Spoiler alert: Don’t continue to read if you haven’t finished the season.
Season 3 of “Orange is the New Black” is the best one yet, because there’s a lot less Piper (Taylor Schilling), the protagonist of the first two seasons. Initially, Piper was the reason many of us watched the show. Middle-class and well-educated, she entered prison life wide-eyed and vulnerable in season one, and it was entertaining to watch her adapt to her new surroundings. But the show took a very different turn this season, sidelining its former heroine, and developing other underused characters, a move for the better.
While the focus of the show remains on the other characters, Piper’s transformation is startling. In the little we do see of her, rapid changes take place, and she is transformed into an almost psychopathic, self-obsessed criminal. With such a strong cast of intriguing and complex characters, “Orange is the New Black” would be better off without her altogether.
Here’s three reasons why Piper should be killed off next season:
1. Piper’s Tired Trope of ‘Poor Little Rich Girl’ Is So Annoying
Piper gripes about not having a place to live or a job when she gets released, but we know her parents and brother will likely help her get back on her feet. When others tease her for being raised better-off than most of the other inmates, Piper states that she was often lonely growing up. Classic poor-little-rich Piper, complaining about her privileged upbringing in upper-middle-class America, in the midst of prisoners of mostly impoverished backgrounds.
When Dayanara (Dascha Polanco) contemplates an adoption by Pornstache’s affluent mother to provide her baby with a better life than one she could afford, she asks Piper if being raised with money made her happier. To which clueless and unfeeling Piper responds that money only makes people happy up to $75,000, according to some mumbo-jumbo study. Piper’s unfeeling responses to others’ agonizing dilemmas wrought on by poverty just highlights how she really doesn’t get it.
2. She Becomes a Monster Who Likes to Control Other’s Freedom
Piper becomes a monster who likes to control other’s freedom, particularly her lovers: Alex and Stella. Last season, she told Alex’s parole officer that her sweetie had a gun, which she had acquired for protection against her former drug-dealing boss. This season, Alex is under Piper’s thumb for a while, and initially lies to her that “the system” caused her return to prison.
But when Alex (Laura Prepon) becomes paranoid, Piper ditches her for a new flame, Stella (Ruby Rose). In the final episode, Piper places contraband in Stella’s bunk just days before her release, which extends her sentence and lands her in a maximum-security facility. Just when her lovers get a taste of freedom, Piper likes to yank it away, forcing them to be with her or rely on her mercy.
3. She Is Totally Self-Obsessed
Piper’s religion is herself, an attitude juxtaposed with the other women’s beliefs. Towards the end of the season, the afterlife and eternity become prominent themes the inmates reflect on. Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore) converts to Judaism to escape the fears of hell her parents’ Protestant beliefs continually threatened her with. In a flashback, Big Boo (Lea DeLaria) gets electrocuted and brought back to life. When she is resuscitated, she announces there is no God or heaven, which puts a smile on her face. Others in the show form a cult around quiet Norma (Annie Golden), because they believe she has performed miracles. Her image even appears in a slice of toast.
During the final episode, a maintenance crew takes down a section of fence to repair it, Norma spies the opportunity first, and flees to freedom. Dozens of women follow her to a nearby lake, where they kick off their shoes and swim. Norma is praised and credited for the fence vulnerability, which gives them temporary freedom.
Meanwhile, Piper is oblivious to the prison break en-mass. She is alone in the prison’s chapel, giving herself a white-ink tattoo of an infinity symbol, which Stella had told her was too cliche. It is as if she is branding herself with the divine attribute of infinitude, part self-flogging and part self-worship. Piper sacrifices herself to a cult of self-obsession and cliches, while the others enjoy a freedom that is rooted in a vague sense of afterlife: there probably isn’t a heaven or a hell, and Norma is a miracle-worker like Jesus. I hope this post serves as a prayer that Holy Norma will miraculously kill Piper off, and let us continue to get better acquainted with the other characters in the next season.