5 Times ‘Orange Is the New Black’ Season 3 Proved to Be the Worst Season Yet

OITNB
Images/GIFs via Netflix

After binge watching Orange Is the New Black season three once or twice (okay, about twelve times), there were enough moments to make me think this was the worst season by far (forgive me, Jenji Kohan).

Orange Is the New Black season two gave us the perfect mix of high drama and LOL-worthy moments, and while this follow-up isn’t a huge disappointment on those fronts, the lack of focus, less GIF-able moments and other foibles in the narrative actually had me wondering if, by the time the last scene came on screen, I had really just finished the entire season. Where was the OITNB we love?

Read on for five times season three proved to be weaker than its predecessors.

Piper, period

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We’ve all had to deal with her myopic, privileged tendencies over the seasons, sometimes for laughs, mostly inducing eye-rolls, but this season was the worst. Season one’s utilization of Piper as a trojan horse to ease us into an unfamiliar world was effective, and season two’s hardening of her added dimension to the character, but now she just pulls our attention away from more interesting story lines.

The pas de deux with Alex Vause covered very little ground in their relationship and felt stale the whole season, her panty-selling business was silly, and her betrayal of Stella was unforgivable (mainly because Ruby Rose is so swoon-worthy). Taylor Schilling still manages to bring a combination of humor, dry wit, and a dash of humanity to her character, which is a testament to her skill, but nevertheless, we have to concede that Piper’s the new Larry. Ugh.

The Sheer Lack of Focus

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Season two had the benefit of Vee anchoring all of the drama and story lines, but it’s understandable why they wouldn’t return to the “Big Bad” formula for fear of repetition. Unfortunately, the themes of motherhood and religion in season three that seemed to link everything together lacked the high stakes and emotional catharsis we had with the first two seasons. Everyone felt a little disconnected from each other, which was a major setback.

And a lot of times this confusion veered the show into sitcom territory, like Morello’s string of prison suitors or Piper’s panty business or Norma’s cult or Black Cindy trying to get better meals by pretending to be Jewish (though, in all fairness, that plot line ends up to be pretty heartbreaking).

Flaccid Flashbacks

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Usually a good device to open up (literally and figuratively) the world of OITNB and its characters, flashbacks have been a useful tool throughout its run. And not that this year’s were all bad—a look into Big Boo’s unapologetic story served well for the character, even if it was a little expected. And it was Leanne’s Mennonite and meth past that really gave us a surprise and insight into a peripheral character that make the flashback formula so good.

But a lot of them slowed down the narrative (Caputo’s woes), gave us info we already knew (Alex dealing drugs and partying in Paris) or simply seemed to serve a current story line and nothing else (Norma’s past cult experiences).

No More Nicky

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You’re killing us, Jenji Kohan. Though she had a satisfying (but über-condensed) arc in the first three episodes, fan favorite Nicky (Natasha Lyonne) has been shoved off to max, never to return (at least for the rest of season three). What’s worse, her flashbacks just rehashed what we already knew about her addiction and relationship to her mother; had new info been revealed it would have made sense to open up the Nichols archives, but that time could have been better spent exploring her current dynamics with other inmates like Red and Morello before she went down the hill.

A Larger Focus on the Men

OITNB Lest we be accused of misandry, there was entirely too much time dedicated to the male characters in this ensemble in season three, with not only prominent story lines for Bennett, Caputo, and Healy, but flashbacks for them as well. Amidst a sea of television shows that would never pass the Bechdel test in a million years, OITNB stood out as a show that focused on the stories of women, all of whom were disenfranchised in some way, to boot. Even though the male characters (most of whom are white, straight and in some sort of authority position) add to the richness of the show, there’s no reason to dive so deeply into their stories when that’s never been a draw for OITNB.

Rumors are swirling that season four will herald a return to form for OITNB and while this season wasn’t as bad as Larry (who was the WORST), we’re still anticipating a better season to binge watch next year.

