I tried. I really did.
After the mess that was season 6, I knew Orange Is the New Black’s final season was either going to blow me away or leave me feeling empty, but I was surprised to find that it did neither of those things. It just annoyed me. I finished those thirteen episodes and just closed my laptop and went to bed. I could hardly be bothered to talk about it; I almost decided not to write this post about it. But it’s a blog, so like… why wouldn’t I?
The final season of Orange focuses primarily on *gags* Piper and her transition from felon to privileged white woman on parole who insists on doing things that will land her back in prison. Because she’s an idiot and following rules is ~hard~. I think you can tell by now I don’t care much for Piper and her shenanigans or her sadistic relationship with Alex, so I won’t speak on it much. In a nutshell, ugh.
The rest of the season focuses on Taystee’s internal debate about whether she should accept her fate or end her life, the immigrant detention centers and how truly awful ICE is, and a slough of other dilemmas for the other inmates. Daya is playing Pablo Escobar, Lorna can’t (or won’t) accept that her baby is dead, Red has dementia. Flaritza can’t prosper because of immigration laws. There was just… so much happening, so many new characters and stories being introduced, that instead of feeling like the end of a series it felt like a continuation. Truly, this felt nothing like a conclusion. If you were to tell me the show was going on I would have believed you with the sense of incompleteness I felt once the credits started rolling. I just didn’t feel like anything had been resolved. A lot had been added, new doors had been opened, but nothing felt like it had been properly addressed.
And here is where I feel like I need to clarify because I can already see a lot of people thinking I needed an explicitly happy ending. I never expected a happy ending. I knew no matter what, the show’s ending couldn’t be sunshine and rainbows but leaving so much up for audience interpretation just felt lazy. I’m not the kind of person who needs everything explicitly spelled out in a series finale; I like when endings are left up to interpretation, but Orange’s ending just felt like the writers wanted to leave pretty much everything up to interpretation because they were too lazy to confront all the subplots they created and actually tying up the loose ends for those many subplots would have taken… effort. And thought. And actually giving a crap. And apparently giving a crap is just asking way too much of show writers these days.
Orange flew off the rails after Poussey’s death. Once Litchfield rioted and all hell broke loose, the plot spiraled into something the writers just didn’t know how to handle. I said in my review of season 6 that the writers were avoiding the meat of the story by introducing characters and subplots that went absolutely nowhere. This didn’t change a bit for the final season. I cannot fathom why anyone thought it’d be necessary to focus on Daya’s new kingpin adventures instead of Taystee’s case. It’s as if the writers decided to just hand Taystee a shitty verdict and just… let that be that. This woman, who had all the potential to be a true advocate of change is forced to resign to her fate, living the rest of her days in prison for something she didn’t do because a bunch of incompetent writers didn’t know what else to do with her. And don’t give me any of that “that’s how the system is” crap. What happened to Taystee wasn’t a reflection of injustice within the criminal system, it was a revelation of what happens when show writers aren’t willing to put forth the same effort towards the end that they did in the beginning. It’s laziness. And if Taystee’s true fate was life in prison, fine. But I had a hard time believing a woman as stubborn as Taystee would have given up after one weak attempt to get the truth out, no matter how little evidence she had. This was a woman who incited an entire prison riot. You’re really telling me she would have given up that easily? It just didn’t do her character justice. But hey, the entire final season didn’t do justice to any of these women, so maybe that’s what the writers were going for: mirroring the way the courts didn’t do them any justice (that is 100% sarcasm, I’m giving these writers absolutely no credit).
Despite my many, many, issues with this finale, as always I cannot deny the acting was phenomenal. There were plenty of golden moments in this season for sure. CO Dixon confronting Maria for what she did to him during the riot was probably my favorite scene this season. (Forgiveness is something to which I truly cannot relate (I still hold a middle school grudge from when my “friend” made a move on this boy I liked), but it’s always nice to see other people forgive, even when the one who wronged them doesn’t deserve it.) Nicky and Red learning about Red’s dementia. Karla Córdova’s trial in which she is ordered to be deported back to a violent El Salvador. Karla Córdova’s certain death by desert. Sad but impactful, I guess. Literal babies in deportation court cases. Cindy’s disastrous return back home. It was all great. Orange may have seriously dropped the ball in terms of writing, but one thing you’ll never hear me complain about is the acting. Give these women ALL the awards.
Honestly, after finishing this season, I was just tired. Tired and annoyed. Another show I’ve spent years on ending with a finale I could have lived without. A lot of my intolerance for this season is residual disappointment from Game of Thrones’ awful finale, but it is just so FRUSTRATING spending literal years being a fan of amazing tv shows only for them to be complete letdowns towards the end. Aside from the acting, this season just didn’t have many redeeming qualities. Like Game of Thrones’ final season, I don’t see myself ever rewatching this, and Orange is a show I used to rewatch from the very beginning at least once a year since I started watching back in 2015. To be as dramatic as I possibly can, I’m just heartbroken and I feel utterly betrayed.
And so, with its final season, the reign of Orange Is the New Black is over. The show that began an era of strong Netflix originals has come to an end. If anyone needs me I’ll be figuring out how to send Jenji Kohan embarrassing videos of myself crying to convey my disappointment.