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What is it that makes HBO's ultra volitale men in prison drama Oz such compulsively addictive viewing? Perhaps it's the layers of storylines being told over one another, perhaps it's the fact that this is one of the finest ensemble casts ever assembled, or, possibly, because one is so shocked at what is seen on screen that they anxiously, or dreadfully, await to see just who gets shanked next or what else develops. Whatever the case, Oz remains one of the best shows to ever grace HBO, and one of the most underrated. The fifth season of Oz begins with the aftermath of the kitchen fire, followed by the power control triangle between Tobias Beecher (Lee Tergesen), white supremiscist leader Vern Schillinger (J.K. Simmons), and Kareem Said (Eamon Walker). In the meantime, the mother of Ryan and Cyril O'Reilly (Dean and Scott William Winters) comes to the prison to teach the prisoners of performance arts, while a few inmates train some dogs to be guides for the blind. Of course not all of this ends well at all, but what else would you expect while taking a trip down this blood soaked yellow brick road? Standout performances from Tergesen, Simmons, Walker, the Winters brothers, Kirk Acevedo, B.D. Wong, Ernie Hudson, Terry Kinney, and the rest of the usual suspects are highlights here, but it's Law & Order: SVU's Christopher Meloni who steals the show as Beecher's psychotic lover Keller, who has coming agendas of his own. By the time season five comes to a close, it is apparent that the end is soon near, and by the time it reaches it's climax, you'll be begging to see how it all comes to an end.
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on November 25, 2005
Warning: This review may contain slight episode spoilers. My summary of the first episode (the following paragraph) and the final paragraph are safe to read if you have not yet seen Oz season five.

The first episode, "Visitation", focuses mainly on the return of normalcy to Oz after the gas explosion in the season four finale. Whilst the prisoners are reassigned pods, Father Ray Mukada (B. D. Wong) travels with the first group of people to visit inmates at Oz after reopening its doors and converses with several of the passengers. Due to complications with the air vents in the solitary unit, Miguel Alvarez (Kirk Acevedo), Omar White (Michael Wright), and their fellow prisoners are returned to Oz for the time that it will take to repair the ventilation system in their unit. Sister Peter Marie Reimondo (Rita Moreno) talks to Tobias Beecher (Lee Tergesen) about having him take part in a group counselling session between him, Kareem Said (Eamonn Walker), and Vern Schillinger (J. K. Simmons), which does not start off well as one can imagine due to past conflicts, religious differences, and flaring tempers. Zahir Arif (Granville Adams), unable to keep his guilt to himself any longer from seeing Ryan O'Reily (Dean Winters) kill Patrick Keenan (Dylan Chalfy), unknowingly starts a chain of events that leads to an investigation of Keenan's murder.

Episode two, "Laws of Gravity", focuses a great deal on newness. One example is that Alvarez, who knows if he stays out of trouble has one last chance to stay in Oz instead of going back to solitary, adopts a new way of handling his issues with Carmen "Chico" Guerra (Otto Sanchez). A second example is of Ryan's mother, Suzanne Fitzgerald (Betty Lynn Buckley) arriving at Em City to complete her community service. She begins to have music lessons with the prisoners, the highlights of which are Omar and Cyril O'Reily (Scott William Winters), who due to these lessons forms a bond with Suzanne. A third example is The Governor of the mystery state Oz exists in (Utah has been ruled out as a suspect) appears to form a liaison between the prison and the government and of course she happens to have some history with a certain womaniser who will remain blatantly obvious. This is also the first episode in the season that Bob Rebadow (George Morfogen) begins to take a larger step toward centre stage due to his grandson's fight with leukemia. The investigation into Keenan's death continues as Ryan continues to thwart any attempt made to prove him the guilty party. Meanwhile, Tim McManus (Terry Kinney) comes up with a plan to not only to help Omar, who he does not want to give up on despite all that Omar has done to him, but Said as well whose barely suppressed rage worsens with each passing episode until he reaches his breaking point later on in the season.