At the very least, we did get Ruby Rose. Which makes everything better.

Ruby Rose

Orange Is The New Black Is Back…and so Is Alex Vause

Screenshot: Netflix

Orange Is The New Black’s third Season is coming soon, and it’s going to be a good one.

Crazy Eyes wrote something erotic, involving love between 2 people…and four other people…and aliens. Alex, or, “the Bettie Page of Litchfield,” is back and Big Boo gets a bob. Cancel any plans for June 12th–it will be a day best spent with our precious Netflix accounts.

Refresh the Season Two memories here.

OITNB Star Vicky Jeudy Hits NYFW–And She is NOT Wearing Orange

Vicky Jeudy and co-star Adrienne Moore (Cindy Hayes on OITNB) snap a necessary model-selfie

Do you have a Netflix account (or someone else’s password)? Cool. So you already know Vicky Jeudy, (Janae Watson) on the beloved Orange is the New Black. She, along with a few of her co-stars, ditched the prison garb for the runway this week and I caught up with the beautiful star between shows and table reads.

How many hours of sleep did you get last night?

I slept for seven hours last night. That’s not  bad considering it’s fashion week and I’m juggling events, shows and script work.

What do you need in your bag?

I love my new Nanette Lepore clutch. Right now, I have my cell phone, charger (my phone is always dying), a basic lip gloss, pressed powder, and gum in it. My cell phone charger is always with me. I’m constantly looking for an outlet to charge my phone. It’s time to invest in those portable chargers for the moments you can’t find a place to plug in!

What are your favorite shows?

My favorite shows besides Orange is the New Black (naturally) are Orphan Black and Homeland!

[Ed. note: We meant fashion shows, but we’ll roll with it!]

What has been your favorite outfit you’ve worn to NYFW?

My favorite outfit from fashion week was the CZAR by Cesar Galindo dress.  I loved twirling in it, and each time I moved, the dress would flow in the wind. Everyone should own a dress like this in the wardrobe.

What’s your favorite mid-day snack to keep you going through these crazy days?

Today in between shows I ate a bagel from Murray’s. Actually, it was a really good lunch because I was in a hurry. I usually go for a standard smoothie but there’s something about a nice New York City bagel that felt fitting for a Monday afternoon treat!

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 12.38.55 PMVicky strikes a pose in her fave NYFW outfit.

Alternate Emmys: A Look Back on The Year in Cable TV

I did not watch Sunday night’s annual Emmy ceremony. The Oscars take up all my live-award-show frustration, and the choices of Emmy voters baffle me even more than the Academy’s  (Jeff Daniels over Jon Hamm and Bryan Cranston? What?). But glancing at the list of nominees —specifically in the Drama category—and reflecting on the wealth of amazing series I’ve compulsively binged on this season (Sept. 2012-Sept. 2013), it occurred to me that this may in fact be the best year of television ever

The creative revolution in cable TV content , that began in 1999 with The Sopranos, has reached such a deafening pitch in quality, that for the first time in my movie-obsessed life, I’m uncertain which medium I’d pick if given a choice: this year’s offerings on the big screen…or its smaller, once-thoroughly-minor-but-now-kicking-all-kinds-of-unholy-ass cousin. Now, I’m not saying this year contains the best shows ever made. Arguably, that would be 2004, which—surfing the first great wave of cable TV—contained The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, and Six Feet Under, all airing a few months apart on HBO. I like to think the second great wave began in 2007, when AMC took a piece of the premium pie with Mad Men, followed by Breaking Bad a year later.   

And this year, with Netflix changing the game by releasing entire seasons of original content at once, I believe the third great wave of the cable revolution has kicked off, with HBO now fighting for the quality crown amidst a whole host of contenders, including Sundance, Showtime, and F/X, with many, many more about to leap into the ring to join them. All this to say that the sheer breadth and diversity of essential cable series has now resulted in the first Top 10 list I’ve ever made for TV, with last Sunday’s Emmys providing the perfect excuse to share it.  

