Warning: The following contains spoilers from Season 7, Episode 13 of Orange Is the New Black. Do not proceed until you have finished watching the series finale.
Orange Is the New Black comes full circle with its series finale — an episode that focuses heavily on Piper, but still manages to provide closure to the dozens of inmates that have been introduced over the last seven seasons.
Let us begin, as we started, with Piper. She returns home to find her father and Zelda in the kitchen. Zelda takes Piper into the next room and tells her that she’s heading up to Northampton on business for a few weeks, and she’d like her to tag along. Piper explains that things are a bit complicated right now, but agrees to give it some thought.
After Zelda leaves, Mr. Chapman attempts to talk some sense into his daughter. He channels his inner Marie Kondo and asks if Alex still “sparks joy.” If not, “thank her for what she’s been in your life, and let her go,” he says. I guess you can say he’s on #TeamZelda.
Later on, Piper heads to Litchfield to see Alex. In visitation, Alex tells Pipes that she’s being transferred to an Ohio penitentiary, and it might be for the best. She tells Piper that what they’re doing — “the fighting, the cheating, the negotiating” — isn’t working. She apologizes to her wife for the “f—ked up detour you took with me.” She wants her to move on with her life and find what makes her happy. Piper insists that Alex isn’t a detour from her life. Alex is her life, and she’s not ready to let go. But Alex is doing this for Piper. She loves her too much to make her wait another three years before she gets out. She hangs up the receiver and walks out of visitation, while an overwhelmed Piper breaks down in tears.
Now at a crossroads, Piper visits with ex-fiancé Larry and tells him that Alex has set her free. Larry says he thinks that’s real nice of Alex, considering that she’s “a destructive piece of s—t.” Be that as it may, Larry doesn’t think that Alex ruined Piper’s life. If anything, she made Piper’s life. He suggests that Alex was Piper’s ticket to becoming something special. Now it’s up to Piper to decide whether she wants to hold on to Alex, or embrace something new.
In the end, Piper makes not just one decision, but a series of decisions about what she wants her life to be. She hits the open road, and a voiceover begins. “I’ve always loved getting clean,” she says. (Sound familiar?) “But now, when I say clean, I’m not talking about baths and showers anymore. I’m talking about a clean sweep… clean living… a clean conscience… and a clean slate.” Throughout the voiceover, we get glimpses of Piper’s new life. She has moved out of Cal and Neri’s apartment and into a place of her own. She’s sweeping floors at Starbucks, and enrolled in a first-year law class. Last but not least, she’s chosen to be with Alex. She’s made the drive up to Columbus to visit her recently transferred wife, and they’ve never looked happier than they do in this moment.
Back at Litchfield, we pick up the morning after Pennsatucky’s deadly overdose. As the medical examiners cart her body away, the character appears in spirit. She puts up her hood one last time, then fades off into the distance. Meanwhile, back inside, Tamika goes to check on Taystee, and asks if she thinks Penn OD’d on purpose. “Probably… maybe. She was in a bad way,” Taystee says. And she can relate. She makes clear to Tamika that she doesn’t know how much longer she herself can keep going.
Afterward, Tamika orders a thorough drug sweep, and insists that she’ll fire any guard that doesn’t take this seriously. Daya, meanwhile, cuts a deal with Hellman to keep her drug operation going. He takes her stash and makes a beeline for the chicken coop, where he proceeds to hide the drugs in the chickens.
Later that day, Taystee checks in on Suzanne. The Inmate Formerly Known as “Crazy Eyes” tells Taystee that she’s sad, but she’s become more tolerant of losing people. Over the last couple of years, she’s had to say goodbye to Vee, Poussey, Cindy and now Penn. She’s also had to say goodbye to Taystee. “You aren’t you anymore… but it’s cool,” Suzanne says. “I understand that I can’t control things… I’m growing up. It’s hard, but it’s happening.” Taystee tells Suzanne how much she loves her, then proceeds back to her cell. Meanwhile, Linda and Tamika make their way out toward the coop. One of the chickens appears to lay an egg, only it’s not an egg — it’s the drugs. With no explanation for what they’ve just witnessed, Linda fires Tamika. She’s eventually replaced by — ugh! — Hellman.
Back in her cell, Taystee finds an envelope from Tamika. With it is a note that reads, “Taystee, you made this happen. Tomorrow will be better.” Enclosed are the GED certificates for all four of her students — including Pennsatucky. And seeing that she made an impact on these women’s lives inspires a change of heart in the formerly suicidal inmate. She goes to Daya and exchanges the lethal dose of fentanyl for the key to the contraband room. She then heads to Tamika’s office to return the key, where she discovers that her friend’s been let go. As the warden boxes up her belongings, Taystee thanks her for everything that she’s done in an effort to improve the quality of life at Litchfield. She also asks for a favor: She wants the exiting warden to add a phone number to her approved call list.
Back downstairs, Suzanne holds a memorial for Pennsatucky. She encourages all of the inmates to put their hoods up, raise a glass of yellow drink, and join her in a sing-along of Penn’s very favorite song: the jingle for Mountain Dew. Before long, she’s accompanied by a chorus of her fellow prisoners, as well as Penn’s good friend, C.O. Dixon.
Eventually, Taystee gets on the phone and dials that newly approved number — which belongs to none other than former inmate Judy King. Once she gets a hold of the Martha Stewart archetype, she pitches the Poussey Washington Fund, a micro-loan program to help get newly released inmates back on their feet. The fund is promptly established, and the first recipients are enrolled a new financial literacy course taught by Taystee. Suzanne, meanwhile, serves as Taystee’s assistant.
When the very last scene fades to orange, a title card reveals that the Poussey Washington Fund is in fact a very real initiative. The actual fund — which was introduced earlier this week via a special video announcement by Samira Wiley — “supports non-profit advocacy groups whose goals are to reform criminal justice, protect immigrant rights, end mass incarceration and support women who have been affected by it.” Viewers are encouraged to learn more by visiting crowdrise.com/pwf.
So what happened to the rest of the inmates in the 90-minute sendoff? And what fates befell those who weren’t featured in the finale? To best sum up every character’s ending in a succinct and digestible format, we’ve compiled the attached guide, which reveals the fates of 55 characters. That includes the many returning faces featured in the series-ending montage.
What did you think of Orange Is the New Black‘s series finale? And which endings resonated with you the most? Hit the comments with your reactions, then be sure to check back on Monday for our final post mortem with Danielle Brooks.