This moment in television history is notable for the fact that dozens of great critics and millions of great fans are reviewing the latest TV show at the same time. If you write about culture, this is a comfort. Take this week: The fourth season of Orange is the New Black premiered June 17 on Netflix and this — right here, at this point in the paragraph — is where I'd normally describe it as "gut-wrenching" and "trenchant" while hating this sentence a little for all it can't say. This season of Orange is the New Black is those things; the trouble is, it's also funny. Like, Oscar Wilde funny. Language-you-keep-coming-back-to funny. This, given the heft of this season, is hard to adequately explain.

Luckily, there are terrific essays all over the place (here and here and here, for starters) about the show's careful treatment of consent, the psychology of rape survivors, drug addiction, and the issues that plague inmates who happen to be trans. There are appreciations for the boldness with which it tackles racism while humanizing skinheads (and rape while humanizing rapists). Above all, Orange is the New Black is praised for anatomizing the horror and banal evil of the dysfunctional American prison system — something it does so thoroughly, it's basically its own thinkpiece.

Since those assessments address OITNB's commitment to social justice so well, there's room here to honor its commitment to comedy. Orange is the New Black, in its bleakest, most violent season, manages to have some of the sharpest, funniest, most vivid dialogue on television.

Take the moment when Ruiz, Ramos, Flores, and Gonzales are wondering how Piper gets her dirty panties out of the prison to sell under her label, Felonious Spunk:

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

And here's Piper, using her sexuality:

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

The trouble with a show that's so strong at comedy and tragedy is that the drama dominates. This makes a certain kind of sense: We're far more affected by tragedy, and it seems unfeeling to praise a joke's construction when there are enormous moral consequences to events shown onscreen. (The perfect comedy will never win an Oscar if there's a Holocaust film.) Because Orange is the New Black is both, because its tragic side is so heartrendingly effective, its comedic dimension gets a little obscured. It becomes hard to talk about.

But we should. You wouldn't think of prison as the setting for the modern equivalent of a drawing-room play, but when it isn't lambasting private prisons or crushing us with despair, Orange is the New Black comes close. There's an ease to the dialogue, a loopy richness to the language:

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

Most importantly, the dialogue breathes. To quote Regina Spektor's lyric in the opening credits: You've got time. There's a sense that two participants could stand there all day:

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

The challenge of any comedy is how to get its people together. Great sitcoms are built around a basic constraint: A group of characters are stuck with each other, often when they don't want to be. Whether it's in a bar, a single-family home, a workplace, or an apartment complex, the ideal situation allows for boredom and the kinds of shoot-the-shit exchanges that simply don't happen if people are completely free to move about their days.

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

This is not dialogue in the service of plot; it isn't even dialogue in the service of character development. It is dialogue for its own sake. It breathes for as long as it needs to, and it's delicious, even if some characters onscreen quietly want to die.

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

That said, Orange is the Black's shorter, snappier exchanges are pretty wonderful too.

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

Or:

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

Or:

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

Or:

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

As are the moments when it goes meta to describe itself: Lolly suffers from severe hallucinations and paranoia, but the new crop of Litchfield Correctional Officers are indeed veterans, and there was a crackdown along racial lines.

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

And it'd be hard to improve on Lolly's description of Officer Piscatella:

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

There are angry bored references to history:

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

To politics:

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

To religion:

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

To gender:

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

And then there's shit-talking. Literally:

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

And the ways shit-talking turns into shooting the shit:

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

The last two episodes of this season should win Orange is the New Black an Emmy. "The Animal" is a thousand times more affecting than Game of Thrones' "Battle of the Bastards," however beautiful it was, and "Toast Can't Never be Bread Again" elevates it into a kind of high sustained tragedy that can't resolve.

Not to give too much away, but there is no story to tell about the final episode. This is one of its crises. Introduce an event so terrible language cannot address it and the sense of loss mounts. But these last episodes are able to weaponize noise and silence because the rest of the season used language and comedy so effectively. The inmates use words to build their lives. Joking, in their context, can seem like all there is to life. Failing jokes, words:

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)

Wordlessness, in a universe this verbose, becomes a monumental index of suffering, a register of how much people who already have almost nothing still stand to lose.

(Screenshot/Netflix/Orange is the New Black)