Prison films are usually a tough watch. This is where Orange is the New Black differs from the rest. Yes, it is touching and sad in certain parts and gritty in others, but for the most part it is warm and funny. Odd considering the women in this prison live very depressing lives with their every movement monitored and regulated. Somehow the writers have for the most part brought lightness into the whole mess while still instilling it with realism.

Piper Chapman (played by Taylor Schilling) is an upper middle class woman who has pretty much sailed through life. That is until the drug running she did for former girlfriend Alex (played by Laura Prepon) comes to bite her in the butt. By that I mean she is sentenced to fifteen months in prison. It comes as a shock to her fianc Larry (played by Jason Biggs). They decide to make the best of it and promise to carry on with their plans to be married once she is out.

That is a bit na ve as jail is tough. A real adjustment for Piper. She has to deal with offending the woman in charge of the kitchen Red (played by Kate Muldrew), a slightly unhinged woman named Crazy Eyes (played by Uzo Aduba) who believes Piper is her wife, a ultra-religious woman (played by Taryn Manning) who wants to do her harm and the fact that her ex Alex is in the same prison. Piper is not going to come out of this the same woman.

As the series goes on it settles into its groove. It now is very aware of what kind of series it wants to be and how the characters should be developing. As such the series is now a little darker and violent than it started off being with characters having dimensions that were not previously there. Also Piper Chapman (played by Taylor Schilling) is no longer the focal point of the series thus allowing more room for other characters. What is completely new is the focus upon the politics of running a prison. Minds behind the series are really trying to keep things fresh.

Two new characters are introduced in season three. One is played by Lori Petty and the other by Ruby Rose. One is a minor character, yet very interesting, while the other plays a bigger role. Piper has also adapted to her environment…very well, actually. Things like bed bugs, higher paying jobs, religion, someone going into labour, erotica, hate crime, a Mother’s Day fair, and drama class all contribute to the storylines.

What some might find disconcerting is how after high energy seasons one and two the series has settled into a more steady pace. Some might fight the slight slowing down of action and storylines a little jarring. It does take some getting used to, though that does not mean that it is boring. Fret not as there are still some surprises and wildness.

The strength of the series is character development. It allows each to grow without forcing them upon you. They don’t manipulate you into liking them. All have faults while still being likable. Very human. Starts a little slow then picks up pace to get really engaging as it goes on.

Special Features:

  • I Wasn’t Ready – Audio Commentary with Producers Jenji Kohan, Tara Herrmann and Mark Burley
  • New Kid on the Cell Block
  • It’s Tribal
  • Can’t Fix Crazy – Audio Commentary with Producers Jenji Kohan, Tara Herrmann and Mark Burley
  • Mother Hen: Red Runs the Coop
  • Prison Rules
  • Gag Reel
  • Audio commentaries with cast and crew (on episodes “Hugs Can Be Deceiving” and “You Also Have a Pizza”)
  • “Back Before the Potato Sack”
  • “Orange Peeled”
  • “A Walk Around the Block”
  • “The VEE.I.P. Treatment”
  • The Classified File: Getting to Know the Cast
  • A Tittin’ and A Hairin’ – Audio Commentary with Writer/Co-Producer Lauren Morelli and Co-Executive Producer Tara Herrmann
  • Trust No Bitch – Audio Commentary with Writer/Producer Jim Danger Gray and Director Phil Abraham
  • Sophia: The New Beginning of Laverne Cox
  • Tour of Litchfield
  • 72 Hours In 6 Months: Stories of the Season
  • Audio Commentaries on Episodes Tattoo You and Storm-y Weather