Welcome back to Litchfield! Where everything seems… relatively quiet?
Yes, there’s still drama—romantic, familial, political, and just about everything else—but all things considered, Litchfield appears downright happy in the Orange Is the New Black season 3 premiere. Is this is a sign of a new Litchfield to come, or will the lives of our favorite inmates become as messy as they have been? Let’s find out.
Season 3 doesn’t quite start with as disruptive a premiere as season 2 did, but season 3 opens on what feels like a relatively light note. It’s Mother’s Day, which, for obvious reasons, may be the biggest holiday of the year to this women’s correctional facility. Inmates wanting to see their mothers, mother (and grandmother) inmates wanting to see their children, and the inmates who have lost mothers reminded of what they once had may all look forward to the day with a mix of trepidation and excitement.
And because an event like Mother’s Day affects everyone in Litchfield, Orange breaks from its single-perspective flashback norm to deliver lookbacks for a number of characters, including Pennsatucky’s, which opens the episode. And if there was ever any doubt where she adopted her constant seemingly caffeinated lifestyle, look no further than her upbringing. Her mother, hoping to scam social security, forces little Penn to chug an entire bottle of Mountain Dew. Thankfully, she’s a bit calmer in the present day as she helps the guards buy decorations for the Mother’s Day festivities.
Pennsatucky isn’t the only one in high spirits. Red returns, taking Rosa’s bunk and desecrating (with good reason), a memorial to the late, brave inmate. Red is looking toward a brighter, Vee-free day. And in her sunnier disposition, she gives away her extra pain medication at no cost to… Alex Vause.
Yes, Vause, sporting a black eye, has found her way back to Litchfield, and news of her return makes its way to Piper through Luschek. The two on-again-off-again lovers/smugglers/enemies reunite in the cafeteria. The two later have a heart-to-heart in the chapel (that house of worship has seen some things), commiserating over the lack of mothers they’ll see tomorrow. And thanks to the reunion the two, for now seem, if not happy, then at least relieved to have someone they care about so close to them.
The other inmates are all facing Mother’s Day with their own senses of anticipation and dread. Among the flashback-worthy at Litchfield, Poussey is reminded of a sweet memory reading Calvin and Hobbes with her mother, who passed away, while Sophia’s flash relives a tender moment before her transition with her then-pregnant wife. Nicky looks less fondly on the day, remembering how her (wealthy) mother ignored a younger Nicky’s attempts to celebrate Mother’s Day with her. Though she’s too focused on her stashed heroin to care for the day. Even Healy gets a flashback, but the less said about his disturbing past, perhaps the better. (ASIDE: Of all its characters, Orange has always had the most trouble landing on whether it wants us to sympathize with or detest Healy. Maybe it wants neither, but the pendulum on him can swing violently back and forth episode by episode.)
The day is a particularly difficult one for Daya, who is of course incarcerated with her mother, who continues to lament her daughter’s existence at every turn. Though Aleida’s flashback reveals that she had quite the different, much more elated reaction to Daya’s birth. Regardless, things remain tough for the pregnant inmate, with her mother pestering her and Pornstache’s mother (yes, such a creature has parents) sending letters about wanting to be involved.
And if Daya’s child is saddled with the issue of too many would-be caretakers, Suzanne deals with the opposite, refusing to believe she’s lost the mother figure Vee was to her. She lashes out if anyone dares besmirches Vee’s name, causing Taystee undue stress as she seeks to calm her down.
Also stressed out is Caputo, who is introducing a new counselor to the prison while dealing with both his and Figueroa’s responsibilities.
NEXT: Mother’s Day arrives, but it’s not a happy day for everyone. [pagebreak]
But Mother’s Day finally arrives, and with so many of the inmates pitching in to make it memorable, the day begins with reasonable success. The kids are having fun (or at least something close to it), the guards are taking the new marks to play pranks on one another, and the women of Litchfield are enjoying some genuine quality time with their families.
Sophia spends time with her son, who, while initially annoyed having to split his Mother’s Day attention between two mothers, warms up to the occasion when Sophia gives him advice on girls (“From former man to current man”). Red, who spent the previous night closing the last chapter of her life by plugging here smuggling tunnel with cement, takes a visit with her sons and husband. (More on that in a bit). And a mother… uses her daughter to smuggle drugs into the prison.
Okay, disregarding that last, horrible one, the day is generally a happy affair, even for the motherless. Boo, coming upon Pennsatucky in a makeshift grave for her half-dozen aborted children for example, convinces her that she did the right thing by keeping those children out of the world. Rather than bringing them up in a drug-filled, difficult life, she saved them from decades of pain and suffering.
Of course, all good things must come to an end, and as a relative of Daya’s, Lucy, goes missing, the alarm sounds and the inmates are forced onto the ground. The inmates are embarrassed in front of their families, but the lockdown is short-lived once Aleida finds Lucy under Daya’s bed. Unfortunately, the emergency puts a damper on the entire day, and the families leave shortly after the commotion.
And that comedown also reflects the disappointments sprinkled throughout the day. Red learns something is amiss with her store after speaking with her family, which can only mean a showdown with Piper is coming. Gloria learns one of her sons, who didn’t come, has turned delinquent at school. Even Ruiz, a frequently seen but relatively minor character, suffers a terrible loss when the father of her child informs her they won’t be coming around the prison anymore. He doesn’t want the little girl growing up with memories of her mother in prison, leaving Ruiz in a fit of (quite justified) sadness.
The day is not a wash, though. Any day at Litchfield with even a smidge of a bright side is worth savoring, and Mother’s Day certainly supplied it, even for those who may not have expected it. Take Poussey, who is reminded of the good times she shared with her mother when she sees the same Calvin and Hobbes comic from her flashback among the refuse.
And if it’s a matter of taking the good with the heaping amounts of bad, it’s enough of a bright start for Orange. There’s certainly danger looming on the horizon, but for the moment, it’s not the worst first day back within the confines of Litchfield. Maybe things won’t be so bad this year.
Oh, who am I kidding?
- Alex should get business cards with Luschek’s nickname for her on them—the Bettie Page of Litchfield
- Orange has always had a knack for mixing joy and despair, often in the same scene. It’s perhaps best on display here when Suzanne tries to go outside with her kite, but she’s not allowed to join in the Mother’s Day fun.
- Pennsatucky’s would-be baby names include: Blake, Bonnie, Boyd, Bethany, Braeden, Buddy Jr.
- Of course, we know why Alex is back in prison, but she doesn’t yet, and so Piper plays off her return to prison as just a fault of being trapped by the system. The system, man.
- It doesn’t really play into the episode, so it’s likely to come back in future episodes: Apparently some in the prison have taken to participating in something spiritual, as the kitchen staff enacts an egg-based ritual (a quick Google search will tell you Santeria is a likely candidate). And it’s something Poussey is interested in.
- Caputo sure holds himself highly, calling himself a “better man” for masturbating in his office to the inmates rather than acting on his urges and having sex with them, like Bennett. Real high standards for the men at Litchfield.
- Speaking of men, Healy is pissed about the new counselor. Do not expect him to go quiet on the job.