Compared to the first two seasons, this was surely weaker no?
My main issue with year three of Orange Is The New Black is that the stakes simply didn’t feel high enough. The addition of the villainous Vee in season two injected the show with a sense of urgency and momentum. This season, Orange settled into a sort of aimless groove; sure it was tremendously entertaining, but it didn’t exactly feel like must-watch television anymore.
It’s worth mentioning that Orange probably has the single strongest cast on television. The diversity of its lineup is staggering, and every one of the inmates feels like a fully-formed character with a rich backstory and multiple dimensions to explore. Season three benefited from even further insight into what makes these prisoners tick. I loved that we got to delve into the history of so many periphery characters: Chang (hello drug warlord), Norma (whacky cults and a present-day messiah), not to mention Boo’s tragic experiences. With such captivating characters, there’s an endless amount of narrative gold to be mined for many seasons to come.
The thing that caught me most by surprise was Penssatucky’s transformation from one of the most despicable characters ever (I genuinely hated her guts in previous seasons) to a downright lovable and sympathetic underdog. Even before the heinous events of the tenth episode (two assaults, not one!), I was loving her dynamic with Boo (also one of the show’s standout characters). It’s a true testament to Black’s writing staff and Taryn Manning’s performance that they could make me fall in love with such a previously-irritating character (that honor now belongs to Poussey and her dull addiction).
It’s also worth noting that our unofficial lead, Chapman, underwent a transformation of her own. Piper was never a true heroine, and it was intriguing to see her start exploring her dark side. The panty business, her affair with Stella (how gorgeous is Ruby Rose?), her ruthless treatment of Flaca – the seeds have certainly been planted for a whole new villainess to take control of Litchfield. Maybe that was the season’s main objective? If only it came together in a more cohesive fashion.
Although the season lacked focus in a general sense (and the corporate/union stuff with the prison staff bored me to tears), there were a range of reliably entertaining subplots. Everything scene featuring Kate Bulgrew as Red is worth savouring (no matter how weak the material might be), while Suzanne’s erotic novel and Cindy’s Jewish adventures were hilarious across the board. Also, I doubt anyone didn’t appreciate watching almost all our ladies come together in the lake in the season finale. That sequence singlehandedly managed to give the season a sense of finality and closure.
Red: Who needs a life? She’ll die from eating today’s lunch.
Red: You take a woman’s power away. Her work, her family her currency. You leave her with one coin…the one she was born with. It may be tawdry and demeaning, but if she has to, she will spend it. But you’re right, your feelings count too.
Soso: You know what sucks? Belonging to a race that doesn’t commit enough low-value crimes to be relevant in a place like this. Where’s my big, Asian prison family?
Chang: You Scottish.
Soso: Not to white people I’m not. One drop of ethnic blood, and bam, I’m basically made in China, like you and my toothbrush.
Red: I have a birthmark on my left butt cheek that’s shaped like a scarab. Doesn’t make me Cleopatra.
Suzanne: The trick is to imagine the bugs being bugged by you. You can’t give away your power.
Piper: I sure can if I concentrate extra hard with my lady brain.
Piper: That’s so unappealing, my nipples inverted.
Boo: Hey, maybe next time you can suck his dick, get us an ice cream cake.
Pennsatucky: C’mon, you know that would melt before it got here, so that’s not a good idea, duh.
Leanne: It was fun for a while, but the fun just started to seem like everyone was covering up the empty feelings.
Alex: We all think we’re good guys.
Sophia: I’ve got a soft spot for the pathetics.
Gloria: You get 10 percent of nothing on every nothing you nothing.
Lorna: How does that work, with you being a lady-man and all? Do you and his mother both celebrate the day?
Sophia: You really wanna be callin’ me a lady-man when I got a fistful of your hair in my hand?
Boo: Maybe you should stop punishing yourself. I mean, what does a good mother do? A good mother does what’s best for her children. And maybe what was best for your children was wipin’ ’em out before they had to lead miserable fucking lives.
Angie: I ruined my miracle by getting thrown in the SHU. Which was seriously the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. Even counting that time I smoked crack thinking it was meth and then took four shots of Everclear and ate cat poop.
Maureen: Suzanne, tell us about your process.
Crazy Eyes: I think of shit and write it down.
Piper: Someone’s grandma douches with disinfectant?
Cindy: Man, this was the pill before there was a pill. It’s cheaper than condoms, and make your coochie crack smell like lemon fresh.
Soso: Prison is not cool. Being here is not cool. It’s not brave or admirable or courageous, it’s stupid. I feel stupid for being in here.
Sophia: Go ahead and call me Jesus from now on ’cause this bitch just worked a miracle.
Caputo: Because I wear protection, so I haven’t caught whatever form of syphilis you have that caused your soul to rot.
O’Neil: No, in your heart of hearts, you know as well as I do, red velvet is bullshit. It tastes like Play-Doh. It is not velvety. And the only thing that’s good about it is the cream cheese frosting, which is mean to live on top of carrot cake, like God intended.
Taystee: You got to stop using slavery as every time you wanna justify some foolishness.
Cindy: I’m just using it as a placeholder until I become Jewish, and I can pin it on Hitler.
Although Jason Biggs was nowhere to be found (he was the weakest part of the first two seasons), season three of Orange somehow felt like the weakest entry yet in the show’s run. Still, there’s no denying that this is one complex world with a heck of a cast. Let’s see if season four can bring the show back with a bang.