On Friday June 12th, die-hard Orange is the New Black fans the world over parked their butts in front of the TV and didn’t come up for air until they binge-watched the entire third season. We got to reunite with our favorite characters and obsess over new storylines. This season also had strong underlying themes of faith, motherhood and the politics of forced relationships. The first episode showed the inmates of Litchfield preparing for Mother’s Day festivities, giving us a sense of their family lives and the people they left behind in the outside world. With Daya’s due date moving closer, Maria being denied visitation from her daughter and Gloria and Sophia dealing with their teenaged boys and the troubles they bring, we are starting to comprehend what it truly means for a mother to be separated from her children and the excruciatingly difficult decisions that come with.
In Season One, we already learned that, for some inmates, faith in their respective gods and religions is the only thing that gets them through prison life. Where Pennsatucky was previously the one to preach her warped gospel, this season was more about Santería, with chosen guru’s like “Magic Norma” and then there was Cindy, adopting the Jewish faith. Relationships and politics between the inmates and even the prison guards constantly shifted, and if this season has taught us anything, it’s to “Trust No Bitch.” Especially not Piper, who’s, apparently, gone all gangsta.
For a lot of OITNB fans, Piper and Alex’s storyline is getting a bit exhaustive. Many of us have grown weary of Piper’s constant manipulating and Alex’s whining and paranoia (even though she had every reason to be paranoid). But luckily, a few characters truly made up for the boring love-saga between Chapman and Vause. Here are our favorite characters from OITNB’s Season Three!
5. Joseph Salvatore Caputo (Nick Sandow)
An interesting development this season was the introduction of prison guards as actual people. In other words, our view of them is no longer determined by their working lives but also their private backgrounds. We already knew a bit about Healey, the well-meaning but slightly weird creator of “Safe Place” who is stuck in an unhappy marriage with his Russian mail-order bride.There was always something suspicious about his eagerness to learn Russian—was it simply a set-up for Healey’s now evident infatuation with Red? Well, yes and no. We did finally get to see some starry-eyed blushing and awkward flirting between the two, but that wasn’t the idea behind the previous insight we were offered into his marriage. This season strongly focused on the inner workings of the prison, the politics and the people in charge of making things happen (or not happen). We learned more about Bennett, Fig and even Mendez, but most importantly, we now have a clearer picture of who Joe Caputo is and what shaped him. Caputo has always been the most likeable amongst the prison guards, but he does lack balls (or cojones, as Gloria would say). He let Fig walk all over him and now that MCC has bought the Litchfield prison, he is dancing to the tune of some dimwit with daddy issues. And to make matters worse, he’s letting out his frustrations by doing the dirty with Fig. It seems that Caputo is the classic example of a man with a golden heart defeated by those who out-rank him. And even though people are constantly pissing on his parade, he is one of the few who genuinely cares for his inmates without adhering to any kind of hidden agenda. He was put into some lousy positions this season, but seeing him trying to do his best for the prison and the women in his care, made us realize that when it comes to the COs of Litchfield prison, he is the lesser of all evils. And yes, by the end of the season, Caputo puts his own future first, but given everything he’s been through—doesn’t he kind of deserve it?
4. Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren (Uzo Aduba)
Suzanne has gone through various changes since the beginning of Season One. We get to know her as an eccentric character who has a hard time keeping her emotions in check and is mocked by others because of it. Her vivid imagination and strange fantasies overwhelm her fellow inmates and, up until Season Two, she didn’t really fit in to any particular group. When the notorious Vee joined the prison party, Suzanne finally found a place to belong and quickly adopted Vee as her surrogate mother. Following Vee’s death, Suzanne once again finds herself at a loss and has a hard time accepting that she really is gone. Taystee, Cindy, Poussey and Janae don’t offer much in terms of comfort and see her denial as a nuisance rather than a cause for concern. But with the arrival of new prison warden Berdie, Suzanne finds a new outlet in her drama class. Excited by the assignment to write a script based on personal experience, Suzanne goes all out and writes a story about “two people connecting—with four other people, and aliens.” Since the majority of Litchfield’s library books having been burnt following the bedbug scare, Suzanne’s Time Hump Chronicles becomes the talk of the prison. She soon establishes a real fan base and can barely keep up with the demand for new chapters and crazy sex scenarios. One of her biggest fans, (besides Poussey, that is), wants a little more from Suzanne than her pornographic writings; Maureen wants to experience Suzanne’s fantasies in the flesh!
