ByPeter Flynn, writer at
An advocate for understanding the phenomenological wonder of the moving image. Also Tremors is the best.
Peter Flynn

Being a show that is (kind of) based on real events, Orange Is the New Black is in an interesting position. As with anything that adapts the lives of real people, you're gonna run out of material sooner or later. This goes against an integral element of broadcast television, which is the idea of the constant. So what should the show do as it approaches Season 3, if it's days sucking up to reality are numbered?

SPOILERS FOR REALITY (Yes, I know that's the stupidest thing I've ever said)

What's to be Done About Alex?

So basically how do I be Laura Prepon?
So basically how do I be Laura Prepon?

Ready to have your minds blown? Some of the stuff in Orange is the New Black didn't actually happen! I know right! I also hear that actors sometimes read words from paper, and I'm expected to think it's real!

One element of Orange is the New Black that plays into this monumental revelation is the fact that Piper Kerman actually wasn't doing time in the same prison as Catherine Wolters (the woman Alex Vause is based on). That's a funny notion, knowing that one of the most compelling elements of a favourite show is completely made up. Suddenly, adhering to reality doesn't seem all that important. In the original memoirs, Piper is only reunited with "Alex" towards the end of her sentence when testifying against the drug lord that roped them into the whole mess. This has echoes of how the first episode of Season 1 ends, with Piper suddenly realising that she and Alex must come to terms with each other (one of the best moments in the whole show), only a lot less spectacular.

What's to be done with Alex, then, if the woman she's based on played a much smaller role in the memoirs? It seems we can only guess, for Jenji Kohan might exploit this further in Season 3. This could mean we see some spectacular retconning, or it could mean something else...

Larry's Back in the Picture!

Jason Biggs looking at his IMDB page.
Jason Biggs looking at his IMDB page.

Don't you just love the image of Jason Biggs sitting in an empty room thinking about if he'll be remembered as anything more than that guy who once did it with a pie? Suddenly, his agent bursts down his door (he doesn't have a phone in this scenario) and yells "Jason, they need your character on Orange is the New Black again. We can stave off people thinking about the pie scene for just a little longer!"

Jason Biggs gets to play one of the most interesting roles in the show, for Piper's relationship with Larry is at once the biggest deviation and adherence to the source material. For example, Piper's sexuality in the show is painted as contentious for Larry in the boorish threatened boyfriend sense, yet in actuality, the issue was much more lax. This is helped by the fact that Piper actually didn't do time alongside Catherine Wolters. Once again, the show has a decision to make. Either follow through, and have Piper and Larry end up married as is the case, or fabricate more drama with the now completely figurative Alex. Given the quality of what the show's been making up, I'm actually okay with the latter.

A Shift From Piper's Perspective

Let's be honest. Was anyone's favourite element of Orange is the New Black Season 2 really Piper's storyline? It would almost certainly be the power plays between Vee and Red, and the heartbreaking alliances made by characters like Taystee. The memoirs themselves were part of Kerman's efforts to document real people within a system that silences them, so why would the fictionalised Piper Chapman serve any different function? Show runner, Jenji Kohan has posited Piper as her "Trojan horse", using the well documented writings of a privileged white woman to get green lit a show that is essentially about the trials of marginalised groups. Make of that what you will, but it brings up an interesting question. Does Orange is the New Black even need Piper?

Piper Kerman only served 13 months in prison. That's a short window to convey much bigger stories that exist outside her incarceration. Must we really abandon the perspectives of characters like Taystee, Poussey, Suzanne, Sophia and Red just because the sentence of our protagonist is up? If Piper really is so important, there could be one solution...

Sticking to Piper Outside Prison

Piper Kerman fighting the system!
Piper Kerman fighting the system!

In 2014, Piper Kerman testified at a hearing to reassign solitary confinement. Unlike her character, she was never subjected to "The Shu", yet campaigns against its implementation to this day. The injustices of the US prison system is a focal point in Orange is the New Black, and what's more is that it's protagonist actively plays a role in combating it. This means the show could theoretically follow Piper's story for years after her release while keeping with the characters still behind bars. The conflict is there to be had, so why not?

If Jenji Kohan takes my ideas for Season 3 to heart, she could even work in a plot about Piper writing her memoirs, getting real meta and basically remaking Adaptation. Then season 5 could be about making a TV show based on those memoirs and WOOAHHHHHHH!!!


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