Episode three, "Dream a Little Dream of Me", includes a questionable truce between Alvarez and Enrique Morales (David Zayas) and an alliance between Burr Redding (Anthony Chisholm) and Morales that is unbelievable to say the least. Just as Ryan is returning to his smug attitude, difficulties arise when Jia Kenmin (Michael Delmare) returns to Oz and Sister Peter Marie arranges for a victim/offender counselling session between Kenmin, Ryan and Cyril. Chris Keller (Christopher Meloni) returns to Oz only to be sent to protective custody within moments of entering the building. Whilst all of this is happening, Rebadow continues searching for a way to save his grandson, and despite its rocky start, Said continues to try and save Omar from himself through the sponsorship, which is not an easy task.

Season four, "Next Stop: Valhalla" introduces a programme that gives three inmates the ability to take care of three dogs whilst training them as guide dogs. Katherine McClain (Sandra Purpuro) agrees to be Chris's lawyer, but due to her feelings for Tobias and her personal belief system it is evident that this will, thankfully, be a short-lived arrangement. Tobias is temporarily distracted from the knowledge that he is being kept from seeing Chris when an old family friend is brought into Oz and needs his protection from the Aryans. Augustus Hill (Harold Perrineau Jr.) reverts to his old habits and Omar finds release in music.

Episode five, "Wheel of Fortune", was possibly one of the least interesting in the season, in my opinion, although the O'Reily brothers' storyline definitely hits new levels of intense emotions. Said loses his patience with Omar. Schillinger attempts to get Tobias to trade the chance to see Chris for the man Tobias is trying to protect from the Aryans. Rebadow discovers that his idea of getting money for his grandson's cure was successful, but complications arise. Augustus ends up in the infirmary and Redding searches for the one responsible.

Episode six, "Variety", contains segments of some of the stars of the show singing, including a very interesting solo by Wong and a truly frightening duet with Tergesen and Schillinger, instead of the usual narrative by Harold Perrineau Jr. due to the fact that he was needed on the set of The Matrix Reloaded. Omar and Said become closer although Omar chooses to secretly betray McManus and Said when he needs to come up with the courage to stand up in front of his fellow inmates to sing. McClain, fed up with Chris's lies and Tobias's feelings for Chris, leaves Oz and drops Chris's case. Tobias, growing more anxious by the day to see Chris decides to take Schillinger up on his offer but circumstances beyond his control proves the entire thing to be a huge mistake and Tobias is confronted (literally) with the consequences of his actions.

Episode seven, "Good Intentions", is another rather slow episode in this season, again, in my opinion. A few highlights though from the episode includes McManus trying to help Rebadow find some help for his grandson whose condition is getting worse and worse with each passing day. James Robson (R. E. Rodgers) is dismissed from the Aryan brotherhood upon his return to Unit B after dental surgery leaves him forever changed in their eyes. Tobias has a conversation with Said about his guilt over accepting Schillinger's offer and arrives at a fair but displeasing conclusion.

Episode eight, "Impotence", brings the entire season to a head, and I did not at all mean for that to seem like a bad pun but you may take it as one if you wish. Robson makes up his mind that he will get the brotherhood to accept him once again despite however they feel about it. Omar tries to protect Said against a prisoner in Unit B who is looking to join the Aryan brotherhood. Busmalis finally receives a visit from the woman who left him at the altar but it does not go as he would have preferred. Thanks to Tobias who has proven once again that he is a good man despite his many flaws, justice finally prevails. The Latinos and Sicilians form an alliance that proves deadly after Augustus returns to Oz after recuperating.

The greatest aspect of Oz is the relentless intensity of human emotion ranging from grief to love to fury. The actors and actresses that make up the cast are all incredibly talented men and women. This season through all the emerging and unfolding storylines, there were a few actors who particularly caught my attention with their talents. For instance, Kirk Acevedo, Michael Wright, Eamonn Walker, and Dean Winters all had very challenging scenes in nearly every episode that with the wrong actor, just could not have caused the viewing audience to care so much for their individual predicaments. What continually attracts me to this show is not the drama, violence, or full frontal nudity shots, but the characters' relationships with one another and their personal developments. There are a lot of good shows either currently on air or on DVD but there are very few truly great shows. This just happens to be one of those "truly great shows" that more people should watch for the refreshing, fast-moving episodes that are brimming with intensity, intrigue, and emotion.
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on April 26, 2005
Oz, that's the name on the street for the Oswald Correctional Facility - Level Four.

