Orange is the New...Bland?
"Orange is the New Black" fans rejoiced on June 11 around 9 p.m., when the third season of the cult Netflix original series was released early for streaming. It has been a year since the show’s second season was released in similar Netflix episode-dump fashion in 2014. Fans remember the second season fondly, especially the tyrannical antics of Vee and her demise during the season finale. Expectations for this summer were high, but a lackluster season with a hard-to-get-through first few episodes has been enough to send some Harvard fans back into the depths of their dismal Cambridge winter selves (read: us).
The Good: Ruby Rose as Stella Carlin. Stella provides a much needed breath of fresh air in the stale “Piper has an unfair life and shouldn’t be here” narrative of Litchfield. She is straightforward and blunt, saying what we all wish we had the courage to say to those classmates in the dining hall and Ec 10 section we really hate.
The Bad: Piper Chapman. The swai of Litchfield. For a show that stirs sympathy for almost every character, it is amazing how insufferable Piper is. We scratched our brains, but there is hardly a single moment this season that we have any warm feelings toward her. Even when [spoiler alert] she gets outfoxed by her business partner, the viewer feels satisfied that she finally gets a taste of her own medicine and her status is checked within the prison hierarchy. We can only hope that Piper’s time is running out. Swai on the other hand… see you in September.
The Meh: Flashbacks. Season 3 features a series of backstories on various Litchfield inmates who have played roles in the series up to this point but have never had their chances to shine. This had the potential to be an incredible addition to the show, but fell flat in some episodes. While there are praiseworthy standouts including the story of Pennsatucky’s experience dealing with sexual assault, there are episodes in which the flashbacks feel less tied to the characters’ experiences in prison. Granted, we are biased. We go to Harvard, so we experience flashbacks on a daily basis: just take a walk through Winthrop House and you will be immersed into rich, untouched, unrenovated, crumbling history.
Though season 3 did not live up to expectations, we still binged this season with the same gusto we binged Stat 104 lecture videos. Our optimism is high for season 4, out summer 2016. Let’s hope the writers and producers learn from their shortcomings this time around and deliver the best season Orange has seen.
Grade: B (a.k.a. Harvard F)