I’m guessing that most people have been sat there, frothing at the mouth and overcome by the awesomeness that is Orange is the New Black, which is soon to re-enter our lives all over again tomorrow. The previous season had come with a lot of promise after two stellar seasons before it, so it’s natural that there was a lot of pressure that it couldn’t quite match-up too. After an emotional pilot episode, exploring motherhood stuck in prison, and the new emotions that come boiling with loved one visits that last so fleeting. Now with Season Four on the horizon, let’s have a look at those epic storylines in a show so totally unforgettable.
Let’s start with the leading character who brought this world of Litchfield into our lives is Piper. This has been a transformation for Piper. True, her character isn’t the most interesting and she never has really, melting more into the background through our love of Poussey and Taystee or Crazy Eyes. But whilst we put her there, she has become so submerged in prison life that her arc has sent her down a controlling road. Starting up a business such as the prison sniffing pantie ones gave her a new purpose and unfortunately it also corrupted her as well. The handle of money and management made her cold, and now she is far from innocent or guiltily innocent, she is a straight up mafia boss which has made riled audiences who used to sympathise. Though many will lament that pushing her into this new form is weakly written, especially when she abandons Alex too easily, it’s a nice personality and character change that will make season four amazing.
It’s an interesting parallel and shows incredible development and writing for the series that we despise Piper so much yet have warmed to her season one antagonist Doggett. Showcasing that you can have an enemy and transform them into something new because of humanity and humility, Tiffany has become an understandable character that connects with us through her new friendship with unapologetic Big Boo. And this is prior to her rape in episode ten, which isn’t used as an immediate plot device to sympathise with her. In fact, they developed her enough for her to flesh out away from religion and into her own character that our sorrow at her attack from new guard (name) is real and non-manipulated. Unlike a certain show, rape isn’t used lightly in Orange is the New Black. Doggett’s backstory is rife with men using her, and she accepts her position because of how they downgraded her. In the prison, the act itself is cold, unjust and ripples away into the following episodes that will help people understand the act and the effect. It concentrates on her journey with it, rather than anyone elses and it is engaging with the aftermath.
With Doggett exploring herself, her attack and her new position within prison away from religion, the prison isn’t without faith and spirituality. The main arch of season three is finding something to invest in that takes the women away from their shitty circumstances. This new narrative for women involved is not as strongly written as some of the great backstories. But the show does well to develop different facets of religion and believe. Even with Crazy Eye’s extravagant and alarming porn story, women find escape within it and the silent Norma became an icon of belief. It highlights a struggle with identity and loneliness as these groups forms around one ideal, giving them a support group. Whilst the religion aspect may not be filled with enough depth as it should’ve been, leaving a lacklustre arc to focus on, it is good to see how religion or lack of has impacted every woman in there. After all, who do you turn to when you feel alone?
Another major theme is motherhood and womanhood and how they mix. With the opening episode focusing on the new dynamics the women have with their children, the show lifted off into questions of parenting when Gloria and Sophia loggerhead over their son’s new friendship and the subsequent criminal fall out. Interesting enough, whilst both women were in prison, they still argued about class and it is nice to have everyday prejudice linger over the pair as though they were women on a playground (this time with the ability to fuck you up, unlike Sharon who was made you didn’t put a pink balloon in Posey’s bag. God, Sharon). These established mother’s and their different handled on their children contrasted with Daya’s pregnancy and impending child rearing that had her question her fitness and qualities into becoming one. This kinetic worry that charges these particular arcs reminded us all that motherhood never ends, despite being behind bars and children are instantly affected by the repercussion of the mothers in prison. On this note, however, it would be better to have more of Maria’s struggle with being refused access to her child after episode one.
Orange Is The New Black has been a seat of sensitivity and this season has been no diferent, particularly with Doggett’s aforementioned rape. But the writers of the show delved into other topics and excavated them with astute awareness and poignancy. Sophia and Gloria’s arguments flowed into some serious transphobic attacks against her, causing her to question her stance within the prison and gave audience favourite Laverne Cox some tentative moments within the show, and by episode eleven, her fate is hanging in balance. Brook SoSo, who has been ostracised by nearly all in the prison for being chatty, deals with depression and cannot find anyone to turn too as she is harassed and bullied for seemingly no reason, showcasing an awareness of troubled thoughts and emotions that the showrunners truly excavated well.
This season is not without surprises though. We said goodbye to Natasha Lyonne’s Nicols in episode three. It was more distressing to learn that, whilst we trusted her mostly in the show, a lot of her character traits was self-serving and ultimately, it was her own destruction that saw her sent away. Healy and Red are somehow romantically involved or fancy each other and Alex became paranoid and deluded when the arrival of Lolly made her believe her ex-drug boss is out to kill her which brought a nice energy to the mix, especially when Lolly’s true nature was revealed. On top of this, the only decent male, Bennett, in the entire show absconded when he found out he couldn’t handle fatherhood and nobody knows what happened to him, leaving Dayan and her child’s fate unknown.
On the whole, the season was triumphant. Though it wasn’t as impressive as season two or one, I’d say it was pretty darn close. The only thing that weighs this season down was the lack of a pivotal arch that affects the entire show. For example, Vee’s reign of terror in the previous series epically set into motion many different stories and powered us onwards whilst in the initial season, it was Piper’s indoctrination into prison life as the focus. However, Norma’s miracle work and science fiction porn may be good fun but weak as a series centre.
That being said Orange is the New Black continues to be one of the best shows and strives to give voices to its women of all backgrounds. The tagline “every sentence is a story” should mar the series by giving us too many characters to invest in. Instead, it is done in such a way that is evolving, developed, and divine. Season Three was enthralling, hilarious, and interesting…
Bring on Season Four!
ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK SEASON FOUR HITS NETFLIX TOMORROW!