Let the marathon begin!
After a year-long wait, "Orange is the New Black" returns on Friday (June 12) with 14 new episodes and dozens of lovable inmates -- plus a couple of barely tolerable meth heads. But all yellow-teethed white-power groups aside, MTV News has screened the first few episodes of "OITNB" and can confirm that season three is funnier, sweeter, and sadder than ever before. (Though of course, every too-real powerful blow is quickly softened by Taystee quoting "Harry Potter," or Crazy Eyes' experimental theater.)
We wouldn't want to spoil too much of the action, but here's what we can tell you about what's ahead:
It's heartachingly sad.Netflix
Heartachingly sad doesn't sound too fun, but hear me out. For fans, Litchfield is just a fun and comforting trip we take every summer, but for the ladies serving long sentences, it's, you know, a literal prison. Vee coming in and starting an all-our war amped up the action last year, so now that she's gone and things have settled down, many of the women are having to deal with the noise in their own brains amidst the deafening quiet.
In episode one, for example, the prison holds a Mother's Day party -- and for characters like Sophia, Maria Ruiz, and Poussey, this is nothing but a stark reminder of all of the life and love they're missing out on. As fun as it is to watch the whole gang interact with children, it's also never lost on viewers that for them, this is a brief happiness mirage in the middle of a vast, shi--y desert of loneliness, uncertainty, and so on and so forth.
... but also really, really funny.Netflix
When "OITNB" gives you lump-in-the-throat pain like it did with the aforementioned Mother's Day bash, it eases the blow with everything from Taystee and Poussey holding a funeral for "books and printed media" to Nicky quoting "Friday Night Lights" in the context of buying heroin.
"Orange is the New Black" wouldn't be honest if it didn't cut into the levity by dealing with real issues like institutionalized racism, addiction, and depression, but it also wouldn't go down like a warm bowl of your mom's best soup if it wasn't hilarious. The mix of both is part of what makes this show so binge-able and lovable, and now that we've known these ladies for some time and have learned their various quirks, I'm happy to report that they're even more funny than they were back in season one.
Alex and Piper are back on.Netflix
You've probably heard by now that Jason Biggs' Larry is gone this season, but if not, here goes: Jason Biggs' Larry is gone this season.
Also, Laura Prepon is back for good this year as Alex, so viewers get a chance to see the show's two leading ladies together, without any Larry-sized obstacles in their way. I mean, they still have their own insane flaws and a gorgeous newcomer named Stella (played by the genetically blessed Ruby Rose) to contend with, but hey -- at least these two crazy kids finally have their chance.
It's more of an ensemble piece than ever before.Netflix
Did you want more of Piper trying juice cleanses in suburbia this year? Because if so, A, what is wrong with you, and B, sorry to break it to you, but many previously-minor characters get their time in the sun due to some really eye-opening flashbacks.
In fact, the show in general is showing a little less of Piper (she's barely in the first episode, which is the polar opposite of last year) as it truly becomes the ensemble dramedy that I suspect creator Jenji Kohan always wanted it to be -- which is not a dig at Taylor Schilling at all; because she's great in the slightly-reduced amount of scenes she has. It's just really, really nice to see characters like Flaca, Brooke, and everyone's feminist boyfriend Matt McGorry (Bennett) given some meatier material.
A major theme? Faith.Netflix
As Uzo Abuda told us last month, the ladies finding faith -- be it in a higher power, themselves, their loved ones or otherwise -- is the overall theme of the season, and the reason behind those votive candle ads you've been seeing on the subway.
One of the characters who is hardcore gunning for a new religious purpose will definitely, 100 percent surprise you, and so will another young lady, as she finally moves away from the religious insanity that previously consumed her. (Okay, yes, I'm talking about Pennsatucky.)
There's guard drama.Netflix
Between Mary Steenburgen showing up as Pornstache's mom (wanting to meet "her" grandchild, of course), Caputo struggling to keep the prison open after Fig left it in shambles, and just the general sad hot mess that is Bennett and Daya, there's a lot of action to appease the guard-enthusiast gang this year.
Lucky for us, when the Daya-Bennett-Pornstache's Mom triangle of heavy emotional insanity starts to get too real, in comes a new guard named Berdie (Marsha Stephanie Blake) to liven things up by creating a LITCHFIELD IMPROV CLASS.
I know. I know.
Someone major makes an exit.Netflix
It's painful to write this, but this is a minimum security prison, and you had to expect that our characters weren't going to stay here forever.
You probably wouldn't expect to lose a major player in the first act, but hey, sometimes it's okay to be wrong. Bring tissues.