3. Sophia Burset (Laverne Cox)
Prison life is tough on everyone, but for the transgender Sophia, it has got to be extra rough. Having to put up with nasty remarks and ridicule from both fellow inmates and prison guards, Sophia has learned how to let the immature gossip wash off of her. Now, she may have gotten her way in that she can do her time surrounded by other women, but that doesn’t mean that the prison officials truly respect and understand her situation. As Litchfield’s official hairdresser, she has managed to gain the trust and friendship of the inmates. Although some still choose to be a bit confused about her gender identity, for the most part, they have come to accept her. In previous seasons we’ve met Sophia’s pride and joy—her son Michael, who is having a hard time adjusting to his father’s transition and has also started his rebellious teenage phase. Gloria is also going through a hard time, with her son acting up and making life hell for her aunt, who has taken him in while Gloria serves her time. It is becoming hard for Gloria’s aunt to handle the boy and make the journey to Litchfield regularly. Knowing that Sophia’s son lives in the same neighborhood, she arranges for her son to carpool with Sophia’s ex-wife Crystal and Michael. What appears to be a bonding point at first turns out to be the complete opposite: Gloria and Sophia fall out over a misunderstanding regarding their boys, causing first the Mexican community to turn against her, followed by pretty much everyone else too. In fact, things get a little bit high school, with inmates making immature remarks about her body. When things get physical, she is forced to defend herself, bringing out the masculine side that she has been desperately trying to lose. Even though she is the one who is punished for the conflict, Sophia refuses to let others get her down and lets the guards march her to the maximum security prison with her head held high. We’ve been in awe of Sophia and her harrowing journey from the get-go, but Season Three inspires a whole new sense of respect.
2. Carrie “Big Boo” Black (Lea DeLaria)
One thing you’ve got to admire about Big Boo is that she’s all about keeping it real. She’s comfortable in her own skin and is proud of the person she is—and rightly so. Unlike other inmates, Boo doesn’t need the reassurance from others and doesn’t belong to any one clique. She roams the tight Litchfield quarters freely and doesn’t get into the she-said-she-said between the other inmates. Whenever one of the other girls does step on her toes, Boo knows to intimidate them with her strong physique and quick-lashing tongue—you really don’t want to mess with Big Boo. She’s a competitive control freak with anger issues, but if Season Three has taught us anything, it’s that if you’re on her good side, you’ve got a friend for life. Boo has spent her whole life defending her sexuality and her butch appearance, especially to her parents. She realized at a young age that she preferred boys’ clothes over pretty, pink and frilly dresses, but was denied the freedom to express herself. Now that she can finally embrace being herself, she finds it increasingly hard and frustrating to deal with homophobic people and their closed-minded mentalities, which often causes her to react aggressively. But as we finally get to learn more about her upbringing, we start to understand that Boo is sensitive as much as she is stubborn, and what she’s really looking for is acceptance from her friends, her family and ultimately, the world. We’ve always been a fan of Boo and her no-bullshit-mannerisms, but this season really made us understand what an amazing woman she is. When her prison pal Pennsatucky finds herself in a nasty situation, Boo is the one who supports her and helps her through it with all the subtleties one might expect from her, showing us that there really is a big heart behind her hard-ass exterior.
1. Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Doggett (Taryn Manning)
The thing we love most about Tiffany is that she floats from one extreme to the next. In Season One she made herself extremely unpopular with the majority of Litchfields’ inmates, with her backwards preaching, and racist and homophobic comments. Following a near-death experience in Season Two, Tiffany starts to withdraw from her former ultra-religious self and her dictating tendencies, often turning to Healey for some sense of connection. With her new teeth came a new identity—Tiffany is looking to be led instead of taking over the leadership. She becomes Healey’s right hand in the creation of his “Safe Place” and even develops an interest in what it means to be a lesbian, though she cannot quite commit to becoming one. If Season Two was all about peeling away the many layers that make up Tiffany’s personality, Season Three was about discarding our prior judgements and seeing her for who she really is: a naïve, sensitive young woman who doesn’t understand the concept of self-worth, kindness and love. To her, sex was a means of getting free soda or beer; a quick drop of the pants, a quick in and out, that’s the only kind of intimacy Tiffany ever knew. When she does finally meet a guy who wants to please her and treat her right, Tiffany is baffled to learn that there’s a thing called kissing and foreplay, or that women can get off too. When the new Litchfield guard shows Tiffany some special attention, she is extremely flattered at first. He assures her that he really likes her and isn’t just out to take advantage of her. When that proves to be a lie, our hearts truly break for her. Tiffany’s honest sensitivity was truly captivating this season and made us warm to her in a whole new way.