 

Game of Thrones – Season 3 (HBO)

Combine the scope of Lord of the Rings with the character complexity of The Sopranos, and you’ve got the most addictive show on television, which hit a shocking dramatic peak with its now infamous "Red Wedding" episode at the climax of the third season. Marginally lessened by its smattering of laughably gratuitous sex scenes and one particularly un-necessary torture sub-plot, HBO’s medieval fantasy epic is nevertheless top-tier stuff, and a case study in great book-to-screen adaptations, despite the millions of angry nerd cries  bemoaning changes to GRR Martin’s beloved novels. The sheer confidence with which it juggles its sprawling cast of characters and storylines, while consistently subverting  and twisting expectations, has provided some of the most devastating and instantly iconic moments of the current pop culture landscape.

MVP: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, for turning what began as a hiss-worthy villain into the shows’ most complex and strangely sympathetic character, Jaimie Lannister.  

 

Mad Men – Season 6 (AMC)

Every year, Mad Men assumes a familiar cycle, as people complain that the show isn’t "going anywhere" for its first four or five episodes, then subsequently watch in astonishment as each season aspires to—and attains—the artistic heights of great American literature. And with 1968 as its backdrop, the petty ambitions, jealousies and affairs of Sterling-Cooper’s ad agency culminated in one of the most moving, thematically satisfying season finales of its six season run.  

MVP: Jon Hamm, for taking Don Draper’s sixth cycle on the self-destructive merry go round to its darkest depths, and emerging with unexpected, redemptive grace.

   

Boardwalk Empire – Season 3 (HBO)

This criminally underrated show, which many gave up on during its first, feet-finding season, finally became the great, classic gangster epic it’s been building towards for the last three years. Every single character in its impressive cast was provided with a fantastic arc, as the over-arching narrative—the birth of organized crime in America —coalesced into its most mythic season, bringing its young Capones, Lanskys and Lucianos in direct conflict (or collusion) with Steve Buscemi’s semi-fictional head of Atlantic City, Nucky Thompson.  

MVP: Bobby Canavale, for providing an electrifying season villain, by turns funny, charming and psychotic – often all at once.

   

Top of the Lake – 6 Episode Mini-Series (Sundance)

Fusing the moral twilight of (the original) The Killing with the eeriness of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, this six episode mini-series is by far the best thing Jane Campion has directed since The Piano. Elizabeth Moss slightly fudges her New Zealand accent, but gives a committed, nuanced performance as the detective investigating a young girl’s  disappearance in a poor, mountainous region of New Zealand. As the case entwines itself with the secrets of her own past, each episode unflinchingly takes the audience to disturbingly dark places, but with Campion’s unique perspective on the toll it takes for strong-willed women to forge their way through male-dominated social hierarchies (police and criminal alike). Haunting, nail-bitingly tense, and ultimately profound, Top of the Lake is pure cinema in TV clothing.  

MVP: Peter Mullan, as the terrifying leader of a homegrown drug ring, equal parts menace and tragic pathos.  

 

Parade’s End’ – 5 Episode Mini-Series (BBC America/HBO)

This adaptation of a classic novel is British TV drama at its finest, a stunningly scripted labor of love by Tom Stoppard, with astonishing performances by Benedict Cumberbatch, Rebecca Hall and newcomer Adelaide Clemens. Charting a love triangle that evolves over the course of Britain entering the First World War, it’s a rich, fascinating exploration of the values different people cling to, or shed, as the world changes around them—as well as one of the most genuinely romantic stories you’ll ever see.  

MVP: Adelaide Clemens, for embodying what could have so easily been a fantasy of purity and innocence with grounded intelligence, vulnerability and strength.  

