I think it's safe to assume Rosa (Barbara Rosenblat) is dead.

But what about Vee (Lorraine Toussaint), that poisonous drug lord and prison house bully who so thoroughly dominated the second season of Netflix's Orange Is the New Black?

Will Vee pop back up like a recurring nightmare?

That question is answered in the third season of Orange Is the New Black. All 14 episodes were set to be released on Friday.

When we last saw Rosa in the Season Two closer, the sexy bank robber turned aging cancer-ridden convict was driving Litchfield Penitentiary's dilapidated transport van into the sunset to the sounds of Blue Öyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper." And just before the screen went black - Pow! - she hit Vee, who had escaped the prison on foot.

Created by Weeds mastermind Jenji Kohan and based on ex-con memoirist Piper Kerman's monstrous best-seller of the same name, Orange Is the New Black is a brilliantly structured gem that follows the lives of the prisoners, guards, and administrators of a minimum-security federal prison in New York state.

After 26 episodes, it's as funny, moving, compelling, and fresh as ever.

What makes Orange so good is its refusal to be tied down by the constraints of a given genre - or to be tied up in the perspective of a single protagonist.

The ensemble cast is headed by star Taylor Schilling as Piper Chapman, a thinly veiled version of Kerman. She entered prison in the pilot episode to serve a 15-month sentence for money-laundering for the part she played a decade earlier in her then-girlfriend's international heroin-smuggling ring.

And Piper's back, all right - as is Alex Vause (Laura Prepon), Piper's sexy, manipulative, backstabbing ex, who got Piper into hot water in the first place. Last we saw her, Alex was out on parole after testifying in the trial of her West African drug lord boss.

Piper, whose fiancé, Larry (Jason Biggs), left her for her BFF, Polly (Maria Dizzia), last season, resumes her epic, if totally psychotic, love affair with Alex in the season opener. Little does Alex know she's been sent back to Litchfield after Piper told authorities Alex planned to skip town. Alex, distraught that she was stupid enough to be caught escaping, is comforted by Piper.

Best of all, the new season continues the tradition of telling the intricate, intimate stories of a whole array of extraordinary characters who surround Piper and drown out her neurotic tears.

Yes, back with us are Crazy Eyes (Uzo Aduba), Diaz the elder (Elizabeth Rodriguez), and Diaz her pregnant daughter (Dascha Polanco), literary lover Poussey (Samira Wiley), meth head and evangelical Christian Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning), and Russian émigré chef Red (Kate Mulgrew).

We even learn how Diaz Junior's baby's daddy, guard Bennett (Matt McGorry), lost his leg while serving in Afghanistan. And we see him meet his imprisoned girlfriend's utterly nutzoid extended family. Who could ask for more from a drama?

TELEVISION

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Orange Is the New Black

All 13 episodes of Season Three posted Friday on Netflix.

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