I checked in on OITNB after we’d watched the first three episodes of the new season, and found the quality encouragingly up to the standards of Season One. Having finished the season, I’ll just say that I feel the same now as I did then. Since Jenji Kohan seems to have a good notion of what works best on the show, there isn’t a lot new here, just more of the same. But “the same” means “pretty good series”, so that’s a good thing.
I found Lorraine Toussaint’s Vee to be a good addition to the cast, although by season’s end I found her evil nature a bit too much. But Toussaint was always worth watching. The only other new character that comes to mind is Kimiko Glenn as Soso, a jabbering inmate that takes some getting used to, for the characters. She works as comic relief for the audience, until we get to know a bit more about her and quit laughing. Actually, that describes the character arcs of many of the people on the show … when we get to know them better (often via flashbacks), the surface first impression is replaced by something deeper. This works better with some characters than with others, but it rarely fails.
Again I’m repeating myself, but Orange Is the New Black does a terrific job showcasing a diverse cast. You’ll meet all kinds on this show, and they are well-served, although the “bad guys” are more cartoonish than they need to be.
I could note particular characters, but all it would be is a list of the actors I’ve especially enjoyed. So here’s a shout out to Uzo Aduba, my fave Natasha Lyonne, Yael Stone, Samira Wiley, Laverne Cox, Lea DeLaria, and the aforementioned Toussaint. Taylor Schilling gets a bit lost in all the fanfare for the big cast, but that’s unfair … she reveals Piper Chapman, the lead character in the series, gradually, and never goes for the easy route of being likable.
There is one thing hanging over the head of Orange Is the New Black, and that’s Weeds. Weeds was also Jenji Kohan’s work, and for three seasons it was delightfully off-center. Season Three ended in a manner that felt more like a series finale than a season finale, and to my taste, that’s where it should have ended. Instead, they used the finality of Season Three to reboot the series for Season Four, and it ended up running for eight seasons. I gave up somewhere along the way. I’m not sure why I think this might happen again, but I’m interested in seeing what happens in Season Four of OITNB, if it gets that far.
I will say this … I’ve never felt much connection between the two series. But the last scene of Season Two of Orange was very Weeds-like. Grade for Season Two: A-.