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Orange Is the New Black may have been inspired by Piper Kerman’s 2010 memoir about her 13 months in federal prison on money-laundering charges, but the Netflix series succeeded by looking beyond protagonist Piper Chapman’s tale and toward the wide, diverse community of women incarcerated with her. No television show had ever featured such a diverse group of women, each with her own unique story, and in the final season, those women’s stories serve as the foundation for thoughtful and empathetic explorations of empowerment and growth, mental illness, death, and the country’s divisive immigration policies.
Jenji Kohan, the program’s creator and showrunner, determined in the fifth season that she would finish the show after seven cycles, and the endgame planning began then. But, as executive producer Tara Hermann points out, none of it was easy. “We’re a room of debaters; there was definitely a debate about how everyone ended there,” she explained. “Jenji frequently has to make the final decision. But, for the most part, we fought and talked it out until we all felt okay about where they all landed.”
Which Orange Is The New Black Character Are You?
In the series conclusion “Here Is Where We Get Off,” viewers discover out where everyone ends up, as well as a montage of people they haven’t seen since the fifth season when the inmates were split and assigned to different federal prisons. Alex (Laura Prepon) is surprised when she is transferred to an Ohio prison and reunited with Carrie “Big Boo” Black (Lea DeLaria), Erica “Yoga” Jones (Constance Shulman), Angie Rice (Julie Lake), Leanne Taylor (Emma Myles), Norma Romano (Annie Golden), Alison Abdullah (Amanda Stephen), Janae Watson (Vicky Jeudy), Brook Soso (Kimiko Glen (Lin Tucci). Also, you must try to play this Which Orange Is The New Black Character Are You quiz.
“It was intended so you could hold those people in your mind and imagine them, just like we hope everyone can keep imagining all of the characters living in this maybe-parallel universe,” Hermann explained, walking Vulture through the writers’ thinking behind each of the show’s main storylines, broken down by character. “Their tales continue, and we wanted to place them for people so that you were content with their finish, and then you may maybe visit them in your head every now and again.”
After being released from prison early in the sixth season finale, Piper Chapman spends the final season as a troubled free woman. Piper feels conflicted about leaving her new wife Alex (whom she married in a prison ceremony overseen by Nicky) and being apart from her for two to three years. As the season progresses, Alex suggests that Piper find companionship elsewhere, while she becomes involved with prison guard CO McCollough (Emily Tarver), in a tense relationship that begins with blackmail and drug sales and progresses through cell-phone charger sales, sex, and stalking, and, by season’s end, Alex’s transfer to an Ohio prison. Despite the fact that Alex breaks up with Piper as a result of the move, Piper ends up going to Ohio and establishing a new life to be closer to Alex. The couple’s final shot is of them laughing together during a jail visitation.
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The writers were touched by Piper Kerman’s life story and arrived at Piper’s story arc early in the series. “It was because of how amazing the genuine Piper’s post-prison experience has been that she continues active in lobbying and criminal-justice reform,” Hermann explained. “We knew we wanted to get Piper there, but the Piper we built on the show took a lot of turns and detours that the actual Piper didn’t, so we absolutely needed to make sense of all that through the character.” She’d gone to some dark places, but in the end, we didn’t want her to choose the easy way out.”
The heartbreaking collapse of the tight-knit and often fun-loving Black Girls team has been one of the show’s most complicated tragedies. No story is more heartbreaking than that of Taystee, who is crushed by the prison murder of her best friend Poussey in the fourth season, sparking a prison riot that sends everyone to maximum security, and then finds herself wrongfully accused, and eventually convicted, of murdering a prison guard who was shot by friendly fire. Taystee, who has been sentenced to life in prison, is betrayed by one of her closest friends, Cindy, who is duped into testifying against her in exchange for immunity.