Since its 2013 premiere, Netflix original series “Orange is the New Black” has walked a line between drama and comedy, effortlessly weaving quick-witted and crass humor into meaningful messages about America’s flawed prison system. On Friday, June 17th, the show’s fourth season will premiere on Netflix. What can we expect from what critics are calling the darkest season in show history?
With Litchfield making huge changes to become a for-profit prison, this dynamic should be more interesting than ever. The privatization of Litchfield creates a prison with more inmates, and a greater number of unprepared and potentially homicidal guards. As we saw at the end of season three, the new guards are not only unqualified, but one particular guard has it out for Alex Vause.
Past OITNB episodes have explored how racism easily divides and defines the prison population. Nick Sandow, who plays Joe Caputo, had a few words to say to theGrio about our prison system: “The system is really, in my eyes, is not broken. It’s doing what it’s designed to do, and that’s to put more people and people of color behind bars, which is a scary thought, but I feel like it’s a continuation of a very ugly history.”
The rise of the Black Lives Matter movement will raise the topic of police violence and how it intersects with race. “What was going on in the real world helped us and fueled us as actors and gave us a responsibility to tell the story right,” said Samira Wiley, who plays Poussey Washington.
Trans rights have been a hot topic of late, with recent bathroom laws prohibiting transgender people from using restrooms that correlate to their gender. However, OITNB is ahead of the game. Previous seasons have explored the struggles of the transgender population in prisons through our favorite stylist, Sophia Burset (Laverne Cox). When we last saw Burset, she was thrown in solitary “for her own protection” after she was targeted by a few Latina inmates due to transphobic rumors.
“People should know that solitary confinement is cruel and unusual punishment,” Cox told theGrio. “People who have been in solitary for just two days have psychological and mental ramifications for the rest of their lives.” This season, we’ll be able to see how the prison handles her unfair treatment in this time of transition, as well as how her lengthy stay in solitary has changed Sophia Burset.
It’s never all drama and tragedy in “Orange is the New Black.” Though the tone will be darker this season, it is always softened with outlandish humor and poignant interactions between inmates. This season, fictional TV star Judy King (Blair Brown) is making an unexpected arrival to Litchfield. At the last minute, the Martha Stewart-inspired character is shown trying to check into Litchfield after being arrested for tax evasion.
Another plot point to look forward to is the blossoming romance between Poussey Washington and Brook Soso (Kimiko Glenn). They bonded at the end of season three when Poussey saved her from a suicidal overdose. Poussey welcomed her into the black community, giving her a much needed support system, and this season, we will be able to see where it leads.
Season four is bound to continue the OITNB tradition of using irreverent humor to relate serious issues to a diverse public. Without a doubt, its fresh take on the prison narrative will entertain this season.