As most avid Netflix watchers or fans of OITNB know, season 3 of the acclaimed series was released on June 11th instead of June 12th producing a wide range of reactions and emotions. I will now proceed to warn anyone reading this that there are many spoilers ahead, so do not read further if you haven’t watched!
The first episode “Mother’s Day” focuses on the inmates preparing for celebrating that special day which brings many children visiting Litchfield. It also introduces the awaited return of Vause by the hands of Piper, this arguably marks the start of trouble in paradise.Throughout this third season two strong themes are represented: family and spirituality. These are seen especially by the relationship between Daya and her mother centering on the upcoming birth of the baby and questioning precisely where and with whom the baby should live in order to “have a better life”. The importance of family structure and upbringing is shown by the erupting rivalry between Sofia “Burset” and Gloria “Mendoza” when Michael (Sofia’s son) develops a bad attitude seemingly simultaneously as he start to spend time with Mendoza’s son when riding to the prison.
In spiritual terms, Norma garners a cult following by essentially providing comfort and a listening ear as well as sorts of rituals to the inmates. Religion as conceived by the inmates as well as some of the guards/ officers is represented by flashbacks or actual struggles. For instance, during Soso’s childhood, her mother says there is no hell and Cindy begins a journey toward becoming Jewish with the help of a rabbi.
What is most rewarding this season is the growth of characters and watching them evolved in such a profound and sometimes heart-wrenching way. I especially think of Brook Soso whose behavior and temperament did a complete 360 degrees. She went from the bubbly, ultra-talkative and mostly annoying inmate in season 2 to a helpless and depressed individual. Darker themes are also explored this season. Pennsatucky being raped as a teenager and by an officer in Litchfield, the hate crime against Sofia as well as Soso’s depression are only some that were explored.The end hints at a potential second-chance at belonging with Poussey in particular, who saved Brook from her pill overdose.
We also see another facet of Alex this season, as she becomes increasingly worried that someone has been sent to kill her in prison. She is more vulnerable but ends up rejected by -and then rejecting- Piper who becomes unrecognizable.
All the parallel stories proved to be more interesting and compelling than those involving the protagonist Piper Chapman. I think of moments such as Chang’s flash back in China, the friendship blossoming between Big Boo and Pennsatucky and Red’s return to the kitchen.
Piper is a changed woman but for the worse. She becomes drunk with power when she starts her dirty panties business. She brutally fires Flaca in front of the others she recruited for her venture. At the end of the season, she brings down newcomer Stella Carlin. Played by Australian model Ruby Rose, this character is introduced when Piper and Flaca among others start their new job sewing underwear. A fling begins, but when Piper discovers that she stole the money gained from her business, she ultimately plants evidence in Carlin’s bunk. This action will most definitely lead to an extension of her sentence, which was nearly completed.
Early on, we see Bennett leave,being too wrapped up with his upcoming baby with Dayanara and his proposal. This is at first deceiving as they always seemed to see the good in their relationship and believed in a happy future together, but it’s somewhat more realistic. Since season 4 is in the works, we can possibly hope for his return… I will also speculate that we will see the backlash or at least a confrontation between Stella and Piper.
In the end, many issues remain unresolved. We will likely witness more problems and maybe some improvements with the change of management in Litchfield. Being more corporate and less interested with the well-being of the prisoners, the future seems gloomier, even though Caputo is on their side. Season 4 has been confirmed and is set to air next year in June.
Season 3 of Orange Is the New Black is streaming on Netflix!