Season Four ended with a gas fire in the kitchen. We start out the fifth season, some months later, with the first visitation from the inmates' family and friends since the fire.

In the fifth season, Em City plays host to a 'seeing-eye-dog' program, where three inmates attempt to train some dogs for the blind.

A lady named Eleanor joins the staff at Oz as a liasion to the governor.

Ryan O'Reilly's mother, Suzanne, comes to Oz to teach the inmates some performance arts (as an act of community service) - in this season she teaches singing lessons. Something which the ever-so-annoying Omar White takes part in.

Peter Schibetta, who was sent to the psych ward at the end of season two, returns with revenge on his mind - hoping to take care of some Italian business.

As for the Tobias Beecher-Vern Schillinger storylines, last season ended with Schillinger and Robson attempting to kill Beecher and Keller - but Kareem Said shanks Schillinger and Robson from behind (saying afterwards, "Adebisi lives!"). This season starts with Beecher, Schillinger, and Said in Sister Pete's interaction sessions.

An old friend of Beecher's family gets sent to Oz - Adam Guenzel (along with his friend Franklin Winthrop) for raping a woman. Adam seems pretty happy to have an old friend like Beecher as his sponser, until he finds out about Beecher's first few months in Oz.

Not one of my favorite seasons, but not a bad one. Check out the beginning of this set for an inmate played by rock band Kiss's Peter Criss. And later, an embarrasing experience for Aryan member Robson at the dentist. My least favortie group in Oz (probably most people's)
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on August 15, 2005
Oz has had a bloody awful lack of publicity in the UK. It has been broadcast on Channel Four in the UK. However,due to a mix of lousy scheduling and concerns over watersheds for children and family viewing, it has been generally aired at some ridiculous time between 0100 and 0300 in the morning on a working weekday.It never even gets the slightest piece of publicity outside of its timeslot, so I managed to miss the first half of Season 5.

The amount of violence,non-pc language and atitudes,and full frontal shots on this programme does in someway account for the poor scheduling.

But it is too easy to focus on the drugs,nudity and violence. The programme has some excellent acting and some thrilling and intense writing. The characters are believable,not just cyphers. You take an interest in the characters (sometimes sympathetically supporting some really reprehensible buggers)and see them develop over the arc of each series. The season has several over-arching stories, but episodes can be watched and enjoyed without too many worries over continuity.

In season 5 we get to see what happened after the explosion that destroyed Oz. Several of the previous Oz inmates who were in solitary are temporarily transferred to Em City while repairs are being made. The war between the Aryans and the Muslims continues. Rev.Cloutier is discovered due to the explosion and his fate is explored.There is another signficant plot thread in the first episode,"Visitation", but it is best left seen than given as a spoiler.

One ongoing plot thread concerns Rebadow. He receives some bad news about his grandson and Officer Brass returns to Oz searching for who attacked him but also gets involved in Rebadow's plan to fundraise for his grandson's treatment.

Another continuing story occurs once McManus persuades Said to act as mentor to White in a bid to alter his behavior.

A new twist to the wars and rivalry presents itself when Ryan's mum comes to Oz to instruct inmates in performance arts as part of her community service.This leads to new develoments for Ryan and Cyril.

Other developments include Busmalis's letter writing campaign to get "Miss Sally's Schoolhouse" back on the air; Beecher getting his own room mate whom he tries to protect from the Aryans; Keller having new evidence against him leading to the likelihood of going on Death Row; and some of the inmates get involved in training seeing eye dogs.

