When Orange Is the New Black first debuted on July 11, 2013 on Netflix, the Jenji Kohan-created series based on Piper Kerman’s 2010 memoir was a pioneer in a new wave of what we still call television. Three years and several seasons later, the Emmy- and SAG Award-winning prison-set show is back for its fourth season with 13 episodes launching June 17 – and to paraphrase Taylor Schilling’s Piper Chapman, “this is not other people’s sh*t.”

What this latest run of OITNB is, is a rawer and darker-than-before series that remains as fresh and binge-worthy as when it launched. With Schilling’s now jailhouse warlord Piper leading a sinewy ensemble, OITNB S4 is still a viewing priority in this age of so much good TV.

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Picking up right where Season 3 ended with a beat-down, the stories of the new episodes are at the now privatized, overcrowded and falling apart Litchfield Penitentiary sprawl. At the same time, in an ever-evolving testament to Kohan and the other writers’ skills and with no spoilers, the full plots remain specific, tough and, as I say in my video review above, sharp enough with one-liners to pull out the tactical laughs.

What makes all that even more important, is with its three-season renewal in February, OITNB is basically at its halfway point right now. A point at which many shows, even the really good ones, often step it back or reset, not push it forward this hard, and well. Add to that an outstanding performance by Taryn Manning this season, plus strong efforts by multiple Emmy winner Uzo Aduba, Dascha Polanco, Laura Prepon, Laverne Cox (who isn’t on screen nearly enough) and Lori Petty.

So, with just a couple of days before the new season’s debut, take a look at my video review of Season 4 and tell us if you’ll be binging.

This review was first posted on June 15, 2016