Review: Orange is the New Black (Season 3)

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80%
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Captivating

Season 3 is simultaneously highly entertaining, funny and moving.

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Season 3 of Orange is the New Black has returned with just as much wit, intrigue, and conflict as Season 2. However Season 3 is both more sad, and far funnier than the previous seasons, with fantastic writing on the part of writer Jenji Kohan. By this point the audience is just as familiar with the Litchfield Prison routine as the inmates are, yet we are still surprised with the unfolding of events that takes place.

There was great curiosity going into the third season, with Season 2 leaving us with such a climatic ending. This new season had more sub-plots than we could hope for, such as Daya’s abandonment by Bennett, corporate take over of the prison, Pensatucky’s brief and bizarre romance, Nikki’s devastating transfer to max, Piper’s dirty panty business, Morello’s search for companionship, and Piper’s relationship with Alex and Stella. For this reason, Season 3 of Orange did not have a focused, single gripping plot line that left us desperate to start the next episode. In some ways this did make it less enticing, but no less entertaining.

There was a clear change in the dynamics of the Litchfield inmates, in the way that we were shown a softer side to characters who previously had a tough skin, such as Pensatucky. The erratic ex-meth addict, played by the incredible Taryn Manning, completely transforms in Season 3. She gains the responsibility of driving the prison van, and also branches out her in her friendships, becoming particularly close to Big Boo (Lea DeLaria). Not only this but an unusual friendship sparks with one of the new prison guard C. Coates. Having previously witnessed her as an extremely volatile and unpredictable character who tried to kill Piper with a crucifix, Pensatucky is completely reinvented. The audience’s perception of Pensatucky is made especially evident in the scene where Coates violently sexually assaults her, and for the first time ever in Orange, Pensatucky is a true victim.

As well as this, in a struggle to guarantee visits from her son, Gloria (Selenis Leyva) asks Sophia (Laverne Cox) if her son can carpool with Sophia’s family. However this influences Sophia’s son Michael to curse and act as Gloria’s son does. This results in a growing conflict between the two inmates, with the pair arguing about whose fault Michael’s deteriorating behaviour is due to. This is an incredibly entertaining character development, which culminates in Sophia’s beating following rumours spread around Litchfield.

Orange is far more led by characters rather than plot, however main character Piper (Taylor Schilling) did not develop in a positive way. Throughout Piper’s stay at Litchfield her moral compass deteriorates, and although this might provide entertainment if it were another character, for Piper it feels unnatural. When Piper arrived at Litchfield she was polite, shy and determined to complete her sentence with as little drama as possible. However by Season 3, she is a completely different woman. Although Piper had previously had qualities which deemed her annoying, initially the audience was with her in her struggle to complete her sentence and to marry her fiancé Larry (Jason Biggs). Despite the fact that most fans are glad to see Larry out of the picture, it feels as though we can no longer identify with Piper in her struggle.

She is constantly returning to her scandalous relationship with Alex (Laura Prepon) which is grounded in lies, deceit and bitterness, yet the two always manage to make it back to each other. Not only this, but Piper engages in another relationship with Stella which suggests she no longer has any concern for anyone except herself. She has progressed from a loving, committed engagement, to two dishonest prison relationships. Piper’s illegal dirty panty business also reveals a ruthlessness in her, which highlights that she will not let anyone stand in her way to make money, to the point where she frames her supposed lover Stella just before she was getting out. Piper was initially likeable in her innocence and vulnerability, which involved her in several unwanted yet hilarious scenarios, but now she is the instigator of these situations. Litchfield had enough tough girls to keep the show entertaining before Piper underwent her transformation.

Another character inconsistency is that of Bennett (Matt McGorry) following his disappearance and abandonment of Daya (Dascha Polanco). The impression is given that after seeing the dynamics of Daya’s family, Bennett panics and flees. Although this is an understandable reaction, Bennett already had the audacity to flirt with Daya, get her pregnant, and even propose to her, all within the prison walls. It seemed as though Bennett was well and truly in it for the long haul with Daya, so this sudden disappearance was not expected at all for his character. This was an interesting plot change, yet the fact that he did not even return at the end resulted in a lot of unanswered questions which should have been answered this season, not the next.

Ultimately, despite a few character inconsistencies Season 3 of Orange is the New Black is highly entertaining and very well written. The characters still deliver hilarious comedic moments in a mostly monotonous existence, and audiences are still desperate for answers which will hopefully be revealed in Season 4.

All episodes of Orange is the New Black are available to stream now on Netflix

 

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Former Film Editor for The Edge, second year history student, Irish dancer and film enthusiast. My biggest inspiration is by Bear Grylls. Yes Bear Grylls. Originally from West London.

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