I have mixed feelings about this season of OITNB. The season was really good, hence the reason I finished 13 episodes in less than a week (I started watching Monday). I don't know if it was as good as the first two seasons. The first two seasons were good for different reasons. The first season focused on Chapman and her journey through prison life. The second season branched out and focused more on individual characters, and each ones backstory. Season two also had a dark overall plot arch with Vee. I am not sure this season had an overall plot arch. The panty ring or the prison being bought out by a corporate entity could both be thought of as a main plot thread. This may be why I'm not quite sure if season 3 was as strong as season 1 or 2. Each episode is somewhat contained, focusing more on one individual and their life before and during the prison. I like learning about each woman and who they are, it keeps the show fresh and makes each character relatable in some way.
Pennsatucky (played by Taryn Manning) became one of my favorite characters this season. She was the main antagonist in season one, and became a character you rooted for this season. It was an amazing transformation and showed outstanding character growth. We had seen some of her backstory previously, but we saw her first instance of falling in love. It added depth to her character, along with the instances we saw with her mother as a young child and adult. We saw how she was shaped, how she eventually ended up as a meth addict and locked in prison. She has calmed, no longer the religious fanatic. She strikes up a great friendship with Boo. I relished every interaction with these two. They had great chemistry, an unlikely friendship, but one which made both more likable and relatable this season.
Boo (Lea DeLaria) was also fleshed out this season. Her backstory was intriguing. One of my favorite episodes was Finger in the Dyke. We see her struggles with being a lesbian, and how her Mom treated her growing up. Adding to the person she would become. In the episode she was going to try and scam a Christian hate church into supporting her. She tried to play the born again Christian who turned away from a lesbian lifestyle. I love how it came to a crashing end, she just couldn't stomach not being who she is. Boo has always been one of my favorite characters in the series. I am glad she became more developed this year. I hope they continue the Boo and Pennsatucky friendship storyline next season. Their friendship was one of the highlights of the show this season.
The panty ring was great. It didn't pick up until the second half of the season. It had some of the funniest parts of the season, seeing them get the panties nice and ripe. Piper's motivational speech was good, they may have tried a little too hard with it, but it still was funny. Piper becoming a crime lord was an interesting twist on the season. I didn't really think she had the coldness to pull off what she did in the end. I could have gone without the Alex and Piper relationship again. I wish they would have let them stick together or just leave them broken up. They, instead, added another love triangle. That part of the season had me rolling my eyes. There was no need for Piper to get involved sexually with someone else, and shows lack of character growth. The end of the season would have meant just as much if Piper would have just befriended the Australian girl instead of sleeping with her. I'm interested where they take the panty mafia next season. It may be one way to keep Piper in prison for longer than her original sentence.
The church of Norma was a funny side story. Though I am not sure all of the jokes were that funny, but it could just be me. Still a good side story, that added some laughs. Norma's backstory was not expected. It was great to finally learn why she is a mute. I did not picture her as a hippy. The feud, which came about because of the church, was important. Soso vs. Leanne was able to showcase depression and the need for effective counselors in prison. I am sure depression is rampant, and finding ways to combat this has to be a big issue for prisons and inmates. Both characters are not the most likeable. You probably feel more for Soso than Leanne, but you understood where Leanne was coming from with her Amish upbringing. Didn't justify her actions, but you could at least see her side. It wasn't the most exciting side story, but one of the most important in the show this year.
The prison takeover by a third party corporation is probably the main storyline of the show as a whole. This is what the real Piper wants to get across with the show. Pointing out how corrupt and messed up the prison system is in the United States. It is huge business in the United States, not sure how much change can be made, but hopefully the show is shining a light on a dark place. I found the corporate dialogue and terms used amusing. They don't have a warden, but a "director of human activity." I liked Caputo this season trying to struggle in this system. He brought the corporate overlords in to save his and everyone else's jobs, but then gets vilified for it. His backstory was surprising, and I was almost happy he decided to take on the director of human activity role at the end. He was more of a cartoon character in the first two seasons. It was nice to see him get fleshed out into something more than a gross dude who masturbates in his office after seeing girls walk around the prison. The other guard's storylines were more in the background, but it was good to see them fight for more rights so the prison is safe, and see some of them actually do care about the inmates.
I loved the ending. The more I think about it the more I liked it. The final episode was truly a mini movie, clocking in at one and half hours. I'm glad they didn't try and cut things out, and it is another great thing about Netflix producing their own TV shows. The girls escaping, to go swim in the lake, was a great capper to the season. They got to experience a small amount of true freedom, and not feel likes rats in a cage. We also got the other side of the coin at the end. The prison bringing in more prisoners, so they will feel even more enclosed. I truly enjoy this series, and hope it goes for a few more seasons. There is not another show like it on television. I am glad we have it, and hopefully it does start to move the needle on starting some prison reform.
My Rating: Bing Worthy
My top Five Movies about Prison: (I haven't watched enough TV shows about prison)
- The Shawshank Redemption
- The Green Mile
- Cool Hand Luke
- The Green Mile
- The Rock