Worst to Best
Orange Is The New Black
Season Three

17th October 2018 marked the announcement that Orange is the New Black's seventh season in 2019 would be its last. In acknowledgement of this news, the Anorak Zone looks back over the only season yet to be covered on this site...


The first five seasons of the programme are available via Amazon.
WARNING: This article is about a series that's aimed at an adult audience. As a result, some of you may find the themes, quotes and images disturbing.

13 Fake It Till
You Fake It
Some More (3.5)

After two excellent first seasons, hopes were so high for season three that it almost couldn't help but be an anti-climax. Watching it a second time for this article, it's actually far better than it first seemed, albeit inconsequential... season three isn't bad, more just crushingly disappointing. The lowest-ranked episode here perhaps doesn't deserve to be as it is, at the very least, average television, and there's a pleasing circular narrative where Flaca ends up in prison after trying to escape a life behind a sewing machine... only for the closing moments to place her in front of another one. It's the kind of ironic touch that the series does so well, and, while the episode ranks last here simply because one has to, it could easily be another five or six places higher.

12 Empathy Is A
Boner Killer (3.3)

Nick Jones wrote eight episodes for the series, and is usually something of a divisive presence, at least on this site, with his two-episodes-per-season usually seeing one of them ranked fairly low, the other quite high. (For the record, his overall standing is an average of 4th/5th place for his highest-ranked episode and 10th place for his lowest. Season three marks his lowest entries on both counts).
     Empathy is a Boner Killer contains Jones's worst excesses, with dialogue that veers too far towards comic to be truly believable. Caputo talking about bee extinction, Healy failing at banter, or Luschek admitting to Caputo in front of prisoners that he used to smoke crystal meth are moments of pure unbelievability. There's also Angie and Leanne's increasingly rapid descent into one-dimensionality, a downturn turn that reached its nadir with season five. Ultimately the sole moment of genuine reflection occurs with the observation "A pretty face is worth a thousand legs."

11 Bed Bugs And
Beyond (3.2)

The history of Orange is the New Black is littered with dead-end narratives there to plug a gap.... Daya's constipation.... Piper's newsletter... however, this is probably the first time since season one's chicken hunt that an entire storyline is based around such time-wasting antics. Here the whole episode sees bed bugs blight the prisoners, with no apparent other reason than to put most of the cast in their underwear.
     The flashback story sees Bennett on duty as a soldier. Although the season opener contained various shorter moments, one of which contained Healy and his mother, this is the first episode to really give a contained backstory to a staff member, as opposed to one of the prisoners. Actor Matt McGory had earned a leading role in the drama series How To Get Away With Murder, a programme still running to date, which necessitated his leaving OITNB. As a result the nice (albeit somewhat spineless) Bennett takes the unexpected decision to bail on Daya and his entire career, driving his way out of her life and the whole series.

10 Tongue-Tied (3.7)

Tongue-Tied pushes the series further towards the slapstick antics of later years, with laughs that arise not naturally from the situation, but artificially generated hi-jinks, such as a naive young trainee guard who accidentally pepper sprays himself. It's not without its plusses in the capable hands of the cast, with Caputo (Nick Sandow) ably barking lines like "I'm gonna chalk this up to mental retardation", but it's a step into some parallel universe in regards the reality of the show.
      Norma gets the flashback story here, an unlikely concoction made up of Easy Rider aesthetic, some terrible wigs and even more terrible green screen for a road trip. No one has asked why Norma is mute but was able to deliver a charming rendition of I Saw The Light at the end of the first season. (We know she's not really mute, but do they?) Here the "cult of Norma" - which has been alluded to right from the first episode of the season - enters its fullest state, a silly time-filling joke that somehow became an entire season arc.

9 Mother's Day (3.1)

The season opener is the shortest of the run, lasting just over 50 minutes. It contains scenes of variable worth, and is based around the prison having a children's visit day, complete with attractions... a bit like an episode of UK sitcom Hi-De-Hi, only with the Yellow Coats all played by heroin addicts. OINTB largely steers away from full on sentiment, so it's a nice touch that the most tear-jerking moment comes when Boo congratulates Pennsatucky on her abortions, meaning she hadn't brought any more "scum" into the world.
     In all, while a second viewing of season three shows that it's probably better than it initially seemed, it's very much a reaction to the intense season two, where the violence is toned down and the whimsy greatly amped up. At one point in this episode Frieda remarks "It's a whole new world around here. Kinder, gentler Litchfield"... it's a philosophy that underpins the whole of this largely inessential third year.

8 Fear, And Other
Smells (3.8)

Fear, and Other Smells leaves the series almost completely devoid of anything approaching actual drama. Not that OINTB should be po-faced, but rather than organic humour, we have such questionable developments as the Cult of Norma, the Time Humper Chronicles and Piper channelling Tim Brooke-Taylor from The Goodies to give a "rousing speech" about vaginal discharge, in what may well be the worst scene in the entire history of the programme.
      The flashback of the episode is some two-dimensional nonsense about Alex and drug dealers, with an unusually below-par performance from Laura Prepon. However, in an episode that desperately needs stand out scenes, it contains two of the most memorable: Caputo's "warden" song (Sideboob are actually a real band, and it shows with their "acting"), and arguably the best-ever cliffhanger ending/use of end titles song. Just a shame that this intriguing subplot was ultimately a complete dead end.

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