Orange is the New Black is set to conclude with Season 7, which will air on Friday, July 26, 2019. The series was one of Netflix’s very first forays into creating original television shows, and it is the longest lasting of those initial productions. (Orange is the New Black first aired in 2013 along with House of Cards and HemlockGrove, but only Orange is the New Black is still going.)
What was then seen as a quirky experiment for the streaming service that was not yet known for original productions has since become a fan-favorite. The show even turned critics’ heads and garnered many Emmy nominations with wins for casting and editing. Orange Is the New Black also saw multiple guest actress wins for Uzo Aduba, who plays Suzanne.
While the show, as a whole, enjoyed nearly universal acclaim for its first four seasons, it did see a slump in support for Season 5, dropping from 94-96% ratings in previous seasons to a disappointing 72%. However, it was able to recover some in Season 6, climbing back to 83%.
For a show that started with such a concentrated focus on a small group of women in tight confinement, the penultimate season saw the characters dispersed across different locations and circumstances and opened up many questions through flashbacks. Fans are anxious to see how the show is able to wrap up its many plotlines and character arcs and whether it can deliver a satisfactory conclusion.
While we wait to see just how it all will end, we have six seasons of episodes to look back on. These are the ones that have most captured fans’ hearts and minds.
‘Orange Is the New Black’ Season 4, Episode 13: “Toast Can’t Never Be Bread Again”
The Season 4 finale is a turning point for the series in both tone and substance. It follows the gut-wrenching episode “The Animals” in which prison guards kill the contagiously adorable character Poussey (Samira Wiley) during a cafeteria uproar. Fans left that episode as devastated and emotionally shaken as the other characters in the show, and “Toast Can’t Never Be Bread Again” is the powerful response to all of that rage and sadness.
With a meaningful look at both mourning for an individual and revolution for the collective, the episode resists the urge to give viewers a straightforward narrative, and that is what has made it such a standout success. Writer Myles McNutt explains:
“I was struck by how the moral complexity of the finale unsettles the idea that it functions as a typical climax. There is no catharsis to be found in Litchfield after Poussey’s death: there is no denouement when the body still sits in the cafeteria, and when the black women hold an informal wake in the yard they are constantly on edge knowing that the meaning of her death will shift depending on how the prison reacts to it.”
‘Orange Is the New Black’ Season 1, Episode 13: “Can’t Fix Crazy”
Finales are a big hit with Orange Is the New Black fans, and the final episode of Season 1 is consistently a fan favorite. In this episode, protagonist Piper Chapman’s (Taylor Schilling) roller coaster love life takes some big turns. She goes from seeking out a marriage request form to make things official with her fiance Larry (Jason Biggs) to losing both Larry and her lover Alex (Laura Prepon) by the episode’s end.
While the main action (and the cliffhanger) of the episode focuses on the bloody fight between Piper and Pennsatucky (Tiffany Doggett), the real draw is much more subtle. Piper has to face her flaws and responsibilities for the first time and being left entirely alone reveals a kind of raw brutality that suggests she is not as gentle or deserving of a break as she’d like the world to believe.
‘Orange Is the New Black’ Season 3, Episode 3: “Empathy is a Boner Killer”
While the present-day action of this episode is interesting and moves the plot forward, the real reason that it ranks so high on the list of fan favorites is because of the flashback. We get a glimpse at what life was like for Nicky Nichols (Natasha Lyonne) and see the raw pain and sense of abandonment she feels from her family. Interestingly enough, Lyonne channels a lot of Nicky’s familial turmoil and poor decision making into another Netflix original series in Russian Doll. Perhaps Netflix recognized just how relatable and fascinating Nicky and the characterization Lyonne brings to the screen truly are.
The amazing draw of Orange Is the New Black is how there is something for everyone. Those who want to follow the high-stakes drama will have plenty to see, but so will those who are more interested in the subtle and intense philosophical exploration of the characters’ development over time. Whether you’re in it to see some heart-stopping action or to question the meaning of life and our place in it, Orange Is the New Black delivers the heavy-hitting punches.
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