I just finished binge-watching season three of “Orange Is The New Black” on Netflix. As a big fan of the first two seasons of the television show, I came into this season with high hopes…but I was left quite disappointed.
I don’t want to throw a bunch of spoilers in this review because I’m guessing only a handful of people have actually finished it by the time this is post is live. I know I would be mad if I had an entire season ruined for myself if I accidentally ran across spoilers before actively looking for them.
Season three is setup like the previous two seasons. You get present-day storylines with backstory flashbacks thrown into every episodes. I still like this method of storytelling, but the flashbacks are becoming less enjoyable.
I know every series that lasts more than five seasons needs a ‘blow off’ season to reset storylines and help keep the show running for many seasons in the future…season three of OITNB is officially their blow off season.
The first two seasons had flashbacks centered around Piper and Alex’s relationship with some ‘origin stories’ of other prisoners thrown in to help you empathize with the other minor characters. I enjoyed getting to know the backstories of characters like Crazy Eyes, Taystee and Red, but some of the other minor character’s backstories fell a bit flat. Unfortunately, many episodes in season three of OITNB focuses a bit too much on minor characters like Chang and Norma.
I like that the show wants to be more well-rounded and use as many vehicles (characters) to tell the many layers of prison life, but it is getting a bit messy. One major outcome of this method of storytelling is that I’m not as invested in Piper’s exploits anymore. She’s more comfortable as a prisoner this season, probably a bit too comfortable. This should be fun to watch, but her storyline kind of just slowly stutters throughout the season. There are episodes that barely feature more than a few minutes of Piper.
There’s another casualty of this method of storytelling, when you lose an actor to another show or can’t come to terms with an actor for some reason, there’s a gaping hole in the show. Nicky, played by Natasha Lyonne, and Officer Bennett, played by Matt McGorry, were both written off in the middle of the season. Lyonne could be gone for good and it still isn’t clear if McGorry will be back. It’s a void like when Pornstache, played by the actor Pablo Schreiber, was mostly written off the show. Schreiber was recently cast in an HBO comedy series “The Brink”, so we may only see sporadic cameos from him in the future, it at all.
“Orange Is The New Black” should stick to further developing the main characters, but I don’t see that happening. This might be the biggest spoiler I’ll reveal, but the season ends as more inmates pour into Litchfield. They installed bunk beds, so this could significantly increase the cast in season four. I think they are biting off more than they can chew.
If you watched the first two seasons of OITNB, I still recommend watching the third season…but don’t binge-watch it. I hope season four is worth this blow off season.
P.S. – You will be disappointed in the Officer Bennett/Daya storyline. I feel like I needed to warn you.
P.S.S. – You will crush hard on the new character Stella, played by Ruby Rose.
Bobby Roberts (otherwise known as Sweetbob) is the creator of ‘America’s White Boy’ and contributor at Project Shanks. His writing has been featured on ESPN’s ‘SportsNation’, Sports Illustrated’s Hot Clicks, Guyspeed, and various other sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @Sweetbob.