Orange Is The New Black is a series that took me years to even begin watching. Call it aversion to popular culture or severe avoidance of queer bait-y series and movies. BUT the moment my partner and I started watching it in 2016, three years after it first came out, we were hooked. Before you know it, we were singing to the opening credits (The animals, the animals, trapped, trapped, trapped 'till the cage is full, the cage is full ?), bingeing the first few seasons over weekends, crying, grieving, getting angry, anxiously waiting for the next season.
The tried-and-tested formula for many successful series—the drama, the dark humor, the fact that Orange Is The New Black is based on Piper Kerman, a real person and her memoir, and well, the sex—will intrigue you. But it is the show’s underlying themes, its most salient being, nobody gets what (justice) they deserve, is what will keep you. (Keep you crying, angry, hoping and up at night.) Who could forget the race war initiated by Piper herself for “white lives matter,” Black Cindy’s conversion to Judaism to which an inmate said, “I don’t know why she’d want to go from a hated minority to a double-hated minority” and Poussey’s political passing, which was inspired by a real life event, the death of an asthmatic African-American Staten Islander who was choked to death by a police officer.
OINTB, like many modern-day series, is a reflection of both the past and the present, reality and fiction, and the opportunities we have to do better. And perhaps that’s why the final season, even without having seen it yet, has left quite a bittersweet taste in my mouth.
— Orange Is the New Black (@OITNB) October 17, 2018
If season six dealt with racial discrimination, tribalism and the continuous dehumanization of prisoners, the final season will likely delve deeper into those themes (and how timely, given the political climate stateside) hopefully beginning with Daya Diaz. Daya, who because of the conditions and culture in prison, has suffered through a downward spiral and is still stuck in max. Fans have theorized her untimely death but who knows, maybe there is life after drug addict-smuggler-and-thug Daya.
Taystee Jefferson, wrongfully convicted for a murder she did not commit, represents women of color in the US and other parts of the world who are failed by the justice system. Even with Joe Caputo and Black Lives Matter activists on her side, she was still sentenced to life. But as Taystee takes matters into her own hands, will she get the justice she deserves? Meanwhile, Blanca Flores whom we thought was released from prison, was actually taken by government agents to an immigrant detention center in the past season. Please, just let her go home to Diablo and start a family. It would be extremely timely and necessary for OITNB to touch on this further. Hoping her story doesn’t end here.
Alex Vause also remains behind bars and following the death of C-Block leader Carol whom she made a deal with in exchange for new wife Piper’s safety, it seems like what remains of the gang are looking to her as their next leader. Honestly, we like the bookish Alex better, but who knows, a return to crime might be necessary for her survival. Finally, Piper Chapman. Watching the trailers for season 7, it seems Piper will have quite a hard time adjusting to life outside (“you’re allowed to hold a weapon, right?” comment is a sure indication of that). Her separation from Alex and the trauma from prison life results in depression, and knowing the Piper we know, she might just do something stupid to get back into the arms of her wife—even if that means going back to prison.
We’re also aching to know what happens to our fav pair Nicky and Lorna, unlikely pals Freida, Suzanne and Tiffany and our beloved prison moms. Hopefully, everybody’s alright. But this is Orange Is The New Black, the future is bleak and chaos can strike at any time. So, hold onto your hats kids, we’re in for a ride.
Orange Is The New Black premieres July 26 on Netflix.
Art Alexandra Lara