The fact that Orange Is The New Black made it to a fifth season is a minor miracle in many ways. While in 2017 it can feel like Netflix is releasing a new series or a new season of a popular show every single week, when OITNB premiered in 2013 it was only one of a small handful of original series on the streaming platform. It was an ambitious, progressive show on a platform that was attempting to redefine television, and five years later the series is going strong, so it's no surprised that Orange Is The New Black will return for Season 6.
In fact, the show has already been renewed through Season 7, showing just how much faith Netflix has in the program. Season 6 will likely return in June of 2018 as it has for the past four seasons, so sadly the wait will be lengthy. As reported by Variety, in early 2016, Netflix signed a three-season renewal for the series and the fifth season is the first of three guaranteed seasons of Orange Is The New Black. Being freed from the burden of worrying about cancellation through Season 7, the show now has license to take even bigger risks and take the show in new, bold directions through 2019. Here are a few ways that Orange Is The New Black could take the story in new directions in Seasons 6 and 7.
In past episodes, Orange Is The New Black has briefly visited locations outside of Litchfield, visiting employees of the prison outside of work or checking in on characters that have been moved to max security facilities. With two more guaranteed seasons, OITNB has plenty of time to explore other facets of the institution of prison and possibly visit other parts of its world for longer periods of time. The show will always be about Litchfield at its core, but hopefully the show will be able to take a few more field trips in future seasons other than flashbacks.
OITNB has always had a fairly concrete structure. Nearly every episode follows the events of the prison, while showing flashbacks to a specific character to show how they ended up where they are now. The series has played around with that structure a little in the past, but as the show goes on it seems the writers are getting more playful. The announcement that Season 5 will be set entirely in three days only proves that OITNB is interested in taking new risks with the way it tells stories.
Orange Is The New Black has always been about the characters more than anything else. It touches on issues of race, sexuality, gender, capitalism, violence, mental health, addiction, religion, and the prison-industrial complex, but all of those themes are tied directly to the characters. The show's flashback-heavy structure means that most characters that have existed since the beginning of the series have been explored in full, and introducing some new blood may allow the show to tell new stories and find new dynamics to keep the show fresh.
Orange Is The New Black started out as a show about one scared, privileged woman who gets sent to prison and has morphed into a wonderful tapestry of dozens of intertwined stories and characters. The show's popularity is a testament not just to the popularity of Netflix, but the world's willingness to engage with stories that may not have been told on television even a decade prior. The fact that the show has been able to grow and improve over its first five years shows that Netflix absolutely did the right thing by ensuring that the series would reach Seasons 6 and 7 — and I can't wait to see what happens next.