As if to offer us a comforting hug during this difficult episode, the show introduces one of my favorite running jokes: all the prisoners are obsessed with the same show, despite the fact that it is stressing them out and ruining their lives. It’s a cheeky way of leaning on the fourth wall and showing the power of stories to bring people together. So the whole cell block is eating popcorn and clutching tissues when Jacs rolls up and asks if she can watch too. Now, you could assume that her appearance here is all part of some dastardly plan, but I prefer to think that this really is her attempts to reach out and retire gracefully. But Franky orders her to leave, and make clear that abdication isn’t an option: it’s the guillotine or nothing.
That night, Bea finds a cell phone under her pillow, and a man on the other end who says he’s hurting Debbie. Bea nearly pushes the forbidden Panic Button, but Liz persuades her that Jacs is only trying to rattle her cage (so to speak). Franky, on the other hand, is only too happy to see Bea rattled, since it might push her to attack Jacs. It’s never been harder to like Franky.
The next day, the guards check in for work, and it sure looks like Will is sneaking in Jacs’ arthritis medicine, but PSYCH! He’s just sneaking in his regular cocaine, probably. It’s actually Vera who Jacs is using, because Vera bribed Jacs to start the riot that killed Meg. You see, Vera forgot to specify that she only wanted a little riot, like a pillow fight or something, just to prove that she was capable of handling it. Jacs snarls that Vera will continue to smuggle her whatever she asks for, or she’ll wind up on the other side of the justice system.
Afterwards, poor Vera, who is the exact opposite of an alpha dog, goes to have a quiet little panic attack. Fletch comes upon her and calmly, expertly gets her to breathe. Then he shares with her his thoughts on the corrections business.
Fletch: You think everyone here is a victim. But they know right from wrong; they just don’t give as shit. Everyone goes through rough patches in life, but you gotta decide how you deal with it. Hurt people, break the law, or do it the hard way, how we handle it. That’s why we deserve to be part of society and they don’t.
And Fletch, I like you. I really do. But maybe don’t make speeches about victimhood until you’ve seen the world through the eyes of someone who isn’t a white man built like a pile of boulders, mkay?
The first chance she gets, Bea calls Debbie again, and this time she finally gets an answer. And really all that happens in terms of action in this scene, is: Bea reveals that she was beaten up, and Debbie is thunderstruck. But in terms of character development, we become more attached to Debbie than ever before now. Because she’s not perfect. She’s as sullen and self-centered as any teenager. But when you see the horror on her face when she learns of her mom’s beating, you can see the good person that she is under all the trappings of adolescence. And when Bea says “I love you to the moon and back,” we understand Bea more than we ever have, as a woman who has put all her love and hope in her daughter.
In this week’s Best of Fanny Bandit moment, Franky is in the middle of giving Kim a very thorough mammogram when she is summoned to Erica’s office.
Erica tries to use Franky for inside information on the Bea-Jacs power struggle, but all Franky wants to talk about is Erica’s engagement ring. And however much she frustrates me this week, I have to love Franky for never being anything but completely upfront about her feelings for Erica, jealousy included.
So, here in the closing minutes of this episode, Jacs is left with but one card to play: her son. She orders Brayden to kill Debbie, in the hopes that it will destroy Bea and rid her of one of her rivals.
The scene is silent, shot in slow motion. And you can’t believe it’s actually going to happen until it does. There are a few death scenes I feel this way about: Romeo + Juliet, Titanic (shut up), Moulin Rouge, and Tara’s death in Buffy. Every time I watch them, I think “This time it will be different. This time they won’t die.” Because those are the deaths that seem to break every bond that keeps the world turning. That love conquers all, and that youth forgives all. And every time you have to watch love and youth defeated by some stupid, mundane outside force like a stray bullet, or tuberculosis, or a really ill-advised potion, it reminds you yet again just how senseless life can be. It’s a realization you see in Debbie’s eyes the second the needle hits her arm. She knows it was too much. She knows she was betrayed. What she can’t understand, what no one will ever really understand, is why.
The one thing we know for sure: this changes Bea, and our story, forever.
See you next week.