Though darker than ever, OITNB is still an essential platform for telling women's stories
When we left the inmates of Litchfield Prison at the end of the season 3, most of them had broken free from camp and were frolicking in a nearby lake. It was artistic, poignant and divisive: many found it cheesy, and too much of a departure from the show's trademark dark energy.
For those worrying that Orange is the New Black has gone a little far over to the sunshiney orange side, fear not: the energy and humour in this show is blacker than ever. Season 4 opens with the inmates being taken back to camp, only to be joined by an influx of new arrivals. It's overcrowded, and the balance of power has shifted once again (though, naturally, a certain blonde-haired protagonist is still pretending she's the badass of the joint).
The series has not introduced new characters to add new storylines, as many shows have done in the past. Rather, it uses the new inmates to develop existing ones: we see favourite characters, such as Piper (Taylor Schilling) and Red (Kate Mulgrew), interact in interesting ways with new people - their statuses shift in this unfamiliar community, and the hierarchy that was once taken for granted in Litchfield has been torn apart.
Martha Stewart-like figure Judy King (played excellently by Blair Brown) is a great tool for exposing some of the more political issues in the series, such as the prison's privatisation and the treatment of inmates, and for those of who are wondering about Alex, her fate is not ignored, but dealt with deftly.
It's easy to see why Netflix has commissioned another three seasons of this show. Though it can, at times be a little gut-punchingly dark, it remains above all witty, relevant and an essential platform for the telling of women's stories.
Orange is the New Black Season 4, Netflix, Fri 17 Jun.