The third season of powerhouse Orange is the New Black has been on Netflix for over a month now and so we are sure that many hardcore fans of the show have already binge-watched and digested all of its new found glory. For those who want to keep up to date, but don’t have the time to watch the whole thing, here are the main spoilers (you have been warned):
1) The prison is taken over by a private company who introduces a new work programme, and because they are a private company their biggest aim is cost reduction.
2) Piper starts a business selling used underwear online, with the help of Alex and Stella, elevating her to the level of mob-boss.
3) Tastee takes over from Vee as the den mother of the black girls.
4) Alex is thrown for a loop when she arrives back inside and pretty much goes mental.
5) Daya gives birth (finally), and the parentage of her child is revealed.
6) Red did not cook the food.
7) Norma is God.
8) Crazy Eyes writes the best porn anyone could ask for.
There is loads more besides, and frankly I could spend the next fifteen hours listing all the various plot points that the characters go through. Safe to say a lot goes down, and that it continues in the same vein as season two in that it is more focused on the ensemble cast as opposed to just Piper’s POV, and that many of the various themes have been expanded on greatly.
With regards to the LGBT+ aspects of Orange is the New Black, the depiction of which has gained the series much acclaim, there are some very moving moments throughout the season. Sophia’s story takes a turn, making her the most hated woman in Litchfield and ending up with her being sent to the SHU for her own protection, and the transphobic bullying is heart breaking after seeing the character being treated so well for the previous two seasons. Big Boo makes us cry with her flashbacks, revealing more about her backstory than we could have ever anticipated, showing how she has struggled to be herself just as much as Sophia has, and how much it has cost her too. The portrayal of these two women highlights just part of the LGBT+ narrative in Western society, and how far society has come and how far it still has to go in dealing with non hetero/cis gendered people and their expression of sexuality and gender.
Religion is also a major subject for discussion this season, with Black Cindy trying to convert to Judaism (initially for the food, but for personal reasons that are revealed later) and the Cult of Norma being formed around the silent figure. Even Watson was revealed to have been brought up in an Islamic household with a flashback. Not only are the fundamental principles of religion discussed, with the setting up of the Norma-based faith, but also the reasons for and against being part of a particular religion – with Black Cindy having to convince a rabbi that she is deserving of being accepted, and Watson threatening to denounce, both their respective religions.
The thing that got to us most this season, however and unexpectedly, was the story of Pennsatucky. Her unlikely friendship with Big Boo took a larger turn this season after it is revealed more about her past history with men, and how that led to her misunderstanding of her sexual assault as one of the new guards assertion on their relationship. Big Boo making her realise it, looking after her, and even help get revenge on him (because they are prisoners, it is asserted, who would believe them if they went to the proper authorities) made us warm to this holy cluster-fuck of a character that up until this point has been offensive on every single level going.
Orange is the New Black’s third season has had us emotionally bouncing from one storyline to the next, all of them portrayed with sensitivity and humour in a way that makes us smile from ear to ear. There is a feeling, however, that things have gotten out of control in terms of direction – everything feels very extreme this season, and that someone turned round to the writers at an early stage of development and said ‘We want Orange is the New Black to be taken to the nth degree or you’re all fired!’ because each character has gone to such an extreme. The base of the series, ‘Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison’ by Piper Kerman, seems to have been lost as a result of this extremity, and one has to ask if this was the original intent behind the series moving into TV-land.
Overall this is a welcome return for Orange is the New Black, and while we could do with scaling back on the drama, the inmates and staff are thankfully back and ready for action. There is even a sense of how things will be picked up at the start of season four, which was confirmed two months before season three even premiered.
We just hope that Alex Vause makes it out alive!!
You can catch all of Orange is the New Black on Netflix now