Did anyone else get Christmas-morning feelings when they received the Netflix alert last night that season three of Orange Is the New Black was released hours early? You're not alone. But those feelings of elation were short-lived after taking in the first episode, "Mother's Day"—and not because we were displeased with the new season's premiere. Let's discuss (but only if you're game with episode one spoilers!).
OITNB wasted no time and dove into a complex issue for the Litchfield ladies: motherhood. The premise of the episode was the prison preparing for the Mother's Day visits, but the heart of it ran much deeper than rinky-dink children's games and clearance-rack decorations. For the mothers of the group, the day represents both an emotional celebration with their children and the harsh reality that they can't celebrate with their kids outside of the prison walls. The subtle reminders of incarceration are everywhere, from the ever-present C.O.s to the saddest pinata game that ever was (complete with a maxi-pad blindfold, no sticks, and worst of all, NO CANDY). But it's not about the games, we tell ourselves as we watch—it's about making the most of whatever time the mothers can spend with their children, right? Enter the scene where a new inmate uses her baby's diaper to smuggle in cocaine, and then leaves the infant laying on the grass while she snorts it in a port-a-potty. The sad day is capped off by the alarm being rang when Daya's younger sister wanders off, leaving the mothers lying prostrate on the ground and their kids looking an equal mixture of horrified and terrified.
The episode's emotional gut-punch didn't stop there. We also got a healthy serving of mommy issues, dished up via flashbacks: Pennsatuckey's mother plied her with Mountain Dew to help her receive more Social Security benefits. Nicky's mother is a stone cold b*tch, ignoring a young Nicky's sweet efforts on Mother's Day for brunch and the spa. Poussey actually had a loving relationship with her mom, but she passed away. We even saw a peek into Healy's past, with his mentally unstable mother who threw ashtrays at him and drew nonsense on the walls with lipstick. The implication with all of them is that these painful memories from the past have in some way contributed to their present-day situations—an idea that comes up again in a later scene between Pennsatuckey and Big Boo. While Pennsatuckey is holding an emotional, Mountain Dew-blessed memorial ceremony for the six babies that she aborted, Big Boo offers this consolation using Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner's Freakonomics:
"In the 1990s, crime fell spectacularly and this book attributes that to the passing of Roe V. Wade. The abortions that occurred after Roe v. Wade, these were children that weren't wanted. Children who if their mothers had been forced to have them, would have grown up poor, neglected and abused—the three most important ingredients when one is making a felon. But they were never born. So 20 years later, when they would have been of prime crime age, they weren't there...Maybe you should stop punishing yourself. I mean, what does a good mother do? A good mother does what's best for her children. And maybe what was best for your children was wiping them out before they had to lead miserable fucking lives."
Talk about heavy stuff for a season premiere—but we're not done yet. One of the most heartrending moments came when Maria Ruiz is saying goodbye to her baby daughter, and her boyfriend Yadriel says that they won't be back for another visit. Her visceral panic and pain was tougher to watch than any of the series' physical beating scenes (and that's saying a lot). By the looks of this premiere, this season of OITNB isn't going to shy away from making us think, making us feel, and making us laugh (we promise!). As Caputo says in the first episode, "These are complicated ladies and a complicated place." Complicated, indeed.
What did you think of OITNB's season three premiere? Did you binge the whole season yet?
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