“Silent” Norma Romano (portrayed by Annie Golden), or “Magic Norma” as we come to know her in season three, has been known up until this point for her silence and for working in Red’s kitchen with her for twelve years. She is in Litchfield Penitentiary for manslaughter.
It’s not that she doesn’t like being in the spotlight – she readily picks up Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren‘s slack at the Christmas pageant in season one and looks visibly disappointed when she’s not picked for Duck, Duck, Goose at the Mother’s Day celebration – it’s just that her mute nature does not allow her to take center stage. Aside from an irrational fear of the spin cycle, her only real expression of vehement emotion emerges when she is extremely angry.
Season three provides us with some insight into why Norma is mute by exploring her young adulthood. A meek, teenaged Norma seeks the help of an empowering transformation seminar in a local bookstore that promises to heal her body and soul. Here, she meets Guru Mack who addresses her not long into the seminar as “Sister Sad Eyes,” which compels her to try to speak, revealing the painful stutter that has forced her into silence for all of these years.
We are led to believe that she and Guru Mack have entered into a soulful and profound relationship, leading to their marriage; however, the Guru’s questionable intentions are revealed when Norma seems to be one of many sister-wives that he has married to form his cult. While Norma clings to the strength that the Guru gives her by giving her the time of day and claiming to “feel [her] spirit” without her having to see anything, she is visibly off-put by the fact that he seems to have this same soulful connection with all of the other women blind enough to follow him.
Norma spends decades of her life with Mack, even when the cult falls apart, she is the only one to stick around because she is a follower, not a leader, by nature. Even when he verbally abuses her and asks her why she sticks around even when everyone else has run away, she takes his abuse and tries to build him up. When he tells her that she has “wasted [her] life” on him, poor, childless, old, damned, a slave, and a “meek little servant,” she gets highly insulted. He attributes everything she is to him. When he taunts her to speak, she snaps and pushes him off of a cliff to his death and finally yells “s-son of-f a bitch!”
In season one, her relationship with Red becomes complicated when she shuns Tricia Miller (which led to her suicide) and when Red‘s plan to regain the kitchen causes Gina Murphy to get severely burned in a grease fire. Her anger toward Vee in season two flares out after Red‘s slocking when Gloria Mendoza catches her concocting her own Santeria potion and at Leanne Taylor at the end of season three. These bouts of anger, while uncharacteristic of Norma, ultimately lead her to begin practicing her own form of Santeria, against Gloria‘s wishes because she put a spell on Vee and “boom, bitch was gone.”
Norma first clings to the traditional form of (or what she believes is) Santeria until Gloria gets offended at her improper appropriation of her culture. She takes all of Norma’s eggs, honey, and other ingredients used in blessing others in order to stop her from bestowing blessings upon other inmates; however, they still believe that Norma has the magic touch. Her “power” is so highly sought out that inmates routinely harass her while she’s on the toilet.
In response to the high demand for Norma time, her followers begin group meetings, which ultimately leads to competition among the women to provide her with the most elaborate gifts as if to win favor with Norma. Initially, the group begins as a safe space for all to congregate; however, she allows the “crazies,” namely Leanne Taylor, to speak for her and to define what her group is really about, which eventually leads to the hazing and shunning of Brook Soso. Eventually Norma’s “miracles” begin to dwindle and so does the group.
That’s when a sign from above arrives: Toast Norma. This fluke of a sign regenerates support for Norma and her mission, but Poussey Washington storms into the meeting to accuse them of hypocrisy and idolatry as well as to inform them of Brook Soso‘s attempted suicide. It is only at this moment that Norma realizes that she has done more harm than good in allowing her followers to speak for her.
Feeling immensely guilty for what she has allowed to unfold, Norma kicks the ranting and defensive Leanne Taylor out of her bunk when she tries to help her shirk her sense of crushing blame. Glumly, she stalks the prison yard when she suddenly sees the gaping hole in the fence. As if a sign from above, she charges toward it and everyone else follows, allowing Norma to become the true leader to freedom, as she originally wished to.
As the inmates frolic, splash, and giggle, Norma and Red make up with each other after their long-standing tiffs.
Norma plays a minor but very important role in season 4. We know Norma only opens her mouth to sing in the most desperate and urgent times, and this is no exception. She rocks and sings to comfort Brook Soso after Poussey Washington‘s horrific death.