By Vanessa McKenzie, Photo Editor/Multimedia Editor

Season four of “Orange Is The New Black” dropped June 17 on Netflix, exactly one year after the release of season three. For those who watched last season, it ended on a happier note, with the women of Litchfield prison running through a large hole in a fence to a lake. Season four started where it left off in the previous season. The first episode recanted what had been happening, but quickly introduced us to the new storyline that would play out this season. As with the other seasons, this season had a total of 13 episodes. The tone of this season was significantly darker than other seasons.

The same humor that was present in the other seasons was there. Quite a few laughs were to be had this season, but compared to the other seasons, they really focused on inequality and other heavy topics, such as discrimination against LGBT people and people of color, mental illness, and overpopulation on jails and prisons. The writers seemed adamant on getting under the skin of their audience and making them think.

Another difference from the previous seasons is the focus on more minor characters. In previous episodes, the characters of Piper (Taylor Schilling) and Alex (Laura Prepon) were heavily focused on, along with a few of the other main characters. One character in particular that was eye-catching and different and was introduced back in season two, Lolly Whitehill (Lori Petty), received a lot more screen time, and even a full backstory as to how she ended up in Litchfield. Unlike the other seasons, which focused heavily on intellectual disabilities, the writers decided to focus on mental illness. Lolly suffers with what is believed to be schizophrenia. Sam Healy (Michael J. Harney) comes in with more of a past as well, befriending Lolly due to the fact his mother suffered from schizophrenia and believing he can help her.

New characters are also introduced this season with the incoming of the new inmates, but the writers stick to focusing on characters we are already familiar with, choosing to make the new inmates extras within the season with only a few new people receiving some screen time. Two of the main characters, Alex and Piper, still get much screen time, with Alex specifically getting a new storyline that adds intensity and anxiety to the overall storyline.

With all of the tropes this season, many past viewers decided to bow out and skip this season due to spoilers that were posted on the internet. Having decided to watch it and avoid spoilers, it hit hard when the season came to a close. I learned quickly of the spoilers and was left in shock and speechless by what happened. Viewers who refuse to watch the new season claim it is because the writers went too far and that they were done with the show. It is completely up to the individual if they wish to watch or forgo.

There are many reasons to take the time to watch this season of “Orange Is The New Black,” as the subjects touched upon are something we deal with in everyday life. The show makes you think and showcases many different important issues that not everyone may be aware of. Despite this season taking a dark turn, there are many great reasons to catch it or add it to your watch list for future viewing. It is not an easy watch, but it is worth the time if you can handle difficult themes. The show can be streamed via Netflix and is available now