Overall,Oz maintains the same high standard of drama that it always has.
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on March 12, 2006
HBO's website shows that there were six seasons of OZ, (episodes 49-56) but only five have been made available. Any reason why the last season is not available several years after the show went off the air (er, off the cable)?
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on August 9, 2015
Not sure if it's the writing or the directing that is going downhill faster. This was an interesting show when it aired, and it's still fun picking out actors who went on to be in other projects like "Law & Order" or "Dexter" but the scenarios have become increasingly unrealistic since the original seasons.
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on November 13, 2011
Season 5 was another very good one for Oz although not elite like the previous three seasons. The 6 seasons of Oz remind you of the six studio albums that the Doors recorded with Jim Morrison in that some of them are excellent but the ones that aren't still have a lot to offer. Consider this season the latter, the Strange Days of the Oz series if you will. The sense of grim that dominates Oz is apparent from the first episode when a bus accident leads to tragic consequences for several of the cast members, especially Augustus Hill. There's more focus on the O'Reilys this time between Cyril going to death row and Ryan's mother becoming an employee of Oz. Said's character became very intriguing as he was bouncing between fighting his own demons from the Adebisi death and being a mentor for Omar White. McManus is still trying to save the world. The seeing eye dog program angle was very creative as well as Alvarez trains a dog to help the officer he blinded in order to obtain forgiveness and to get parole. The counseling sessions between Said, Vern Schillinger, and Tobias Beecher are also riveting as old wounds continue to rear their ugly heads. Oh and let's not forget the variety show episode. Just thinking about Noel Redding singing "Handsome Johnny" and brutal enemies Schillinger and Beecher singing a campy song called "The Last Duet" cracks me up. The season ends well, although it's bittersweet. All told, Oz is still a must see in Season 5 and if you love the series, it is a must own.
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on October 24, 2015
Oz is one of the best series that has ever been produced for the small screen. The problem isn't the show itself but Amazon Prime's COMPLETELY TERRIBLE SERVICE FOR STREAMING DEVICES. I have been watching the series on my Roku since I don't have it on DVD beyond season 3. I thought it was bad watching an old DVD in 4:3 format without HD quality. Try that type of quality and then it stops every 30 seconds. Last night I attempted to watch an episode and it took 30 minutes to get through the last ten minutes of content. Yup, I'm that kind of a masochist when I want to see "how it ends." Thus, if you can purchase the series, I would highly recommend it. If you can't, be prepared to have another device ready to keep you entertained while the infamous "loading" screen. Heck, this reminds me of back in the day with Real Networks and their constant "buffering" screen. Yup, I'm dating myself with that reference.

As for the series itself, it doesn't get much better than this. Before the Sopranos, Orange is The Black, and House of Cards, there was Oz. The character development and plot lines that take place throughout the series are more complex than many series that are being produced today. You never know who is going to live or die. What I enjoy most about the story telling is that the creator gets you to sympathize with some horrible characters. You feel sympathy for the brutal gang-land murderer instead of wishing him to get shanked in the shower. Conversely, the guy who doesn't seem all that bad makes terrible choices and your frustration mounts at his behavior. There isn't any outright good or evil in Oz: it's all about survival on the inside.

On a side note, veterans of other television series will enjoy seeing characters from Special Victims Unit, Dexter and others appear from time to time. Cameos happen from L L Cool J and other Hip Hop names. Two actors went on to appear in insurance commercials for AllState and Farmers. To this day I have a hard time watching the Farmer's Insurance commercials since the lead was such a nefarious character on Oz. I keep expecting him to murder one of the cheerful homeowners he is attempting to educate about their coverage :).

Oz is also VERY Shakespearean. A mostly male cast where themes of unrequited love, treachery, and murder abound puts it up there with the likes of Othello and Romeo and Juliet.

Last point of interest about the series: The first four seasons were filmed at the current location of The Chelsea Market in NYC. That's something to consider the next time you're shopping for kitchen supplies on the first floor.
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on December 3, 2015
Wish I'd watched this when it was on HBO. Very good...violent at times. You see the evil that gets the prisoners through the day mirrored by the evil on the outside...by the politicians and correction officers. They use the same lies and treachery. You will not believe how many stars there are in this....they weren't stars then, but they are now. Lots of male nudity and harsh language so if that bothers you, don't watch this. The story lines have several ongoing plots by different characters. Binge watching lets you follow these without forgetting who did what to whom.
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on March 10, 2015
This is a review of all 6 seasons of Oz - saw them all in the last 6 weeks on Amazon Prime :)
Season 1-4 was great, riveting insights into what prison life might be like - social groupings (gangs etc.), ways to hurt each other, ways to dominate (rape, sex), and ways to get revenge. But it all begins to get repetitive by season 4, 5 and 6 - the same themes come up, same resolutions to conflict and betrayal get repeated, it got really predictable. Not saying I didn't enjoy the series, but it got more unrealistic as time when by, and can understand why the steam went out and no season 7 was made.
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