12:00pm PT by Rick Porter
8 Questions 'Orange Is the New Black' Left Unanswered at the End of Season 3
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Orange Is the New Black's third season.]
The most memorable sequence at the end of Orange Is the New Black's third season was a joyous one: The inmates of Litchfield frolicking in the lake beyond the prison fence in a moment of complete freedom. The women know they won't have long, and they eventually will be headed back to their bunks, but that sequence is one of the most uplifting on any series in recent memory.
And, based on the closing shot of the season that immediately follows it, it won't last long. At all. As MCC moves in new beds and new inmates, it dawns on viewers that there are a whole lot of loose plot threads hanging at the end of season three. Here are some of the biggest.
What's the fallout from the breakout?
It will be interesting to see how the Litchfield powers that be deal with the mass breakout. The inmates are already due for some cold reality when they return to find their bunks doubled up, but is it realistic to punish dozens of prisoners who weren't actively trying to escape? It seems unlikely that the show will morph into SHU Is the New Black.
Will Alex survive?
The last viewers see of Alex (Laura Prepon), she's getting ready to fight for her very life in the greenhouse while the others are all running toward the lake. Kubra's hitman has landed a job as a guard, proving Alex both paranoid and right, and Prepon sells the heck of out Alex's disbelief and fear in the scene. For what it's worth, Prepon told The Hollywood Reporter before season three launched that she's seen the first two scripts of season four, which she called "amazing." Is she in them? That remains to be seen.
Can Caputo survive?
Caputo's (Nick Sandow) tenure as Litchfield's administrator began with two escapes. He somehow kept his job after that, but with a mass breakout and a guard walkout at his feet now, will the corporate overlords at MCC give him any more rope? The guy clearly cares about his job, but his failure to catch even the smallest break could prove his undoing.
Has Piper gone full Heisenberg?
Piper's (Taylor Schilling) scheme to get Stella (Ruby Rose) sent to max for stealing her panty-business money would make Walter White tip his porkpie hat in respect. For all her talk about being a benevolent dictator, that was one ruthless move. It's been fascinating to see how prison culture has hardened Piper, but she's still showing some human feelings toward her fellow inmates.
Will Sophia get out of the SHU?
Presumably the answer is yes — from a practical standpoint, isolating Laverne Cox's character for too long wouldn't necessarily jibe with the show's larger narrative. Here's hoping, as Cox has said, it at least shines a light on how transgender inmates are often treated in the name of protection.
Have we seen the last of O'Neill, Bell and the other veteran guards?
This one could break either way, though again, practical concerns may dictate not introducing still more new faces among the guards while the show is shuffling in new inmates (see below). Also, let's hope not: Their mordant commentary on life under MCC, particularly that of O'Neill (Joel Marsh Garland), was among the comedic highlights of this season.
Just how big can this cast grow?
Blair Brown's Judy King seems destined for a prominent role in season four, but what about all those orange-clad women in the final scene? At least some of them will end up bunking with established characters, which would expand an already breathtakingly large ensemble. OITNB has done an incredible job thus far of servicing its many, many characters, but asking viewers want to invest in another crop of new faces could be a tough sell.
Do we have to start thinking about an endgame?
It's now summer in the show's timeline, meaning Piper is near or past the halfway point of her original 15-month sentence (she makes a remark in the finale about having "six to 12 months" more time). Not a lot of time passes episode to episode or between seasons, but the clock seems to have started ticking.
Orange Is the New Black season four premieres June 17 on Netflix. Follow along with all of THR's coverage here.