Spoilers for ALL of Season 3 of Orange is the New Black within
I’ll concede that I wasn’t as immediately enamored with this season of Orange is the New Black as I was with the past two seasons. It was incredibly enjoyable, but I didn’t feel as compelled to binge one episode after another. In fact, it took me two weekends to complete the series, as opposed to the one weekend in took previously.
Maybe it was because the series lost two of my favorite characters early on: Natasha Lyonne and Matt McGorry bailed due to commitments to other series. I also wished that Big Boo and Janae had had bigger presences, though I do understand that with a large ensemble, not everyone is going to be heavily featured every season. Besides, it also meant we got to know some of other characters more, for better (Soso, Cindy, Angie, Chang) or worse (Leanne).
I also felt that the Daya pregnancy plotline had played itself out early on, and that Norma’s kindness cult wore thin after a few episodes (Leanne was insufferable). Part of my annoyance with Norma’s plotline, however, was in the fear that it was barreling toward an inevitable Silent Bob reveal, and we’ve seen that too many times. I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only did Norma not break her silence, but the “miracle” in the end acted as the season’s perfect Deus Ex Normica, tying everything up in a series of poignant, tear-jerking moments that brought the season to a perfect close.
But before we address those beautiful moments, I would like to add that — as much as people might have been annoyed with Piper in past seasons — I liked her storyline this year, seeing her harden in prison and transform into one of the more cynical, ruthless women on the series (I may have slow-clapped when she f*ked over Stella, who I never really cared for as a character). Piper acted mostly as comic relief this year, and that role suited her well. Conversely, it was Alex Vause who I was more irritated by, and I won’t that heartbroken if she’s ultimately killed off, as unlikely as that prospect is.
I was pleasantly surprised that the managed keep Healy as an intriguing character, who we alternatively loathe and pity. Likewise, I never thought I’d like Doggett, but learning more about her put so much of her character into perspective. An early villain in OITNB grew into a third-season hero.
However, it was Joe Caputo’s storyline this season that I found to be the most compelling. The series humanized him to such an extent that, by the end of the season, a guy I once considered mostly a sleazeball was one of series’ best characters, though I was conflicted about his bittersweet decision to sell out and turn against the union. All the same, I appreciated that a series that’s so good at writing female characters didn’t sell it’s main male cast short: Caputo, Healy, and Bennett are as flawed and likable as the criminal inmates (except for Bennett because f*ck that guy).
The theme that kept running through my mind this season — besides the overt one about faith — was the idea that we are all products of our upbringing. By that, I mean: Evil people are not magically created. In the absence of a chemical or hormonal imbalance, we are reflections of our past, and so many of the backstories this season reflected that (especially that of Daya and Diaz).
I couldn’t help but think — watching OITNB in the wake of the Charleston shooting — that Dylann Roof probably owes his racist beliefs to his environment, and to his parents, who probably owed their racist beliefs to their parents. It’s a difficult challenge to break that pattern because of how unwilling one generation is to acknowledge their racist beliefs before they can transform them within the next generation. How impotent are we as a society to really affect that?
Diaz, for instance, finally came to terms how badly (and selfishly) she f**ked up Daya, but it was too late for Daya. Hopefully, Daya won’t repeat the mistakes of her own mother, though I wonder if putting her baby in the care of Cesar hasn’t already set her daughter on the wrong path toward three generations of felons. Daya keeping the baby was almost as heartbreaking as the prospect of giving her up.
Rather than dwell on that, and makes our neuroses about parenting even more anxiety inducing, let’s move on to the point of this post: Ranking the moments in the finale sequence at the lake outside of the prison from sobworthy to most sobworthy.
9. Norma Sprinting toward the Open Fence — Absolutely exhilarating! The giddy expression on her face was priceless.
8. Sister Jane Ingalls Pulling Off Her Bra — So much freedom. FREEDOM EVERYWHERE.
7. Cindy is Jewish — Mazel tov! (Cindy earned her happiest moment earlier in the episode when she was approved to be Jewish).
6. Red and Norma — “You did this, comrade. Who knew you had it in you,” Red seems to be saying to Norma. *Modest Shrug*
5. Flaca Feeling the Sun on her Face — Her mom! She’s thinking about her dying mother, and in a weird way, sharing that moment in the sun with her.
4. Crazy Eyes and Maureen — Has there ever been a cuter moment on Orange is the New Black? EVER? No, there hasn’t.
3. Daya and Diaz — At this point, the sobbing is just comical, really. Here’s Daya and Diaz, mother and daughter, together on a lake outside of a prison, and there’s no place in the world they’d rather be than right there on the beach.
2. Soso and Poussey — Soso finally found a home for herself in the prison. Her and Poussey are a little less lonely now that they’ve found each other as friends.
And Taystee makes it official. Bring it in.
1. Crazy Eyes Bursting Out of the Lake — One of most purely joyful moments in all of television in 2015.