Netflix brings us its lightest, most heartfelt season yet as Orange is the New Black returns for another hit season.

While the third season of the hit Netflix series lacked slightly in the intense drama department synonymous with the prison drama, this season brought out a whole new bag of contraband tricks and treats. 

With all the melodrama of season two, this time around OITNB took its time setting the pace, slowing everything down just slightly enough to draw attention to the real focus of the season: the complete desperation and loneliness of the women in prison.

Truly, they’ve all got time.
This very real sense of endless monotony contrasted so ironically against the new villain, the corporate junkies now running the joint – only interested in profiting off the women’s desperateness.  From outsourcing job projects to expensive lingerie companies to taking away Red’s (Kate Mulgrew) precious kitchen in favour of a new food plan, this season really played with ideas of corporate capitalism in the only way Orange knows how: a light comedic tone of brilliance.

This tone filtered through the whole season, taking with it very dark and serious topics and bringing them to light in a safe environment.  Pennsatucky’s (Taryn Manning) views on her rape were challenged and fixed, Soso’s (Kimiko Glenn) suicidal depression wasn’t just ‘all in her head’ as resident councillor and head of all things ignorant Mr Healy (Michael Harney) suggested; even issues of abortion, hate crimes, and death were all given important awareness against the light tone of the season.

Our favourite blond hot mess Piper (Taylor Schilling) is no longer a fresh faced newbie, and in the aftermath of the villainous Vee’s departure *cough* brutal death *cough*, the women are recovering and regrouping.   It is in this familiar quiet of Litchfield that the character’s grow, reflect, and journey through the season. 

Alex (Laura Prepon) is back at Litchfield and struggling to deal with her return, and in the midst of a nervous breakdown reconnects with Piper and their relationship seems mended – for the time being.  Meanwhile, Daya (Dascha Polanco) is dealing with her pregnancy, Norma (Annie Golden) has accidentally stumbled into creating a cult, and Black Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore) converts to Judaism.  

One of the main things I love about this show is it’s ability to make us care about each and every character. Not one woman in this show is unimportant, and season three showed us that.  While we were treated to more insight into familiar faces, the back stories reached a larger demographic this season; inviting us to the spectacular performances of Chang (Lori Tan Chinn) , Big Boo (Lea DeLaria) and Flaca’s (Jackie Cruz) past.

While season three was nowhere near as dramatic as the ruthlessness of season two’s Vee drama, it had a certain lightness to it. The almost perfect representation and casual conversational tone of controversial topics made it a season of underlying drama against light-hearted comedy and quotable moments. 

The Good: Pennsatucky stealing the show and her surprise friendship with Big Boo
The Bad: the serious lack of Nicky Nichols 
The Ugly: the out of the blue corporate takeover of Litchfield which led to too many scenes of boring meetings that acted as my bathroom break.

Binge watch it or pace yourself, just whatever you do, watch Orange is the New Black. 

Also remember: Red didn’t cook the food. 

Rating: 8/10