TV Review: “Orange is the New Black” – Can Do No Wrong

Written by Michelle Young July 01, 2015

orange is the new black

Every year, when “Orange is the New Black” releases its their new season, I go through several stages of excitement and anxiety. Once those episodes appear on Netflix, I have to mentally prepare myself, not only for the thirteen hour binge that is about to happen, but also for the possibility that the show might not be as good as it had been in previous season. With so many shows, as the seasons go on, they start to lose some of their finesse and overall pizzazz. I have to remind myself that the “Orange is the New Black” creators are human, and they are perfectly capable of destroying one of my favourite shows. But once again, OITNB has shown everyone how great TV is done, with their third season living up to the tremendous hype, and even surpassing it at some points.

At the end of last season, we saw Vee (Lorraine Toussaint) escape through the secret greenhouse tunnel, only to get hit by the van driven by an escaping Rosa. With that end-note, it only seemed fitting that the major theme for this season seemed to be the search for a sort of escape, to find some kind of freedom from the physical confines of the prison walls. This broad idea gets interpreted by all of the Litchfield inmates in some very different ways. A sort of religious cult gets formed around Norma after some women start to believe she has divine powers and Piper (Taylor Shilling) decides to start a panty fetish business, eventually becoming a kingpin obsessed with her power.

“And once you rip it off, all we are to each other is scars.”

Along with all this, we also learn some new backstories, like how ‘Flaca’ (Jackie Cruz) ended up in prison at such a young age and how Boo’s (Lea DeLaria) hardness is a product of how she grew up in a family that never really accepted her. But perhaps the most heart wrenching backstory of the season was Pennsatucky’s (Taryn Manning). We already know from previous seasons how she ended up at Litchfield, but these flashbacks showed us her childhood and how her mother never taught her to value herself or her body, but rather that her body was simply there for the enjoyment of men. This misguided lesson becomes all the more sad after Pennsatucky get raped by one of the new guards and she doesn’t say anything because she is only following her mother’s “wisdom”.

orange is the new black

And while there were a lot of dramatic story lines, “Orange is the New Black” didn’t scrimp the comedy (despite no longer being classified as such by the Television Academy). There was no shortage of laughs that came from Suzanne’s (Uzo Aduba) “eccentric” take on romance novels with “Time Hump Chronicles” or Lorna’s (Yael Stone) strange attempts to find romance. The jokes are always a great foil to some of the heavier stuff.

“It’s not just sex. It’s love. It’s two people connecting…with four other people…and aliens.”

Another great aspect of this season was how well the details came into play. Stories that start out even as comedic side stories get rehashed later on with more gravitas. The greatest example of this was Black Cindy’s (Adrienne C. Moore) religious enlightenment. What started out as only pretending to be Jewish to get the tastier kosher meals ended with her discovering a belief system that accepted her and gave her new hope. This incredible commitment to the details is one of the aspects of “Orange is the New Black” that has allowed its stories to feel so fresh and unexpected.

orange is the new black

The one criticism that I have for this season, though, is that there was too much Piper. We already know so much about her and so seeing her get more play onscreen feels a little stale. This also gets even more annoying because she has become so unlikable this year, to the point that some have even dubbed her “The New Larry”.

“Ladies, now is the time to be bold. For when these men smell your panties, they are smelling your character.”

It seems to me that “Orange is the New Black” can hardly do wrong. Everything is simply golden and the third season is no exception. The show without a doubt lives up to the immense hype, and even without an overwhelmingly dramatic cliffhanger, I am still counting down the days until season four is released.

My Rating: 9/10

orange is the new black

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