TV Review - Orange is the New Black: Season 3

Kate Mulgrew (standing) as Red Reznikov
It seems that this season is not as good as Season 2, which currently is the best season of this program. Why Season 2 soared was because it had a strong unifying story that involved a lot, if not most of the cast. It was bold and exciting, even dangerous. This season isn't as bold or exciting. It feels more like a transitional period or a bridge. It's a season that's just about dealing with the aftermath. A lot of crazy things happened last season and this season is about facing the consequences of those crazy things, or reconciling much of it.

Taylor Schilling reprises her role as Piper Chapman who's dealing with the aftermath of her ex-girlfriend Alex Vause, played by Laura Prepon, returning to Litchfield women's prison. She also embraces her hated status and villain-like treatment.

Kate Mulgrew co-stars as Red, the Russian immigrant who's dealing with the aftermath of realizing her restaurant has closed and her job of managing the prison's kitchen and being able to cook how she wants has been taken away.

Dascha Polanco plays Daya Diaz, the Latina who's dealing with the aftermath of blaming her pregnancy by a prison guard on someone who didn't actually impregnate her. She's also dealing with the loss of the love of her life, in that the father of her baby is not the man she thought he was.

Uzo Aduba co-stars as Suzanne aka Crazy Eyes, the eccentric inmate who's dealing with the aftermath of losing Vee, formerly played by Lorraine Touissant in the performance of the year. Vee gave Suzanne a purpose and support that she never had. Now, she has to find purpose and support on her own, which might come through writing or unlikely people.

Samira Wiley also co-stars as Poussey, the young black lesbian who's dealing with the aftermath of being shunned by the black girls, especially her best friend Taystee, played by Danielle Brooks. They repaired their friendship but Poussey's brief estrangement revealed an unrequited love and loneliness in her that she needs to fill, which this season she might fill with religion.

Uzo Aduba (left) and Danielle Brooks
The structure of the series is again similar to Lost where each episode focuses on one character by way of showing flashbacks of that character prior to them arriving in Litchfield. This year, the flashbacks are mainly of minor characters from the first two seasons who were more or less in the background or weren't driving any of the major plots. Therefore, this program again stands as a great series of character studies.

The cast is so large that each episode can have a flashback on a different person. It's not like Lost, which kept returning to the same characters over and over. This show, however, doesn't really return to the same well. We move on to different person after different person in terms of the flashbacks.

One thing that's unusual this year is that a couple of the flashbacks center on people who aren't inmates, or who aren't women. This is predominantly a female cast. The only male characters are the prison guards. Yet, in Episode 2, the flashbacks are all about John Bennett, played by Matt McGorry who proves for the third or fourth time, if you count his various CollegeHumor videos, that he's good and hilarious at shirtless dancing. In Episode 11, the flashbacks are all about Joe Caputo, played by Nick Sandow whose character has a knack for getting involved with women who are already involved.

Strangely, two characters in particular are eliminated from the cast rather early. John Bennett is eliminated. Nicky Nichols, played by Natasha Lyonne, is also eliminated early. Nicky is the drug addict and drug dealer in league with Officer Joel Luschek, played by Matt Peters, a corrupt and cynical, prison guard. My feeling isn't that TV-show-creator Jenji Kohan and her team of writers tired of these two characters.

Matt McGorry as John Bennett
My feeling is that the two actors, McGorry and Lyonne, had other projects they wanted to do and were given an out. In fact, this summer, Lyonne had her feature film premiere at the South By Southwest Festival and McGorry had his feature film premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

Notable flashbacks are Big Boo, played by Lea DeLaria, in Episode 4, as well as Chang, played by Lori Tan Chinn, in Episode 6 and Pennsatucky aka Tiffany Doggett, played by Taryn Manning, in Episode 10. Big Boo deals with a homophobic assault. Chang deals with assault on her looks and Pennsatucky deals with sexual assault.

This series even has the second reference to Tibetan monks and their mandala sand designs this year. It happened in Episode 9 and it was just a verbal reference. However, there was a reference to those Tibetan monks on another Netflix series, that of House of Cards.

If there are any unifying stories to this season, it's the story about the threat of Litchfield being closed down. The guards and inmates have to deal with the ramifications of that. Ironically, it puts limitations on the guards and opens up opportunities for the inmates.

Nick Sandow as Joe Caputo
Touissant who portrayed one of the greatest supporting characters last season was snubbed by the Emmys. This season, the honor of best supporting characters goes to two. Mary Steenburgen plays Delia Powell, the mother of the man who is the presumed father of Daya's baby. Mike Birbiglia plays Danny Pearson, the new and jerk-like boss of Joe Caputo in a lame and idiotic, corporate bureaucracy. I would definitely give nominations for awards to Steenburgen and Birbiglia for their roles here.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-MA.
Running Time: 1 hr. / 13 eps.
Available on Netflix Watch Instant.


Popular Posts