Orange is the New Black: Season 3 - IT'S ABOUT FAITH, GET IT? GET IT???

Uzo Aduba

On June 12, our lives became complete with the arrival of season 3 of Orange is the New Black on Netflix. The critically acclaimed series based on Piper Kerman’s memoir of her time in a women’s prison is still as addicting as ever, and I, like other many other people, sacrificed my time and health and firstborn child to binge watch the latest season over the weekend.

While the series continued to perfectly straddle the line between dark comedy and serious drama, this season was mostly lackluster compared to the previous ones. I’ve outlined my reasons why, with minimal spoilers.

1) The themes were about as subtle as a ton of bricks on your head

Jenji Kohan, creator of the series, did hint in interviews that season 3 would be “a season of faith, it’s a season of motherhood,” and she wasn’t lying. Those two themes were present in almost episode to the point I half expected Will Schuester from Glee to come into Litchfield and set up his whiteboard to let everyone know exactly what was going to be discussed that day.


“Let’s sing ‘Stuck in the Middle With You’. Come on, everybody!”

It’s not bad to have an overarching theme–it makes works more complex and it’s enjoyable to dissect scenes to try to see how vastly different characters and situations are connected. But this season was the equivalent of your high school English teacher beating you over the head with a copy of The Great Gatsby and shouting, “THE GREEN LIGHT REPRESENTS GATSBY’S DREAMS!”

Like, okay I get it. Sheesh.

2) Going Back to the Past Is Getting Boring

I love when a flashback scene comes on Orange is the New Black. It means we’re about to learn new information about inmates, why they act the way they do, and most importantly to a nosy person like me, learn what exact crime they committed.

Minor characters like Chang, Flaca, and Leanne were brought to the forefront this season and fleshed out and added to the list of “Characters I Love and Want to Wrap Into A Blanket and Eat Pizza With.” Yes, even Leanne the meth addict.


What, you don’t want to hang out with that face?

Flashbacks are fun and interesting when they reveal things we don’t know about characters. They’re less fun when they reveal information we already know, especially when they’re awkwardly inserted at random intervals for brief moments at a time. For example, we already know Lorna Morello is obsessed with weddings and love so why did we need a two minute flashback to her communion where young Morello was more excited about her white dress than the ceremony? And even though the theme of the season is religion, do we need a one minute scene to focus on how Janae, who barely had more than three lines this season, once clashed with her Muslim father?

If you’re going to give us blasts from the pasts, make it worth our while.

3) Ruby Rose was essentially a sexy lamp

Everyone on the Internet is gushing over Ruby Rose, who plays Stella Carlin, an inmate who threatens Piper and Alex’s relationship when she gets flirty with Piper. Piper is tempted by the stunning Australian and…that’s it. That’s her whole storyline: she flirts with Piper, looks sexy, and flirts with Piper some more.

I mean, here are Stella’s storylines this season with the words “Sexy Lamp” instead of her name. Tell me the episodes still wouldn’t have made sense:

  • Piper starts flirting with A Sexy Lamp at her prison job, annoying Alex.
  • Piper pays more attention to A Sexy Lamp than Alex, causing a rift between the two.
  • A Sexy Lamp gives Piper her first prison tattoo.
  • A Sexy Lamp betrays Piper in a major way, much to her fury.


Okay, it’s not completely perfect, but still.

Stella Carlin was so underdeveloped and underused. I mean, no one questioned what an Aussie was doing in an upstate New York facility, and when Stella was asked about herself, she gave a vague responses that made it hard to pin down exactly who her character was. Ruby Rose’s stint was only for this season and it’s unfortunate her time was wasted.

What’s the point of adding a new character if you don’t let them become a character?

4) The Piper/Alex relationship was a waste

After so much buildup in season 1 and 2, Alex and Piper were free (sort of) to be together in season 3. There were a few bumps in the road but that was to be expected in the aftermath of season 2. As you can imagine, Alex is pissed when she finds out Piper tipped off her parole officer, thus violating the prison rule “snitches get stitches.” But the two are back on track…until Sexy Lamp Stella enters the scene and causes upheaval once more.


Curse you, Stella!

Piper and Alex break up and make up so many times that they’re not even worth rooting for as a couple anymore when you know they’re locked in an on-again off-again relationship that would make even Ross and Rachel look at them and say, “Look, just decide already!”

I’m confident that Orange is the New Black will bounce back next year, but all in all, this season did have its bright spots.

The best news for season 3? No Larry!


What do you think? Was this a slow season for Orange Is the New Black for you too?

Susan Velazquez

Susan is a recent college grad and writer who enjoys all things from the 1980s, snarking on dumb television, and reveling in celebrity gossip. Oh, and she has serious interests like reading historical fiction, getting involved in social issues, and consuming French fries.

TV Show: Orange is the New Black

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  • Crazy Eyes’ assent was fun. Too much Daya and family. (Or just as you put it: Too much motherhood!) There was that one very brief late season cameo that broke my heart — and shouted out to the much better 2nd season. Agree that this season wasn’t all it could be, but any season with no Larry is a big plus! Mary Steenburger was also wasted. And the Blair Brown storyline was a tease. I liked the getting another point of view on some characters, but I’m mad at the show for making me empathize with Dogget, and I still think Leeann is a terrible person. To know all may be to forgive all, but I still wouldn’t want to share a pizza with her. Surprised by Cindy and not sure I buy it. Still, a lesser OITNB is better than 99% of what else is on, and the ending hit me in the feels (though it didn’t leave me bawling like baby like last time.)

  • Julie

    Those “snapshot” flashbacks were an odd creative choice this season, I think. They were kind of jarring, in that they took you out of the main story, while offering little to no insight into what was going on in present day, apart from causing the viewer to muse, “Oh, so that’s what that character looked like as a kid!”In fact, the only one of these snapshots that actually worked for me was Cindy’s, whose season-long storyline was actually my favorite this season, which is interesting, seeing as her flashback last season was one of my least favorites.Other storylines that worked for me this season were Soso’s (another one of my least favorites from last season, so I guess there’s that), Flaca’s, Pensatucky’s.Chang and Leann had interesting flashbacks this year, though their present day storylines left much to be desired, as in Chang didn’t actually have a storyline (And Toast Norma? *cringe* That’s a part of my life I’ll never get back.)I wish they could have done more with Red this season, than link her up with a very unlikeable character, in an attempt to make that character more likeable by association. (I’m trying not to spoil here. But those two? Together? WHHYYYY?????)The guard / management stuff was a TOTAL snooze for me. And I’m with you on the Voss/ Piper / Stella “love triangle” offering little to the show, beyond making each of these characters more intolerable.All in all, I’d give this season about a B-. There were parts I generally enjoyed, parts I really didn’t, and parts I’m pretty sure I dozed off during (though that might be more a side effect of The Binge than anything else). I wonder if we are going to get to see the Maximum Security Prison next season, because THAT could be interesting . ..