 

Breaking Bad – Season 5.1 (AMC)

Only eight episodes long, the first half of Breaking Bad‘s final, devastating conclusion is mostly set-up for its currently airing conclusion, which is possibly the single most riveting season of television in history. While perhaps less satisfying as a stand-alone season—especially compared to its previous arcs—5.1 is still an essential chapter in the saga of Walter White, described by its creator (Vince Gilligan) as one man’s journey "from Mr.Chips to Scarface." The amazing train heist episode ("Dead Freight") is a clear highlight, and the seamless mix of comedy, tragedy, and thriller elements against New Mexican suburbs and deserts, still combine to create one of the most utterly unique shows around.   

MVP: The best soundtrack choices of the year, bar none.  

 

Enlightened – Season 2 (HBO)

Tragically under-seen, this small gem concluded its two-season story arc, perhaps in the knowledge that it would inevitably be cancelled. Show-runner Mike White’s portrait of an idealistic narcissist waging a one woman war against the evil corporation she works at, is sharp, wickedly funny character-based satire, but with a deeply compassionate heart. Laura Dern gives the performance of her career as Amy Jellicoe, as frustrating and cringe-inducing as she is ultimately heroic. By both tearing down easy new age philosophies, while also examining the complex and profound yearnings for harmony and truth beneath them, Enlightened never gives in to pat, easy answers, but rests in its questions with intelligence, humor and grace. I especially loved how the show allowed itself to sometimes give entire episodes to a supporting character’s point of view, which often produced the most affecting highs of a great final season.    

MVPs: An incredible roster of guest directors, including Jonathan Demme, Nicole Holofcener, Todd Haynes, and David Michod.  

 

Rectify – Season 1 (Sundance)

Another criminally under seen gem, this small, well-observed drama about a man emerging from 20 years on death row, is well worth catching up with. Like its main character, it takes the time to soak in the tiny, telling details that we so often take for granted in our "free" lives, as well as the deep questions that result from a world view created behind bars. It’s a slow burn, but always an immersive one, and over the course of its short six episode first run, an incredibly moving journey into a man’s damaged, but endlessly curious soul. And the good news is that it’s been renewed for a second season, so catch up now while you have the chance.  

MVP: Aiden Young, for saying more with his eyes than most actors do with entire seasons of dialogue.  

 

Orange is the New Black – Season 1 (Netflix)

Adopting a similar comedy-drama tone to her previous show, Weeds, Jenji Kohan’s second stab at cable TV is a real grower, and paints its world of a women’s minimum security prison with well researched insight and depth. What’s most surprising is how elements that are initially off-putting, such as the very white middle class heroine’s cutesy relationship with her straight-laced fiancee, ultimately work in service to the story itself, as Piper Chapman’s world and sense of who she is are gradually stripped away, piece by piece. And while she serves as an effective identification window for the audience, it’s the show’s dedication to exploring its large supporting cast of characters that makes this something special.  

MVP: the casting directors, for filling the prison with real, believable women instead of Hollywood starlets.  

 

Girls – Season 2 (HBO)

Lena Dunham’s divisive, controversial, look at the lives of four young women navigating life in Brooklyn, is in many ways the anti-Sex and the City, more interested in ugly truths than easy trend-setting. Her characters are often selfish, tactless, insecure and hurtful, yet always compelling, and often very, very funny. It’s perhaps the most accurate account of what being young and broke in New York City is like, and how painful and confusing it can be to figure out our own identity while we’re so busy presenting one to a world that demands us to be fully formed in order to meet it. And it’s fascinating to watch such a young writer-performer develop her voice, sometimes stumbling, but always bravely reaching to create art that rings true.  

MVP: Lena Dunham, for her fearlessly authentic nudity onscreen, to the dismay of internet body fascists everywhere.  

 

Honorable Mentions

Homeland S2 was a ton of compulsive fun, if guilty of a few ridiculous plot twists too many (Wi-Fi dispensed heart attack? Come on now). Treme S3 was as enjoyable and affectionate a trip to New Orleans as ever, if a tad meandering. House of Cards was compelling and entertaining, if not quite as smart as it wanted to be. Veep S2  was a blast of great satire, but more of a dessert than a main course.

