The first 2 seasons of “Orange is the New Black” got raving reviews from critics and viewers alike for the standout storyline about women prison inmates and totally realistic, believable and non-stereotypical characterization. Must-watch, effortlessly binge-able television, etc. were adjectives used to describe it. There were so many things to look forwardto – Alex’s return to Litchfield, Daya’s impending childbirth, Vee’s supposed death causing havoc in the prison’s hierarchy. Then things went terribly wrong in the next season. One doesn’t like to say it, it fell terribly flat.
What went wrong? What the hell happened? We shall find out but before that let’s give credit where due. There were several things to like this season like the further humanization of Pennsatucky and the moving expansion of Daya and Aleida’s rocky relationship. But overall, this season’s performance was below expectation.
1. Pointless Flashbacks
The flashbacks had a function in the first two seasons. They had a connection to whatever was developing inside the prison walls. In other words, they were organically woven to the plot. They served to shed lights on motivations, further deepen relationships and even function as unfolding secondary plotlines that could be equally gripping. The Vee/Taystee flashbacks from season 2 showed the shenanigans developing inside Litchfield. In season 3, they felt forced and uninspired and lacked the old seamlessness as though they were there due to habit and not due to the demand of the drama. Leanne’s Amish storyline and Flaca’s deadly drug scheme are cases in point. I have emphasized before that one of OITNB’s strong suit was its characterization. Women characters who are usually rendered ordinary and humdrum on other TV series. OITNB used to use backstories to discuss how these women became what they are.
2. Hot but Uninspired Stella-Piper-Alex Love Triangle
This season’s Stella-Piper-Alex love triangle received a lot of build-up and let’s be honest this romance was hot. Yet story and development wise it felt forced, rushed and too dramatically inert to keep me interested. Literally it took just one or two episodes after Piper’s profession of love to Alex before they got together and suddenly, cheats on her the panty business.Who is Stella and why is she in the prison? No explanations. In spite of being a striking woman, she also happens to be one of the dullest inmates ever. The talented AutralianRuby Rose is underutilized as a one-dimensional and uninspiring Stella. Arguably, the season would have remained virtually unchanged without a minor character like her and she seemed to serve no real purpose other than highlight Piper assuming a mob-boss like behavior.