Orange is the New Black Season 3 Episode 1 Review: “Mother’s Day”

Orange is the New Black Season 3 Episode 1 Review: “Mother’s Day”

Orange is the New Black

Orange is the New Black‘s beautiful second season came to a close with two lengthy episodes about the double-edged sword that is family; and with such a focus on the internal family of Litchfield at the end of season two, it’s no surprise OitNB returns with a standalone episode about the families everyone has (or doesn’t have) outside the “kindler, gentler” prison we return to at the beginning of season, just in time for Mother’s Day. As a bridge from what was and what will be, “Mother’s Day” is a flawless re-introduction into its world, using its setting as a refresher course on the complex characters and family structures of Litchfield’s finest, immediately raising the emotional stakes with its premise, and delivering an engrossing season premiere from it.

When we arrive back at Litchfield, things have settled down greatly from where they were at the end of “We Have Manners. We’re Polite.” Vee is gone (presumably dead), Rosa drove the old bus into a quarry, and Red has recovered from her horrific head injury — with Caputo in power at the prison, it seems everything has settled. Well, appears to; of course, there’s plenty of ongoing and new conflict to be found, be it with Daya – who is STILL PREGNANT – getting letters from Pornstache’s family, or with Caputo himself, stuck pulling double duty while he waits for the prison to hire a replacement. There’s a new counselor (who is a woman, to which Healy screams “She smells weird!”), cement filling up the tunnel into the garden (with an “RIP V” written on it by Vee; “Life is complex,”she notes), and a brand new transport van that Pennsatucky gets to drive around: as always, things have changed in Litchfield, but trouble is always lurking around the corner.

However, trouble is not really on the menu for “Mother’s Day,” which only gives us glimpses into potential conflicts for the upcoming season (Vee’s heroin remains hidden, under the careful, uncomfortable eye of Nicky), much like last season’s premiere refused to adhere to typical rules of a season premiere (also see: Hannibal’s season premiere, “Antipasto”). Instead, “Mother’s Day” exists as a wide collage of moments capturing snapshots of each woman stuck in the prison industrial complex, scenes that run the gamut from emotionally satisfying to heartwrenching, often deliberately pairing these scenes off with each other, as if to viciously reinforce the give and pull of emotional satisfaction and denial these women themselves live in. It also reinforces the philosophic status quo of Orange is the New Black, which I talked at length about in my review of last season’s finale (and in what I hope does not feel like a self indulgent move, will briefly quote here):

“See, the world is going to try and stomp out your soul. People, social systems, political games, the stresses of everyday modern life: they beat us down from every corner — and the only time we’re able to escape it, to truly escape it all, is in the presence of those we love, others as flawed and messed up as we are. Without family, we are nothing.”

This idea is the heart of Orange is the New Black — and what better way to reinforce that, by examining it through the lens of motherhood? That’s what makes “Mother’s Day” such an engaging, rewarding premiere: though any other typical day-in-the-life episode of OitNB would be satisfactory, setting it on Mother’s Day allows the show to approximate its normal setting and story rhythms, but use them to different ends. Like any season premiere, “Mother’s Day” is all about “checking in” with our characters; but doing so on this specific holiday allows OitNB to express the most established of each character’s traits; it’s really a genius move that serves a number of purposes, both technical and dramatic: and in terms of the latter, “Mother’s Day” is an important reminder of just how big and damaged OitNB‘s heart is.

“Mother’s Day” is not really an episode that is designed to spark conversation or engage the audience with any particular thought process or conversation: it’s a smorgasbord of images and emotions, wildly specific as it addresses each character through its usual, extremely unsubtle ways (like the lone red balloon that floats in the air from a child’s hand; never change, Orange). And it’s beautiful; it may not be an episode we remember in the show’s pantheon of great episodes, but it’s a heartwarming return to the poetic purgatory of Litchfield.

Other thoughts/observations:

– Poussey enjoying the briefest smirk after picking up a Calvin and Hobbes comic lining the garbage remnants of a chile pinata? IT IS SO DUSTY IN HERE RIGHT NOW.

– Bennett is an adorable idiot.

– Pennsatucky pours out a little Mountain Dew (which has special significance to her character, thanks to the disturbing flashback) for her seven aborted children, and has a heart to heart with Big Boo over why that actually makes her a ‘good’ mother. I love this freaking show.

– “I scratch that eczema.” “You’re really killing her theory there.”

– Alex returns with a nasty black eye: “I was in a mood. I forgot, you always let crackheads win.”

– “That was a cock. And I really like ranch flavor.”

– Healy’s flashback is priceless. Price. Less.

– “Welcome to the Fun Zone.”

[Photo via Netflix]

Start a Discussion

Main Heading Goes Here
Sub Heading Goes Here
No, thank you. I do not want.
100% secure your website.