Our favourite prison ladies are back in Orange is the New Black! Last season was intense—mainly with the Vee and Red drama—but left us with a satisfying conclusion, with Vee being hit by the transport van driven by our favourite bank robber Rosa. The start of this season answers the implied question: what happened to Vee and Rosa? Fortunately, Vee is dead. Unfortunately, Rosa drove herself off a cliff (but hey, that’s not a bad way to go for a badass woman with terminal cancer).
This season overall has a much lighter tone than the last. Don’t get me wrong: it’s still a show that takes place in prison, so a lot of sh*t hits the fan, but there isn’t a feeling of impending doom lurking over each episode. A lot of changes take place at Litchfield Penitentiary this season, some for the worse, but some for the better from a storytelling standpoint. The finale perfectly sets up the potential for lots of drama to come in Season 4.
A major story arc this season is Litchfield facing closure due to government cuts. Caputo, trying to be the nice guy that he is, tries to save the prison by catching the interest of a private company. Great hijinks ensue when Caputo brings representatives of the company to tour the facilities. He preps many inmates to be on their best behaviour
s and to say favourable things about the prison and its programs, but of course, not everything goes quite to plan. It’s comical to watch the clichéd elements of Murphy’s Law on screen in this instance. Other highlights of the season include a wild squirrel hunt, a hilarious turn of an otherwise scary conspiracy haunting an inmate, and a cameo of the mythical chicken that was first presented in Season 1. And let’s not forget the show continuing with its brilliant one-liners on America and the glaring problems the country continues to face.
Despite the comical turn of the series, serious issues are still tackled throughout the season. Many of the women face the consequences of not being able to be present parents in their children’s lives, Sophia faces violence due to rumours gone haywire gone haywire, and various other injustices beset the inmates.
One irksome thing about this season is how much the focus jumped around from one character to the next, especially regarding flashbacks. It became hard to tell what flashback belonged to which inmate, especially towards the end of the season where it seemed that the show just wanted to throw in as many flashbacks as possible, even of those characters that weren’t the primary focus of the episode. Regardless of the confusion, we learn a lot about many of the inmates—and some guards—that remained in the periphery of seasons 1 and 2, and delve a little deeper into the characters we already know fairly well. Ultimately, Piper is definitely no longer our primary source of experiencing prison life. At some points, I wondered if she was still in prison since other characters started taking priority. I even started feeling sympathy for characters I previously detested because of their tragic backstories.
The opening episode “Mother’s Day” was especially heart-warming and heart-wrenching, offering us glimpses into many of the characters (both inmates and guards) and their relationships with their mothers. This episode sets up the rest of the season, as the majority of the flashbacks throughout the season involve familial relationships, most notably the relationship between Daya and her mother Aledia (both inmates at Litchfield). The audience is now privy to how all these characters came to function the way they do based on their familial circumstances and experiences, which is a person’s primary sphere of influence. This theme helps us understand the characters’ motivations and desires more fully. As ruthless and cruel as some of the inmates were or still are, their humanity shines through.
Season 3 is neatly wrapped up with an uplifting scene towards the end of the last episode. All of the inmates put their differences aside for one glorious afternoon to enjoy the beauty surrounding Litchfield; new friendships are cemented and old friendships are revived. The audience is left with a tranquil ending unlike in past seasons. Actually, this season’s ending would serve perfectly as a satisfying ending for the entire series were Season 4 not to come to fruition.
Despite some convolutedness, this season of Orange Is the New Black is even more enjoyable than the last. It’s finally found the perfect balance of drama and comedy while still depicting the very real issues that female prisons and the women in them face. The character development and depictions remain excellent; even minor characters are fleshed out and three-dimensional. This season further reminds us to not judge a book by its cover because not everyone is who they try to appear to be. In other words, “Trust no b*tch.”