longest season of Oz maintains its standard of excellence through an overwhelming sixteen episodes, spread over three double-sided discs. Each episode features some of the finest acting available on television. I don't know how Tom Fontana manages to find the finest East Coast actors around, but he does. Every character is rendered believable, sympathetic, pitiful, and hateful, thanks to the actors, Fontana, and his team of writers and directors. This reviewer defies anyone not to feel like a fool for sympathizing with the often stupid and romantic Tobias Beecher (Lee Tergesen, Homicide: Life on the Street) in his violently doomed affair with Keller. It's a homoerotic train wreck.
Watch Beecher versus Neo-Nazi Vern Schillinger (J.K. Simmons, Spider-Man), as their personal war and attempts at peace continue to scar and kill those around them. Simmons makes Schillinger an amazing bastard you never want to meet but love to see. He's the closest thing to a sympathetic Satan on television. The Beecher/Schillinger storyline's complexity spirals upward until its dark end in the series finale. Season Four sets the pair on an irreversible course. Keep watching; the reward is coming.
The only downside to this season was the introduction of Chinese immigrants into Em City. Taxing suspension of disbelief, they serve only to illustrate how savage Oz inmates can be. Luckily, it's a storyline that doesn't last very long and is not as bad as the Magic Aging Pills from an earlier season.
Special features included in this set are two audio commentaries and deleted scenes. The best commentary is the first one, with Tom Fontana and Rita Moreno. While revelations about the show are plentiful, the best part of it spotlights Fontana's attitudes about violence in the show. Oz fans will appreciate Fontana's honesty. Moreno is a fascinating commentator as well. The second commentary is more humorous. The deleted scenes are aired out of context and sequence. It would have been nice had they been inserted into the episodes. Still, it is nice to see what was excluded and why.
The sound and picture this season are adequate. As noted in earlier reviews of this series, the darker hues tend to bleed. Luckily, Oz is a well-lit facility, and every shanking is pitch perfect.
It is never a good idea to use a double-sided disc. Doing so only increases the odds of scratches and nicks. This is the type of show that deserves better care. More than likely the remaining two seasons won't suffer this fate.
It is no secret that the show is violent and nasty. As Fontana says in his commentary, if you can't hack watching it, then don't. Television doesn't get much better, and this reviewer would hope that more people would try more daring television shows. It's Shakespeare in a box.
Oz: The Complete Fourth Season—take a stab at it. Case dismissed.
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