It's hard to believe, but this third season of "Orange is the New Black" - at least the five episodes I've viewed - represents the series at its absolute best. The first two seasons of "OITNB" were incredibly strong, featuring one of the most diverse and compelling ensemble casts, all of which made it one of the most original series to come along in some time.

It’s hard to believe, but this third season of “Orange is the New Black” — at least the five episodes I’ve viewed — represents the series at its absolute best. The first two seasons of “OITNB” were incredibly strong, featuring one of the most diverse and compelling ensemble casts, all of which made it one of the most original series to come along in some time.

What’s most interesting about Season 3 is that creator/showrunner Jenji Kohan (and her team of writers) didn’t do anything too drastic to stir up the relationships and conflicts of the women at Litchfield. The storytelling is just so well-done and tight, moving from character to character and giving most, if not all, of the expansive cast strong character development.

The premiere episode “Mother’s Day” does an excellent job of building off last season, while creating new avenues to explore. I loved that even though Piper (Taylor Schilling) has a big story development — Alex (Laura Prepon) is back at Litchfield — they’re only on screen for a small percentage of the episode.

“OITNB” does more of what it did so well in Season 2, continuing to grow the depth of the women in this prison, either through flashbacks or current trials. We get to know more about, and see some big changes for, Big Boo (Lea DeLaria), Nicky (Natasha Lyonne) and new man-in-charge Caputo (Nick Sandow).

Season 3 also introduces a couple new characters in counselor Berdie (Marsha Stephanie Blake) and Stella (Ruby Rose). Rose’s Stella has already created some internet buzz, but I haven’t seen her introduction yet. Berdie is a nice addition who gives the Litchfield staff some much-needed prudence.

There are also some big changes happening at Litchfield that will probably serve as the main narrative push of the season. I’ll avoid spoilers, but everyone will be affected — much more than when the prison gets infested with bed bugs in the second episode.

“OITNB” has traditionally jumped out the gate with good episodes only to finish weaker toward the end (especially with the finales). I suspect that won’t be the case this season because the series is really hitting its stride.

Photo courtesy of Netflix