So, last week I finished my final exam and am now a free man!! To celebrate I thought I’d mix things up a little bit and review the latest season of one of my favourite TV shows … ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK. Orange Is The New Black is a Netflix show based on the book of the same name and chronicles the life of inmates in Litchfield women’s prison. The series started off following the life of the main character Piper, but has since expanded to encompass multiple interweaving story arcs within the prison. I have to admit I was a little bit late to catch on to the whole Orange Is The New Black trend, I had heard a lot about it from friends and the media, but didn’t start watching it until season 3 was released. At that point I decided to sit down and give the show a chance over the course of a long summer – I got hooked. I thought the first 2 seasons were some of the best television I had ever watched, with season 1 having a perfect blend of humour and drama, and season 2 getting much darker and grittier. But, if I’m perfectly honest, I didn’t think the third season was as good as the other entries in the series. It certainly had its merits, it had some of the best jokes and character interactions of the series, I just thought it had too many unnecessary subplots and flashbacks that made the show incredibly slow at times. However, the new season just aired and I’m here to tell you whether it’s worth spending your time watching.
Season 4 kicks off pretty much immediately after the finale of season 3. All of the old prison guards have walked out and a hole in the prison fence has led to all of the inmates escaping to spend some time in a nearby lake. This understandably causes concern (as last time I checked, having all of your criminals escape is a pretty bad thing). So the company which runs the prison decides to hire a group of ex war veterans to maintain order. This, as well as a new influx of inmates brought in from another prison, causes Litchfield to become overcrowded leading to friction between the old inmates, the new inmates and the guards.
One of the things I really liked about this new season of Orange Is The New Black is how it managed to flesh out and add character depth to both the staff and inmates. Over the course of the 4 seasons of the series the showrunners have done an amazing job at giving us a really colourful and diverse cast of characters who are truly a joy to watch. As great and as interesting as the stories in this show are, it’s really the characters that make me want to come back to this show time after time. Watching this new season after a year’s gap felt like reuniting with an old friend. I feel I know so much about these characters to the point where you can tell exactly how each of them will react to any scenario. This is really testament to just how good this show is; you end up feeling so attached to each and every one of these characters, you share in their happiness, their sadness and when they mess up, you almost feel let down.
The performances this season were also absolutely spot on. The acting has always been pretty great in previous seasons; however, you get the sense that the actors were really bringing their best for this season. Uzo Aduba continues to be absolutely wonderful as the character of Suzanne or “Crazy Eyes” managing to be tragically awkward, comedic and strangely profound at the same time. Kate Mulgrew is on form once again as the Russian chef “Red” and continues to be my favourite character with her incredibly dry sense of humour. Even Taylor Schilling does a great job with the often irritating main character of Piper who manages to come across as annoying and self-centred every time she opens her mouth (which is actually quite an achievement).
I feel as if they have finally managed to perfect the unique tone the show is best known for with this season. The first season of Orange Is The New Black had a tone unlike anything I had ever seen before in a TV show, with the ability to make you laugh one moment and then hit you out of nowhere with tonnes of emotion and drama. But with the second and third seasons I felt they lost a great deal of that tone, with season 2 being rather dark, and season 3 being a little bit too comedic. With this new season I feel like they have finally re-gained that perfect blend of drama and humour. This season does have some of the most heart wrenching and emotional moments, but it always manages to balance it out with some perfectly timed hysterical moments.
It was also clear to see that the showrunners had decided to use their status as one of the biggest shows on Netflix to talk about some real life issues affecting society. I love how they managed to seamlessly incorporate the deep and interesting themes into this season without making it seem preachy or out of place. Topics such as race and sexuality are nothing new for the show, but the introduction of new inmates and guards has meant they are able to sensitively weave themes of racial profiling, the wealth divide, abuse of power and sexism into the narrative.
My only major problem with season 4 is that at times they would fit in scenes or subplots that worked really well individually, but failed to fit cohesively with the overall plot. For example, the character of Soso was given a flashback detailing her life before prison (and how that influences her behaviour in the prison), which was really interesting. But because they never referred to it again, it ended up slowing the momentum of the show for a bit. Similarly, Laverne Cox’s all too brief appearances as Sophia were absolutely great and raised more issues regarding the mistreatment of minority groups, but I don’t think they utilised her character as much as they could have in the overall story of the prison. Don’t get me wrong! I loved both of these moments, but they felt incredibly isolated.
Overall, Season 4 of Orange Is The New Black is a great continuation of a show that appears to be able to do almost nothing wrong at this point. It manages to bring everything fans of the show loved and are used to at this point, while also adding a few new interesting changes to the formula.
Have you finished Orange Is The New Black season 4 yet? If so I’d love to hear what you thought of this season (and the TV show in general). I’m so sorry I haven’t written much recently; my life has been kind of hectic but now that college is finally over I can finally get back to blogging more frequently. I love writing ReelReviewDude and sharing my love of cinema with all of you, but the fact that this page is mostly “film orientated” has meant that I have had to put a number of interesting ideas for posts on hold as they just don’t fit in with the format of this blog. As such, I’ve decided to set up a BRAND NEW SECOND BLOG CALLED “THE WORLD OF SAM”. This blog will be a lot more informal and will hopefully give me the chance to talk on a number of things such as music, life and art, as well as share some of my short story writing. I will also be adding regular playlists (such as this one) with songs that I am enjoying for you all to check out. Don’t Worry! I’ll still be doing film stuff on ReelReviewDude, this new blog just gives me chance to explore more creative avenues and test out new ideas. I hope you like it! Thank you so much for your continued support, I really appreciate it.
Till Next Time … DUDE OUT!! 🙂