A spoiler warning for those who have not completed all seven seasons of Orange is the New Black (OITNB). I honestly don’t know how to do a review of the final season without giving away spoilers. Last warning. This review will not make any references to the book since I have not read the book.
This season overall left me feeling mixed. At times it feels like a “sell out” to the current events involving our dense political climate in America. At other times, it really hits you hard the devastation these women feel with the true awfulness of their situation. Daya becomes top dog in the prison. Alex and Piper continue their turmultuous relationship. Pennsatucky gets diagnosed with dyslexia and struggles with the GED test. Jefferson struggles deeply with suicidal ideation (eventually attempting at one point in the season) throughout the season. Gloria and her crew work the kitchen while Gloria also smuggles in phones to try to help the ICE dentainees. A new warden (warden Ward) takes over the prison and genuinely tries to help the inmates with their daily lives in prison. We even see a little bit of Larry and Sophia show up in this season (albeit very briefly for Sophia).
The good parts of this season?
- The emotional scenes are handled very well (both positive and negative)
- The season deals with complex mental health struggles in a realistic way (depression, suicuidal ideation, addiction, etc.)
- This season did not suffer from “too many cooks in the kitchen” like numerous seasons struggled with leading up to this season. Many seasons leading up to this final one just struggled with where to focus its plot attention on because there were so many inmates that were introduced as primary, secondary, and teritary characters.
- Accurately depicts possible problems associated with being locked up in isolation for too long
- This season was not afraid to show skin or “sexiness” but didn’t go out of its way to have a sex scene or nudity for the sake of nudity
- The soundtrack matched well with the tone of the different scenes
- The struggles assocaited with a long distance relationship
- Accurately depicts the struggles of being in the military and being assaulted in the military by a fellow soldier
- Accurately depicts how many “ex inmates” struggle to build a life for themselves since numerous types of facilities (housing, schooling, occupations, etc.) are hesitant to take on people who have been to jail (regardless of the circumstances for being locked up).
One pet peeve of mine with this season was how the character Daya was handled. Daya has been one of my personal favorite characters, however, I absolutely hate how she was written this season and last season. It was so hard to see her essientially “fall from grace”. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes when she assumed the role of “top dog”. With exposure to Wentworth (another women’s prison show on Netflix, this time set in Australia), I couldn’t help but think that if Franky and/or Bea (top dogs of the show at different times in the show) would absolutely mop the floor with her. We get a hint in the last episode that Daya loses her title as top dog (it’s left with her getting strangled by another inmate and we do not see the end of this confrontation).
Larry was honestly not exactly needed for this season. I can understand why the behind the scenes people wanted to bring him back because they wanted to see “where the character is at” and if they felt there were “loose ends” to tie up, they wanted to deal with that as well. It feels like the role that Larry ultiamtely played in this season could have been filled by another character or person in this season.
A new warden takes the seat during the final episode (Hellman) and we see him hitting his chair with a broken piece of said chair because he realizes it is broken. This left me not feeling well. I understand that life is not a fairytale ending by any means (Hell, this is a show about prison so don’t expect nice things is a good rule of thumb) but due to his quite honestly despicable personality, I really hated how he was given the role of Warden.
Red gets diagnosed with dementia during this season. It shows her struggles with dealing with the symptoms and how it affects the women around her. Red even ends up wandering into a freezer at one point and when asked why by Nicky, she simply tells her “I got confused”. Unfortunately this is not an uncommon occurance for patients dealing with dementia. The doctor even gave the ominous warning that “eventually you will need a caretaker 24/7”.
Morello I am honestly iffy on with how I feel about her. She loses her baby and her husband files for divorce. She can not deal with the reality of the loss of her baby and mentally spirals. Morello shows signs of amnesia for periods of time. Nicky tries to “bring her back to reality” but Morello simply will not accept the fact that her baby is dead. I am iffy on her because I was not a fan of how the script worked with her.
One of my favorite characters in this season was Suzanne. The viewer can really see her mature. She provides support to the other women in the prison and becomes painfully aware that the justice system does not always serve justice fairly.
Cindy sees growth as well. She tries to mend the relationship with her own mother and daughter. She deals with being homeless as well. She accepts responsibilities and really tries to show her mother and daughter that she can be trusted.
McCullough has bits and pieces of her past revealed as well as her attempting to start a relationship with Alex, despite Alex being “prison married” to Piper. McCullough has PTSD episodes during this season and it was handled overall very well.
Joe Kaputo deals with a “me too” scandal (the fallout of the scandal is overall minor inconviences for the most part with his character). It really felt “let’s add drama for the sake of drama” with this bit. He ends up going to an orphanage at the end of the season with Natalie with the idea of adopting a young child. He teaches a “restorative justice” class within the prison to the women during a good bit of this season.
The ICE facility is handled well. You can really feel the desperation and despair festering like the plague within the facility. The officers are royal jerks to the women. A few women we have come to know well also get deported.
Linda Ferguson is one of those characters you wish would drop dead. They see things solely in terms of statistics and money when it comes to the prison. They have zero empathy or sympathy for the women (in both Max and ICE detainee facility). She’s cocky (borderline narcissitic) and even admits to hiring people solely for the “diversity brownie points”.
Overall this season was handled a lot better than some of the previous seasons. It is no secret that OITNB has really struggled these past few seasons to capture the same type of feelings it gave the viewer with the first few seasons. It handles the emotional scenes well and the different circumstances that often involve inmates and faculty involved with the prison system.
This season struggled with certain scriptwriting elements as well as the handling of certain moments. This season at times felt so superficial that I was sucked out of the show because of how it felt like they were trying to touch on so many current events happening in the world around us (I half expected an inmate to show up and say “yeah I shot a school up” because of the gun violence epidemic that has swept over the USA).
This show shined a light on our inhumane inmate treatment problem in America. The soundtrack was very well done for this season as well. Overall I would probably give this season about a 3.75/5 stars.