In the lead up to Netflix dropping the fourth season of Orange Is the New Black, I re-watched seasons 1-3 in order to refresh my memory – and I’m glad I did as there were a few story lines that I had forgotten about! (You can read my review of Season 3 here: Orange Is The New Black – Season 3) Season 4 was dropped a few weeks ago and I have just finished binge-watching the entire series, and my goodness what a series!!
In the off chance that you’ve never heard of Orange Is the New Black (or OITNB as it’s more commonly known on social media), it is a Netflix original series that follows life inside an American Woman’s Federal Prison. Originally focusing on one character’s journey – Piper Chapman played by Taylor Schilling – more recent series have shifted so that Piper is no longer the central character. Instead there is a more equal footing amongst the many different characters, inmates and officers alike.
Season 3 was left on the cliffhanger with the women having found a gap in the fence and an old associate of Alex’s (Laura Prepon) turning up to potentially harm her. Episode 1 of Season 4 picks up straight from that ending with no time having past between the two seasons. This is great for us as it means that we haven’t missed out on any action and are left wondering what is going on!
I don’t want to give away anything that happens but this Season is a lot darker than previous ones – that’s not to say that there aren’t any funny moments because there are still plenty of those! The arrival of more inmates, causing over-crowding, leads to a real divide between races and this is something that grows throughout the Season leading to a heartbreaking finale. There are shifts in characters, Piper who was a strong presence last season finds herself in a situation out of her control and Maritza (Diane Guerrero) who was fairly quiet becomes the leader of her racial group and makes some shocking decisions.
The brilliant Nichols (Natasha Lyons) who was sent to Max in the middle of Season 3 is back but is still struggling to defeat her drug addiction. Sadly Ruby Rose who plays Stella and was a key player in Piper’s new power surge during last season, is only in Season 4 for all of 5 minutes. Hopefully the writer’s will bring her back for next Season as she was a great addition. Another character that was missing a lot was Sophia Burset (Laverne Cox), she was sent to Max for ‘her own protection’ after being attacked at the end of Season 3, but for reasons unknown MCC (the new owners of the prison) keep her locked away and won’t answer the inmates or even Sophia’s wife’s questions.
It is very clear that MCC have no idea or interest in how to run a prison. Every decision made is purely on how to reduce costs and not what’s best for the women. Caputo (Nick Sandow) is really struggling as he tries to keep his boss happy as well as look out for the women’s welfare. With the guards having all walked out at the end of Season 3, new officers are brought in – mostly off the street with no real police training – and are kept in line by Piscatella (Brad William Henke) a burly Officer who’s ideas on how to run the prison differ greatly to Caputo’s.
So much happens in every episode of the Season, all leading up to an amazing finale and yet again we are left on a massive cliffhanger!! There are moments of laughter, tears and particularly this series, racial discrimination. Every cast member brings something special to their characters making for an exceptional cast. The writers of OITNB have a knack of bringing important issues as well as emotional connections and humour into each character and story line and that’s why it’s such a great drama. I already can’t wait for next year to see what Season 5 has to offer!!