I’d venture to guess that a flashback episode devoted to Crazy Eyes/Suzanne was at the top of many of your OITNB season two wishlists; it certainly took the number one space on mine. Yet now that we’ve finally gotten what we wished for, I can’t help feeling a tiny bit disappointed.
All of the hour’s present-day Suzanne-focused material was predictably great; the revelation that she attacked Piper at Christmas (inadvertently saving Piper’s ass) was a well-executed surprise, and I’m eager to see what will come of her relationship with Vee (who’s shaping up to be quite the Big Bad). But unlike Orange’s most successful flashbacks, the scenes detailing Suzanne’s past didn’t really add much insight into her character. Instead of revealing what made her into the woman she is today, these flashback scenes simply reinforce things we already know about the character: that she’s innocent and fanciful and overzealous and a perpetual outsider, raised by well-meaning white parents who do their best but clearly had no idea what they were getting into when they adopted their first daughter. (One new nugget of information: Suzanne’s also got a blonde sister named Grace, which is kinda on the nose.)
We still don’t know how Suzanne landed in prison; we still don’t really know what her mental issues are, although it’s clear that she’s been having manic episodes for a long time. This isn’t to say that her flashbacks are entirely unsuccessful—they’re just shallow. Maybe this means that Suzanne, like Red and Piper, is going to get two flashback episodes this season; maybe it just means that OITNB’s writers prefer to keep Suzanne as sort of a wacky mystery, one who’s revealed more through Uzo Aduba’s performance than through expository dialogue and scenes. I can sort of understand that approach, but I also can’t help hoping it isn’t the route the show chooses to take.
A glimpse into Suzanne’s psyche that we do get in episode three? Her feelings for Piper are kinda-sorta wrapped up in Chapman’s resemblance to Suzanne’s mother, another Nice Blonde Lady who found herself in way over her head. The subtext becomes text during a flashback to a more recent incident: the Christmas pageant, and specifically the moment when Suzanne froze onstage. Evidently, something similarly humiliating happened to Suzanne during her high school graduation—and the memory of that trauma, plus cruel teasing courtesy of Flaca and Maritza, put her in a bad place mentally. Then she stumbled outside… and found Piper pummeling Pennsatucky.
Have you been wondering why Piper wasn’t reprimanded even more harshly for beating Tiffany half to death? Here’s the explanation: An agitated Suzanne apparently pounced on Piper, knocking her out and howling, “Mommy, you’re always pushing me to do things!” As a result, the guards who found Piper and Pennsatucky were under the impression that they were each mutually culpable; that’s why they were both thrown into the SHU, and that’s why both have since been allowed back into Litchfield proper. Slow clap, Orange: That’s some good narrative voodoo right there.
Piper, who’s finally returned to her old stomping grounds—along with a crew of new, potentially interesting inmates—tries to thank Suzanne for her accidental help, and even asks if she’d like to sit together at Movie Night. For a moment, it seems as though Suzanne might be warming up to her Dandelion once more—until she spots Vee standing behind Piper and decides instead to ditch Chapman for a new master. All Suzanne’s ever really wanted is to belong: “Love me! Accept me!” is practically written on the whites of her perpetually widened eyes. Anyone can tell this within moments of meeting her, and Vee, who’s spent the better part of her life convincing impressionable kids to do her bidding, knows just how to exploit that yearning for her own personal gain.
NEXT: Maybe the “V” stands for “villain”?