Orange is the New Black has been a fan favourite on Netflix since 2013 and has only grown in popularity since its introduction. People have fallen in love with the large cast of main and rotating characters and the variety of storylines that weave in and out through each and every episode.
Season seven brings everything to a head as it aims to close out the stories of everyone still in prison as well as those who have made it out, including Piper (Taylor Schilling) who is struggling to adapt to her new life. What began as the story of Piper and Alex has since grown into so much more than that, evidenced by the scale of this season.
After coming off a very different and somewhat refreshing season last year, OitNB season seven is more in line with the prior seasons in terms of the tone, exploration of strong social issues, and balance of humour and hard-hitting drama. The character-centric storylines in this season are some of the strongest in the series to date. All of the main characters are involved in their own emotionally heavy story arcs which means that no matter who the story is following, it’s all very engaging content. There are a couple of short arcs which drag on and aren’t that great, but they disappear amongst all of the riveting content surrounding them.
Coming out of this season, it’s clear the creative team put a lot of time into ensuring every character had an important place in this season and they pulled it off amazingly well. Every episode is packed with storylines in prison, out of prison, and in the past as it constantly jumps back and forth. But at the same time, it’s still remarkably easy to follow. You feel like you’ve just consumed three episodes worth of development in each episode but the storylines are so strong that ‘the more the better’ really works here. It goes in so many directions you’d never expect and keeps you on your toes.
The emotional weight of this season is through the roof. This rollercoaster of a season will have you riding highs one minute and bringing you to the brink of tears in the next. It’s a testament to the strength of the writing, to the hard-hitting dialogue, and the performances which are brilliant across the board. There’s even a specific new character introduced in this season whose story is so impactful you’d think she’s been a series regular, but really she’s just been developed thoroughly within this one season.
Humour is another core element of OitNB and there is no shortage of it here amongst the drama and emotion. The writers find ways to inject humour into the lives of every character in here no matter how distressing their situations may be. It’s an incredible thing they do to find humour in the darkest of times and it really elevates and balances out the mood across various scenes.
The implementation of social issues and important social commentary into the story is something that has become more prevalent in the recent seasons, and it’s explored even more in this final season. Despite being focused on fictionalised characters with fictionalised storylines it incorporates a lot of relevant commentary on discrimination, social justice, corruption, and specifically immigration. The sections of this season focusing on the immigration side of things are some of the most thrilling sequences in here. It opens up a whole new section of this world and shows the polarising differences to life in the regular prison.
The characters and their diverse personalities and experiences are what keep bringing people back, and it’s all due to the performances behind these characters which are all stellar this season. Taylor Schilling (Piper), Laura Prepon (Alex), Kate Mulgrew (Red), Dascha Polanco (Diaz), Selenis Leyva (Mendoza), and Natasha Lyonne (Nicky), to name a few, are incredible across every scene. They’ve all become so synonymous with their characters that they just jump right in and deliver every line of dialogue and every emotion with ease. They’re the core crew and no matter how many times the show has fallen back on these characters, their stories have always constantly delivered.
In this season, I need to specifically highlight the performances from Uzo Aduba (Suzanne), Danielle Brooks (Taystee), Yael Stone (Lorna), Taryn Manning (Pennsatucky), Laura Gómez (Blanca), and Karina Arroyave (Karla). I still feel that Uzo Aduba puts in the single best performance in this entire series and this season specifically. She brings so much to the show through Suzanne in terms of humour, heart, and emotion that she’s one of the most valuable parts of the show. Her interactions with Taryn Manning this season make for a number of thoroughly entertaining scenes. Manning also has a lot to do as Pennsatucky this time around and has one of the best arcs of the entire season.
Also connected to Manning’s involvement wis what Danielle Brooks brings to the season. Taystee has changed so much since last season’s events and her journey through this season may be the most gripping. Her relationship with Pennsatucky is one arc you won’t forget for a while after the season ends. Laura Gómez and Karina Arroyave’s presence in this season is riveting due to how they both give an different insight into the immigration procedures in the US through emotional story arcs.
There are so many other performances I can mention such as a number of the CO’s and supporting roles but then we’ll be here all day. Just know they’re all great.
Orange is the New Black closes out the series with an incredible final season that fans will no doubt respond well to. The story arcs are gripping, funny, emotional, and make for a number of memorable moments to walk away with. It satisfyingly closes out the stories of every character in many ways you won’t expect. It may not always be pretty, but it provides closure for everyone in here… neglecting no one.