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Claire Tierney is a Staff Writer for The Hudsucker, and in her spare time she may be found hiking around Washington, bonding with her cat, or enjoying a fat sandwich. Claire is currently working jobs that utilize her impeccable customer service skills while she works towards achieving her dreams, whatever those may be.

‘Orange Is The New Black’ — Loneliness, Faith and Ruby Rose

The third season of Orange Is The New Black became available a day early and I have been dutifully binge watching in order to provide you with the following feedback. This latest season provided insight on some lesser seen characters and introduced some new faces. But fan favorites still received plenty of screen-time, as did their mediocre plotlines (I am looking at you, Piper). As the prison reacted to Caputo’s promotion from last season, this season opens on a slightly less miserable landscape for the prisoners. But as we know, this is not to last.

Image Credit: Lionsgate Television/Netflix

The first few episodes are a little slow to get into the action, as last season’s plotlines are resolved and Piper and Alex engage in some dysfunctional yet boring hate sex. Things start to heat up in the middle of the season with the entrance of Ruby Rose, Marsha Stephanie Blake, and Lori Petty. Rose’s Stella is radiant and compelling but the heatedness of her screen time was diminished by Piper’s incessant narcissism. Blake’s Berdy Rogers acts as a charming foil to Healy with her idealism and her nonlinear methods. She is deftly intelligent and always has an assured reply to Healy’s misogynistic and racist spewings. Petty’s Lolly keeps us guessing about her character’s true intentions, she is spunky and a little stressful. I hope we get to see more of her in season four.

The best part of this season is the diversification of character flashbacks. We get some back story on Litchfield’s more elusive and perhaps less relatable characters, namely Chang, Boo, Caputo, and Norma. These flashbacks are this show’s height of relatability, providing humanizing insight to a diverse group of flawed and realistic women.

Season three is all about faith, as suggested by the votive candle character portraits that have been circulating the internet.

Image Credit: Lionsgate Television/Netflix

The year the show asks “What does religion look like?” Or more specifically, “what does an organized religion look like?” This season we explore Judaism, Santeria, Amish Christianity, a little Islam, and a lot of Norma-ism. These faiths intermingle to show us how they have shaped these people.

The advent of a religion based around Norma’s comforting energy forced viewers to ask themselves, what constitutes religion? As the newly faithful struggled to establish their traditions and ideology and legitimize themselves, they found themselves arguing and becoming increasingly exclusive and abrasive to those around them. But by remaining unorganized, Norma’s followers cannot reap any benefits and gain acceptance from other prisoners. As the religion grows more tenets, the sense of community/bond increases, but so does the degree of exclusivity.

This issue is also exemplified by Black Cindy’s conversion to Judaism. The costly Kosher meals prefered by inmates force the prison to set a rigid definition of Judaism. This investigation begins to look ridiculous when religious Judaism contrasts with cultural Judaism—defined by the show as familiarity with Seinfeld and Woody Allen. This comical storyline reaches an unlikely emotional ending, as Black Cindy embraces her new faith with the support of her fellow Jews, finding comfort and empowerment in religion when so many of her fellow inmates could not.

The season ends with a purifying swim for the inmates from a freedom lake.  As we watch them swim around and splash one another, we find that what drives these women to their respective faiths is a desire for acceptance, community, and love. As character’s struggle to come to terms with their loneliness they find some solace in Norma, and eventually in each other, as they celebrate temporary freedom in the cool water.

Season Highlights:

  • Taystee and Suzanne share an emotional recognition that Vee is in fact dead. In forcing Suzanne to accept Vee’s death, Taystee ignites a bond by realizing that she and Suzanne share a mutual need for one another.
  • Black Cindy’s conversion to Judaism. What begins as a ploy to get higher-quality meals turned into an emotional transformation in which Cindy Hayes becomes Cindy Tova Hayes.
  • Learning about Healy’s mother.

What did you think of this season’s Orange is the New Black? Let us know in the comments below.

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