Orange is the New Black delivers a satisfying, but flawed conclusion in its final season
***SLIGHT SPOILERS FOR ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK SEASON 7 BELOW***
The end of Orange is the New Black feels like the end of an era. I’ve watched this show pretty much since it started, so it’s been in my life for a long time (seriously, I had long hair when I started watching it). It was one of the earliest Netflix Original Series, three words that have gone on to dominate the entertainment industry, and undoubtedly one of the most successful for the way it deals with social issues and its ability to create really loveable characters. But all things come to an end. I’ll try to avoid any major spoilers but if you haven’t caught up yet, read at your own risk.
First off, this is not a happy ending – at least, not for everyone. But in many ways, this final season is the satisfying end for characters whose arc has been developing for several years. Like the previous season, the cast is very different to what we saw in Season One, and we see very little of some of the major players from Season One like Sofia, Big Boo and Yoga Jones, but do expect cameos. We meet some new characters, but this season is primarily dedicated to tying up loose ends for all of our favourites.
As is usual for Orange is the New Black, Season Seven deals with some serious themes. We have Taystee (Danielle Brooks) dealing with a life sentence for the crime she didn’t commit, Flores and Maritza handling the injustice of ICE camps, and the lack of support for prisoners in the outside world. These are some issues that are prevalent in today’s society, and Orange has always done a generally good job of portraying these in an emotional way. Of course, no TV show is perfect in this respect, but this season deals with the harshness of reality without sensationalising real issues.
Some surprising characters shine in this season. Tiffany’s impressive character development continues to create an engaging character that you come to care about, something none of us would have thought back at the beginning of the show. Similarly, the guards have more of a story in this season, especially Tamika (Susan Hayward), although it does take away from the original focus of the prisoner’s lives. Nicky is, as usual, a highlight of the series, with Natasha Lyonne expertly portraying her emotional journey of love and loss as her whole dynamic changes around her.
Unfortunately – and I don’t mean to sound like every other Orange is the New Black review ever written – there is far too much Piper and Alex. This season sees the ‘married’ couple deal with love now that Piper is on the outside. However, I couldn’t actually care less. The supporting cast have long overshadowed the central couple, and I think this should have been reflected more in the final season. Of course, they are key characters, but their story became repetitive and boring.
Every season of Orange has been so different that the only way to review this final season is to compare it to what we’ve seen before. It’s a mostly satisfying end for the characters, but in terms of plot, it isn’t a standout season. In seasons 4 and 5, involving the lead up to and aftermath of the riot, this was a show you couldn’t stop watching. Now, however, there is much less action and more development. This is by no means a terrible thing, it just might not appeal to all of the fans.
Feelings about Orange is the New Black have changed season to season, and while this conclusion may not grab you in ways the story has before, it’s a necessary watch if you’ve come to love the characters over the years.
Orange is the New Black is out now on Netflix. Check out the season 7 trailer below.