Orange is the New Black is following a trend that Weeds (another Jenji Kohan TV series) fell victim to years before. The writing team seems to already have run out of an actual plot to write about. That isn’t to say that there is no plot at all…just that the show is quickly losing it’s focus.
WARNING: This review may contain spoilers. While it has been out more than long enough for you to have binged all the way through on Netflix by now, you can avoid spoilers by scrolling down to “final thoughts” for a brief summation.
Weeds began as a very entertaining show, that managed to balance both comedy and tension with ease. As the seasons progressed, however…the storyline only got weaker and weaker. Weeds finished its run about 3 seasons after it could have, as each consecutive episode got increasingly bizarre.
Orange is the New Black is already repeating the same telltale signs of overstaying its welcome, albeit at a much quicker pace.
This partially could be due to the fact that Piper Kerman, whom the main character was based upon, only attended prison for one year. Piper from the Netflix series isn’t necessarily an exact carbon copy of Kerman, and I haven’t read the book, personally — it just seems as though they’ve run out of a substantial plot to tell anymore.
There are two central “conflicts” that take place in this season. One is the looming threat of Lichfield Prison being shut down, and the warden trying to prevent it, while clumsily attempting to balance the budget and deal with their new funders. The other plot revolves around Piper (barely), and her attempt at starting a used female inmate panty smuggling ring. Neither of these plots are remotely interesting. Why should we care if Lichfield closes and the inmates are dispersed to other penatentiaries? The security staff is inept at best. Are we supposed to care about their bonds of sisterhood? They’re usually all at each other’s throats? Who cares if they have to leave?
Who cares about Piper resorting to crime while in prison? Who cares about Piper in general? She only continues to make the very worst decisions and refuses to grow as a character. She used to dynamic, and like Nancy Botwin before her, is basically becoming a caricature.
The majority of the rest of season three focuses on the backstory of a large group of the side characters. They even included a background for the meth-head girls in the laundry room. Why is this relevant? Why do we need to know anything about most of these filler characters? Oh, right. The writers just couldn’t think of anywhere to take the plot, so they tried to make us give a damn about Pennsatucky, or any of the other characters that don’t really add anything to the show.
Alex once again returns, and is just as insufferable as normal. She’s paranoid about being wiped out by the dealer she betrayed, and is angry for still having to be in prison, despite throwing Piper under the bus to get out. Even more ridiculous than Alex’s angst, is Piper’s idiotic desire to get right back in her pants. This woman added prison time on your sentence, you stupid moron! You’re telling me she is so attracted to her that it doesn’t matter? I call bullshit.
Not all of the characters are bad, though. I usually enjoy Red and Big Boo, and I’m fully confident that Taystee, Poussey, Cindy, and Crazy Eyes could shine on a show all on their own. Probably the best part of this season was Crazy Eyes’ surprising success as an aspiring galactic/time travel/smut writer. Her erotic stories quickly gain the attention and adoration of the other inmates, in spite of the fact that they are batshit crazy. There’s also a humorous, and surprisingly touching arc with Cindy trying to convert to Judaism (at first, seemingly to enjoy a Kosher menu in the cafeteria). While I normally like Red, they decided to throw a groan-inducing pseudo romance story with Healy.
I don’t want to spark a controversy, and I’m not some men’s rights activist or anything…but it seems like this show really likes to make every male character corrupt, negligent, or just plain nasty and abusive. Even the one guy we thought we knew was decent, ended up being a total douche like all of the others. Aside from maybe one or two of the guards, this show seems to like to portray men as vile creatures, while elevating the female criminal element on the show as the heroines. I get that when your main character is an inmate that the authority figures will by default come of as antagonistic, but this show takes new levels to make dudes the bad guy, even resorting to one raping one of the inmates in order to inspire sympathy for her.
There’s not much else to say about the show at this point. The season ends abruptly, and with a cliffhanger I don’t really care about.
Season 3 of Orange is the New Black stumbles even further this time around. They attempt to “institutionalize” us by providing backstory to background characters, but ultimately failed to maintain my interest. Replacing a silly villain with a completely disjointed plot was not an improvement. Characterization is a good thing, but focusing on so many characters — even the most minor ones — just put most of the season in a garbled mess. There are a handful of shining moments, but nothing enough to really keep me interested in the show. If Orange is the New Black happens to get renewed for a fourth season, I’m not entirely sure I’ll be caring enough to watch it.
What’s Good: Tasytee and her crew, Crazy Eyes becoming the next E.L. James
What’s Not-so-good: Piper is basically a joke character now, completely jumbled storytelling
Similar to: Weeds, Oz
Suggested substitution(s): Set it Off, The Shawshank Redemption
What did you think of the latest season? Do you think I’m judging it too harshly? Or has it been the weakest link in the chain so far? Like, share, and tell us your thoughts in the comments below!