We’re heading back behind bars on Friday, June 17 when Orange Is The New Black premieres its fourth season. The Jenji Kohan–helmed drama (it’s officially a drama now, in case you were wondering) has earned all kinds of awards and inspired even more feminist thinkpieces thanks to its brutally honest depiction of our justice system and how it often fails women. As time has gone by, the show — which began as the narrative of a privileged white woman who suddenly finds herself labeled a criminal— has morphed into a striking commentary on everything from race relations and sexist hierarchies to body positivity and how we view female inmates.
Season three alone saw the show’s main character Piper (Taylor Schilling) evolve into the uncompromising overlord of an illegal prison panty business; inmate suicide attempts; drug and alcohol abuse; religious cults and conversions; the birth of a baby (behind bars); sci-fi erotica; and the rape of one female prisoner at the hands of her male prison guard.
With so much going on thanks to the show’s commitment to spotlighting more of its ensemble cast, it’s easy to forget some of the storylines that were left unresolved when season three came to a close. We’ve rounded up some of the biggest questions left unanswered that may play into all of the drama set to take place when season four kicks off.
The Fallout From That Season Three Ending?
Season three had the best ending a show has ever seen. With the fence down, the inmates at Litchfield were given free rein. But instead of escaping prison life, the women decided to frolic in the lake next door. Uplifting and heartbreakingly funny, that final scene sums up everything that’s great about OITNB. But going into season four, there’s definitely going to be consequences for that tiny moment of freedom. With Warden Joe Caputo (Nick Sandow) already scrambling to cover up that mishap with escaped inmate Angie (Julie Lake), expect him to dole out some punishment to the ladies who decided to get a taste of what life is like on the outside.
How Much Trouble Is Piper In This Time?
Piper is arguably the most disliked character on OITNB. On a series filled with women of color and LGBTQ characters dealing with issues stemming from discrimination, systemic racism, poverty, lack of education and abuse, it’s hard to feel bad for the rich white girl who landed behind bars after she smuggled drugs for her girlfriend. Still, Schilling’s been able to work wonders with the short straw she’s drawn as evidenced in season three when Chapman, who’s slowly morphed from privileged, socialite to a hardened criminal with a deteriorating moral compass, launched her own money scheme — a panty-laundering business within the prison. Unfortunately for Pipes, she pissed off a few of her employees by not valuing their work effort — and by sending Stella (Ruby Rose) to max. We’re not sure if Rose’s character will be one of the new additions to Litchfield now that the prison facilities have merged but that doesn’t mean Piper’s line of enemies isn’t still a mile long. The Latinas, including Blanca (Laura Gomez) and Maria Ruiz (Jessica Pimentel), have it out for her — and no one should ever want them as enemies.
Are Alex’s Days Numbered?
Most of season three saw Chapman’s ex-lover Alex Vause (Laura Prepon) nursing an extreme case of paranoia. She wrongly believed Lolly (Lori Petty) was trying to shank her after she testified against kingpin Kubra in order to secure a get out of jail free card. While Lolly proved to simply be a nut job, Alex wasn’t mistaken in thinking her days were numbered after she narced. Season three left off with her facing down Kubra’s hit man (now a prison guard) in a greenhouse. Since Prepon has been revealing quite a bit about what’s in store for her character’s relationship with Chapman in season four, it’s probably safe to assume we won’t find her bleeding out on the floor of the plant nursery when OITNB returns, but something certainly went down in there.
How Will Litchfield Handle Its Overcrowding Problem?
Season three ended with an already over-crowded, understaffed Litchfield welcoming inmates from the maximum security penitentiary down the road. In season four, we’ll see how our current crop deals with the double-bunking invasion and with the addition of a new order of prison guards who seem intent on pushing
punishing them to their limit. Kohan told Variety that this latest season focuses on political agendas, current events and the corporatization of the prison so expect plenty of issues to arise from the growing head count. Here’s hoping Natasha Lyonne’s Nicky returns and resolves things with Red (Kate Mulgrew) and Judy King (Blair Brown) — Poussey’s Paula Deen-esque idol — stirs things up in the kitchen.
Will Sophia Be Stuck In SHU?
Last we saw of Laverne Cox’s Sophia, she was sent packing to SHU after an argument with Gloria (Selenis Leyva) caused many of the inmates to target her over her gender identity. With Cox now fronting a new series on CBS, the verdict’s still out on how much screen time she’s getting in season four. Hopefully this isn’t a repeat of what happened last season with Nicky being shipped to max, never to be heard from again. Cox has thrown fans a few crumbs, saying this latest season will highlight the issues transgender inmates face. (As long as we get more vagina diagrams and prison fashion tutorials, we’re good.)
Is More Baby Drama In Store?