Few shows are as truly ensemble as Orange Is the New Black, and even fewer can say they’ve done right by so many of those characters despite having to juggle a few dozen plotlines. So it’s still shocking to see when a character like Boo, who’s been around since the beginning, is only now the subject of an episode’s flashbacks.
And like so many episodes have done before, Episode 4 did a tremendous job of completely breaking down what we know about a character and building them back up with a much more complex background.
Boo’s flashbacks begin when she’s still a young girl. She seems to have come to terms with her sexuality, but her mother, refuses to accept the outward signs that her daughter is someone other than she expected—a.k.a., not straight. Boo had short hair even when she was young, and anything frilly would never earn her seal of approval, but her mother wants her to wear a, as Boo sees it, needlessly girly dress. She should be allowed to be who she is, wear what she feels comfortable in, but her father convinces her that the pain of not being herself for one day is worth the joy it will bring her mother in the longterm.
Unfortunately for Boo’s mother, whatever she hoped to accomplish with the dress doesn’t last. Boo outside of Litchfield was very much the Boo we know her to be inside the prison, including a temper that would make even the hottest headed celebrities blush with embarrassment. It comes from a good place—she wants to defend her and her date when a boy calls them a slur for being lesbians—but her aggression can be a little much to handle.
She eventually found love in her life, someone accepted the good, bad, and hilarious of Boo. But her bliss, inevitably, is disrupted when a guilty conscience leads her to visit her dying mother in the hospital. She never fully got over Boo becoming someone other than the daughter she wanted. But Boo isn’t living her life for her mother, she’s living it for herself, and so when she shows up to the hospital, the point of contention is, of course, her clothing. Her father wishes she could have dressed more feminine for her mother.
And that sends Lea DeLaria into an absolutely beautiful and heartbreaking speech. Boo declares that she’s not wearing a costume to be something she’s not—she’s owning up and proudly broadcasting who she is. She’s not about to let someone, not even her own mother, tell her that’s wrong. It’s not the life she intends to leave. Boo is Boo, and she (and I) wouldn’t have it any other way.
The story mirrors Boo’s time in Litchfield, where, after learning Pennsatuckey scores cash donations from religious members of the Eastboro Church (talk about thinly veiled commentary) supporting her attempts to improve her life.
Boo decides that’s exactly what she needs, and so she’s going to pretend she’s trying to convert her life as well. Walk a better path, renounce her lesbian ways and become a follower of the (well-paying) lord. She even gets her hair done, reminding her of how her mother looked, and tries to put up a front when she meets with a pastor.
But the ruse can only go on for so long. The man calls her and other lesbians a different slur than the boy in her flashback did, but it’s more than enough to boil her blood. Boo may really want an extra flow of cash after the heroin deal fell through, but she decides she can’t deny who she really is. She erupts in the reverend’s face (and says some things about Jesus his, or really any church, wouldn’t love to hear), and settles in to being her financially poor but emotionally rich self.
Boo isn’t the only one contemplating putting on a new face for show, as Caputo prepares the prison for MCC, the company interested in acquiring Litchfield. He wants things to go off without a hitch, but at every opportunity, his tour with the group (including the introduction of Mike Birbiglia’s Danny) stumbles constantly.
NEXT: Is there any hope for Litchfield after Caputo’s magical mystery tour?