The Best of the Emmys Red Carpet, Feat. Thakoon, Chanel, and a Faux-Bob

As E! kicked off the red carpet judging for Sunday night’s Emmy Awards, stylist George Kotsiopoulos wondered aloud whether the attendees would please the Us Weeklys or the fashion rags more. It turned out there wasn’t much risk-taking – a quiet red carpet to match a quiet Emmys – though there were a few favorites looks stolen straight from the spring runways to better please the fashion crowd.

Possibly the evening’s best-dressed, an actress who wasn’t eligible to be nominated, nor was she presenting, was Orange is the New Black’s Taylor Schilling, whose modern, sexy dress was custom made for her by Thakoon Panichgul. Thakoon, whose feminine frocks rarely make red carpet appearances, must spot something special about the actress to have sought her out for this. These red carpets can be the convergence of fashion with entertainment – the starlets taking heed from stylists, or seeking to please the fashion powers that be, forming sartorial relationships for the successful road ahead. For instance, it’s impossible to think of Anne Hathaway on the red carpet without thinking of Valentino – even after her Oscar’s dress switch and burn.

Taylor Schilling in Thakoon

The high ‘90s neckline of Schilling’s white, slit-front, cut out silk crepe number did little to tone down her smokiness, which, matched with her a dark eye, a dark red lip and movie star waves, made quite the impression. After binge-watching Orange is the New Black, and seeing the style Schilling brings to the red carpet, I’m looking forward to seeing more and more of her, on screen and off.

One young gun who stays in fashion’s favor time and again is Mad Men actress Kiernan Shipka, who shone in age appropriate and adorably cheerful Delpozo.

Delpozo

Presenter and How I Met Your Mother actress Cobie Smulders was respectfully understated in a pale pink J. Mendel dress that couldn’t have fit her better.

Worth a mention for her chic faux-bob, Homeland star Carrie – I mean Claire Danes, who tried short hair on for the night thanks to stylist Peter Butler. My vote is for her to cut it, though this sleek look probably wouldn’t work well with her… crazy character.

Claire Danes

Another notable, though for her accessories, was the star of New Girl. If there’s ever an occasion to bust out the planet-sized cocktail jewelry, Zooey Deschanel found it on Sunday’s red carpet with Chanel’s tourmaline ring. Paired with her nail art, it’s not too serious – and given the stone’s color, the look matches both her personality and her aesthetic.

Still can’t stop thinking about Taylor Schilling’s Thakoon, though…

‘Weeds’ Showrunner Helming Netflix Series About Women’s Prison

In 1993, recent Smith College graduate Piper Kerman began a relationship with a heroin dealer. They ended things, she moved to New York with her boyfriend, began a career in communications, and then more than a decade after severing ties with her drug-dealing ex-girlfriend, she served 15 months in a minimum-security prison in Danbury, Connecticut after pleading guilty to charges of money laundering and drug trafficking. There’s definitely a story in there.

In 2011, a memoir about her experiences in prison, Orange is the New Black, was released, and Jenji Kohan, who is no stranger to working on shows where protagonists run into the law after creating the hit Showtime series Weeds, picked it up to adapt for a new Netflix series due out this summer. The show is a somewhat fictionalized version of Kerman’s experiences and appears to be a darkly comic drama in the vein of Weeds, with one-liners like, “It’s just like the Hamptons, only fucking horrible.”

Taylor Schilling of the unfortunate Atlas Shrugged adaptation stars as “Piper Chapman,” an avatar for Kerman, along with Jason Biggs as her boyfriend (now husband) Larry, and Laura Prepon appears as Alex, said drug-dealing ex-girlfriend. Not mentioned but sure to come will be lots of pop-culture discourse about the portrayal of America’s prison system on television.

Watch the trailer below; along with a video of Kerman talking about her memoir and the women she met while serving her time. Having the context of Kerman speaking about the work and her experiences makes the prospect of a fictionalized version all the more fascinating. Orange Is the New Black premieres on Netflix on July 11th.