Written By: Traves Bezenar
The staff and inmates of Litchfield Correctional Center welcomed back fans of ‘Orange Is The New Black’ for a fourth season on June 17th. For those unfamiliar with the series, it originally debuted as a Netflix original back in July of 2013 and follows Piper Chapman (and her new criminal friends) as they navigate life inside a women’s prison. ‘Orange Is The New Black’ is a unique comedy full of violence, sex, drugs, nudity, and heartwarming moments. While season four is not exempt from the show's tried and true formula, it does ramp up the drama and tragedy significantly. So, to binge or not to binge, that is the question.
One of the first things long time fans of the show will notice about the newest season of ‘Orange Is The New Black’ is how small the cast is. There are still tons of characters with their own story-lines and subplots but the proverbial fat has been noticeably trimmed. Fan favorites like Kate Mulgrew’s Red, Uzo Aduba’s Crazy Eyes, and Laverne Cox’s Sophia Burset all make returns and play huge parts in the main plot. Along with those favorites there are a few former cast members that play a much bigger part this season than in the past including Lori Petty as Lolly, Jessica Pimentel as Maria Ruiz, Laura Gomez as Flores, and Matt Peters as the lazy but lovable Luschek. New notable additions to the cast include Blair Brown as this universe’s version of Martha Stewart in Judy King, Brad William Henke as the new hard ass head of corrections Desi Piscatella, and Alan Aisenberg who plays Bayley a lovable sadsack trying to find his way in life.
The fourth season of OITNB is hilarious, but like I mentioned earlier, there's a new level of sophistication, drama, and tragedy to the story. The writers do a great job of balancing the overall comedic tone of the show while addressing some serious real world issues. From global topics like the Israeli occupation of Palestine, to issues that hit a little closer to home like racial profiling, for profit prisons, and the dichotomy between the rich (who have power) and the poor (who don’t ). For me though, the most poignant topic the show touches on is prison rape. ‘Orange Is The New Black’ takes a surprisingly nuanced and critical approach at addressing the issue. The writers do their best to cover the topic from all fronts and address not only how it happens but why it’s allowed to happen, the psychological effects on the victim and perpetrator, and why the terrible act needs to stop. By the time the credits roll at the end of episode thirteen you’ll have learned something new about at least one important, albeit taboo, subject.
Like the previous seasons of ‘Oranges Is The New Black’ ,season four has tons of compelling and interconnected story-lines that are worth tuning in for. There really is something for everyone to enjoy this season: romance, horror, mystery, drama, and especially comedy. However, it’s not just the subplots that are worth watching. The main plot line that drives the whole show forward is exceptional this season. We see the series protagonist Piper Chapman continue to transition from a person you hated because she was a liberal douche into a person you hate because she’s a tried and true villain. She’s a lot like Walter White in ‘Breaking Bad’ except with stolen panties instead of blue meth. As the plot progresses you’ll start to get a foreboding feeling that something terrible is bound to happen, and it does, but it’s not going to be what it is. In season four people will cry, people will hurt, and some people, will even die… but I’m not telling you who they are either.
To binge or not to binge, that's the still the question. The answer, a resounding yes! This might be the best season of the show since it hit our screens back in 2013. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll love every minute of this emotional roller coaster. However, if you’re not one for graphic nudity, violence, or are triggered by visualizations of sexual assault, I’d recommend skipping it. In the end ‘Orange Is The New Black’ won’t appeal to everyone but it’s more than worth watching if you can stomach it.