The writers of Orange Is The New Black were in for a challenge when they sat down to write the final season of the show. With dozens of loved characters, giving them all a proper farewell and the justice they deserve seemed an impossible affair. Although the later was never going to realistically happen for the ladies of Litchfield, the writing team did a surprisingly good job at giving everyone a proper sendoff.
Before launching into the final episode, we need to first get the first episode out of the way. The showrunners took a bold experimental move and included the internal monologues of the characters. While there is no problem with mixing things up a little, the experiment failed and we were left with something that sounded like Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls. Fortunately, the rest of the season did not follow in the same vein.
The plot of season seven followed Piper adjusting to life outside of prison. Even though Piper is the most privileged character in Litchfield, her struggle demonstrates how difficult it is for inmates to get back on their feet once they leave. Things with Alex become more difficult and Alex’s situation on the inside heats up when she is forced by Hellman to sell drugs.
On the inside, Taystee hits rock bottom after her appeal is denied. Watching the bubbliest, good-natured character of the show unravel is difficult to endure. Her hopeless situation continues to become even more hopeless and putting ourselves in her shoes is an impossible task. Luckily, when Tamika is made warden, she stands a chance of creating a life for herself inside.
Season seven also introduced Litchfield immigration detention center. Immigrants are stacked in bunk beds and are denied information and the ability to contact the outside. Watching Blanca and Maritza try to contact their loved ones and find a way out is anxiety-inducing. The situation they find themselves is unbearable and the portrayal of the cruel immigration procedure sheds light on the brutal conditions countless immigrants face every day.
The season was gripping to watch, although the comedic entertainment value of the first season has since snowballed into something far more tragic. The fierce and fiery Red loses her mind to dementia and Lorna gives into madness after she finds herself unable to deal with the death of her baby. Pensatucky’s ending is tearjerking, especially when we learn that she did in fact pass her GED exam all along.
We cannot touch on every character’s goodbye but the most notable included Daya, Suzanne, Cindy, Blanca and new character, Carla. After becoming the prison’s new druglord, Daya is strangled to death by her own mother. The ending is shocking and demonstrates what can happen when a family is too deep in the cycle of poverty and crime to have hope. Cindy, on the other hand, decides to make amends with her daughter and commits herself to becoming a person her mother can be proud of.
Suzanne shows great character growth in season seven as she deals with Pensatucky’s death not by falling apart, but by leading a touching tribute to her cellmate. We finally hear her sing in what is one of the most powerful, moving and uplifting moments of an extremely depressing season.
For the immigrants in the detention center, Maritza is deported, Blanca gets her green card and Carla ends up once again south of the border, fighting to get back her children. When she twists her ankle, she is left behind – another body added to the death valley before the border. Her ending is heartbreaking and offers a more empathetic perspective on what is happening every day at the U.S. border.
Finally, Taystee’s ending is a triumph for hope. Although we all wanted her to get justice, it was never going to happen in Litchfield. Instead, she decides to make her own. The real hero of Litchfield starts a program for inmates to help them prepare for life on the outside. She then contacts Judy King and starts a startup to give microloans to inmates to help them get back on their feet when they finish their sentence. The best part? She started it in Poussey Washington’s name.
It was great to see Pornstache and Chang receive cameos and when Alex gets to Ohio, she is welcomed by all the characters that were transported upstate last season. Although the characters are only shown briefly, it’s great to see them return for the final farewell.
Overall, the final season of Orange Is The New Black was incredibly painful and incredibly moving. It was good to see some characters receive their happy ending, but the show stuck to its guns and gave most of the characters not what they deserved nor what we wanted for them. Instead, they received an ending that was far more tragic and far more realistic.