It was the name that pushed Red further into her violent confrontation with C.O. Piscatella. In Season 5, Orange Is The New Black added more details to the Desi Piscatella backstory. However, Piscatella was not the focal point of his own flashback. So who is Wes Driscoll from Orange is the New Black? SPOILERS for Season 5 ahead.
In this Netflix show, even villains like Desi Piscatella, played by Brad William Henke, get a chance to show viewers how they ended up at Litchfield. It’s clear that Wes Driscoll is the key to understanding Piscatella, but, like most of the flashbacks in Season 5, this one is brief. We know that Piscatella has kept Driscoll’s badge, which Red finds, and has “W.D.” tattooed on his wrist, but it is initially up to the viewers to fill in the missing pieces as to how Piscatella became the violent monster that terrorizes Litchfield. That is until Episode 10.
Wes Driscoll, played by Charlie Barnett, is an inmate from Piscatella’s past. When Piscatella was an inexperienced prison guard, he met Driscoll and the two shared a moment over their love of crossword puzzles. While that may sound sweet, Piscatella continued to push boundaries and engaged in an inappropriate C.O./inmate relationship. Driscoll may have encouraged it, but there is no denying that Piscatella remained in the authoritative role — and inmates cannot give consent, so this relationship was beyond inappropriate. It also unfortunately is what led the other inmates to take a dangerous interest in Driscoll.
In the flashback, viewers learn that Driscoll is assaulted and raped by the other inmates, which is a turning point for Piscatella. Unable to deal with what has happened to Driscoll, Piscatella finds the inmate responsible and handcuffs him to the showers, where he is unable to escape the scalding water and dies from the burns.
Piscatella’s relationship with Wes Driscoll isn’t a new type of one for OITNB fans. The C.O./inmate relationship has been a complicated issue since Daya and Pornstache and Daya and Bennett in Season 1. However, for this particular backstory to be introduced in Season 5’s 10th episode, entitled “The Reverse Midas Touch," it is an interesting choice. The primary focus of this episode is Piscatella holding Red and her “children” captive while he tortures her in front of them, while mixing in moments of a sweeter Piscatella heartbroken over Wes Driscoll.
This episode is horrifying to watch, particularly in seeing the pleasure that Piscatella takes in hurting the women. With the flashback of Wes Driscoll cutting into the present, viewers see two sides of Piscatella: the man in love and the man consumed by hate.
However, one present thread is clear: Piscatella cannot handle positions of authority, which most viewers already knew. Normally OITNB episodic flashbacks are used to provide insight into a character, but Piscatella’s previous life isn’t too surprising.
When Piscatella meets Wes Driscoll, it is because Wes picks up the baton that Piscatella has dropped. Nervous that the inmate is now in control, Piscatella immediately goes on the offensive, seeing Wes as dangerous. However, their relationship softens Piscatella, but, in order to keep it a secret, he has to act more cruelly to Wes to avoid suspicion. When the other inmates figure it out and hurt Wes, this is when Piscatella makes the decision to abandon his humanity.
Choosing to introduce this side of Piscatella between scenes of Red being tortured and her "children" screaming for help shows viewers that Piscatella is capable of being a decent person, but he chooses to let his hatred control his actions. This ties in well with Red's personal struggle between wanting to torture Piscatella and her decision to finally let him go.
Orange Is The New Black does well in showing the grey areas between right and wrong. In Piscatella's case, it may not have earned him any sympathy points, but at least fans have more insight into what made him into a monster.