Netflix's longest-running show, Orange is the New Black, has come to an end in season 7, and while some of the main characters get happy endings, others have far more tragic fates. Created by Jenji Kohan, Orange is the New Black debuted on Netflix as one of the streaming service's very first original shows, and since then has garnered a large fanbase and a number of Emmy awards.
Orange is the New Black is based on the book of the same name by Piper Kerman, who spent in a women's prison after being convicted for smuggling a suitcase full of drug money. In the show Taylor Schilling plays Piper Chapman, but her story was really just the entry point for dozens of character studies of the women of Litchfield Penitentiary. We've followed the inmates through a chicken obsession, an illicit underwear production line, a prison riot, and into maximum security, and now it's time to say goodbye to the characters we've come to know over the last seven seasons.
There have been so many characters in Orange is the New Black that it would take forever to say where they all ended up, but these are the main characters whose stories are wrapped up in season 7 - and how those stories end.
Piper and Alex End Up Together in Ohio
After Piper gets out of prison, her marriage to Alex becomes strained by the long distance relationship and they both end up cheating on one another. Alex has an affair with McCullough, a CO, who becomes angry and vengeful when Alex breaks things off. McCullough requests that Alex be transferred to a prison in Ohio, and Alex decides to set Piper free - telling her that they need to break up. After much deliberation over whether to stick with Alex or pursue a relationship with her new love interest, Zelda, Piper ends up moving to Ohio so that she can be with Alex. She gets a job at a cafe and starts taking classes in Civil Procedure. In the new prison there is no wall between them in the visiting room, so they can actually hold hands. At this point, Alex still has three years left on her sentence before they can really be together.
Pennsatucky Dies of a Drug Overdose
Sadly, not every character in Orange is the New Black gets a happy ending. Tiffany Doggett a.k.a. Pennsatucky spends season 7 studying hard to take the GED, and along the way is diagnosed with a learning disability. However, when the time comes to take the exam, she is told that she has not been given the allotted extra time she needs, because Luschek (who replaced the qualified GED teacher) forgot to put in a request for it. Despite extra tutoring from Taystee, Pennsatucky leaves the exam believing she has failed, and hits up Daya's gang for some drugs. This turns out to be Pennsatucky's last hit, as she dies of an overdose. As her body is carried away from Litchfield, we see a ghostly version of her waving goodbye to the prison as she walks away from it.
Taystee Creates the Poussey Washington Fund
For most of season 7, Taystee has only one goal in mind: killing herself. After being wrongfully convicted of Piscatella's murder and being sentenced to life in prison, she is no longer the happy, bubbly young woman that fans met in Orange is the New Black season 1. She asks Daya for enough drugs to commit suicide, but the high price tag delays things. There is a brief flicker of hope when it seems like a notebook written by Suzanne, in which she recounts how Piscatella really died, might exonerate Taystee - but her lawyer tells her it's too flimsy as evidence. Taystee is about to kill herself when she finds Pennsatucky's body, which derails her suicide attempt. Later, she is about to try again when she sees an envelope from Tamika, containing the GED certificates for all the students she tutored, and learns that Pennsatucky actually passed the exam and gained her GED.
This gives Taystee renewed hope that she can actually help people, and she reaches out to Judy King for help in setting up the Poussey Washington Fund - a foundation that offers microloans to women newly released from prison, to help them get back on their feet instead of falling back into the cycle of crime and poverty. In prison, Taystee finds new purpose in teaching financial literacy to inmates who are soon to be released, so that when they receive their money from the Poussey Washington Fund they'll know how to manage it.
Red Develops Early Onset Dementia
Introduced in Orange is the New Black season 1 as a fierce den mother and the veritable Queen of Litchfield, Galina "Red" Reznikov is brought low when she is forced to spend an extensive amount of time in SHU. The combination of this isolation and a severe urinary tract infection induces a state of delirium that develops into early onset dementia. Over the course of Orange is the New Black's final season, Red's memory fails her more and more until she can no longer even remember how to cook. She ends up being transferred to B-Block a.k.a "Florida" - where Litchfield's elderly and mentally ill patients end up. There, she reunites with her old "friend" Frieda Berlin, but doesn't remember Frieda's betrayal and introduces herself as if they had never met. Eventually Red remembers Frieda and tries to attack her, but Frieda hides in her cell and says she'll simply stay there until Red forgets her again.
Morello Loses Her Baby and Has a Mental Breakdown
Red isn't the only main character who ends up in Florida. After giving birth to a baby boy, Sterling, in season 6, Lorna learns from a tearful Vinnie that their son died of pneumonia. Refusing to accept reality, Lorna continues to insist that her son is alive, even creating Instagram accounts for him using pictures of babies that she finds on the internet. Unable to bear this, Vinnie decides to divorce her - which Morello interprets as him taking her baby away. Her mental health degrades over the course of Orange is the New Black season 7, and though Nicky desperately tries to help her, she eventually accepts that she can no longer keep Lorna safe. When Lorna lashes out at another inmate, it proves to be the last straw, and she is transferred to B-Block. The last time we see her, Red is cradling her like a baby and singing her a lullaby as Morello sucks her thumb.
Nicky Becomes the New Prison Mom
With Red in retirement, Nicky takes over as the new "Prison Mom" after asking Red for advice on how to take care of people behind bars. We see her in the kitchen, sporting red lipstick and helping a drug-addicted inmate to get through her withdrawal. After spending the show's final season struggling to keep too many plates spinning - her new girlfriend, Red's dementia, and Morello's breakdown - Nicky at last seems to embrace her new role, taking care of girls who need it and building a family of her own.
Maritza Gets Deported to Colombia
In one of the most heartbreaking storylines of Orange is the New Black season 7, Maritza gets arrested by ICE while hanging out in a club, since she doesn't have her ID. At the ICE detainment facility she is reunited with Blanca Flores, who lost her Green Card after pleading guilty to organizing the riots. When a group of inmates from Litchfield is brought in to run the kitchen at the ICE detainment facility, Maritza is also reunited with Flaca, and begs her for help in proving that she's an American citizen. However, when Flaca finally manages to get in contact with Maritza's mother, she learns that Maritza wasn't born in the United States at all, but in Colombia.
At first it seems like there's hope when Maritza gets her hand on the number for an organization that provides legal help to ICE detainees. However, Maritza's fate is sealed by an act of kindness, when she writes down as many copies of the number as she can and hands them out to the other women in the facility. This behavior is spotted by the guards, and Maritza is immediately deported to Colombia - a country she has never visited, and where she knows no one. We see her get on a plane with a number of other women, and one by one they fade away, with Maritza fading away last. Her fate in Colombia is left unknown.
Flaca Helps Women Detained By ICE Contact Their Families
No one is hit harder by Maritza's deportation than her best friend, Flaca. As the Litchfield women work in the kitchen, Gloria begins trying to help the women reach their families by taking notes from them with names and phone numbers and using her cell phone to try and make contact with them. This eventually gets her in trouble when she smuggles a phone into the ICE detainment center so that Karla, a woman who is being deported to El Salvador, can use it to speak to her sons one last time. After Gloria gets out of prison, Flaca resolves to take over the work she was doing, saying that it's what Maritza would want her to do. We see her taking messages from women as they line up with their lunch trays, telling them that she can't promise anything, but she'll do her best to find their families.
Ruiz Gets to Spend Time With Her Daughter Again
Maria Ruiz, who was heavily pregnant when we met her in Orange is the New Black season 1, had her baby and was almost immediately separated from her. She had a second heartbreak when her boyfriend, Yadriel, said that he wasn't going to bring baby Pepa for any more visits to the prison, because he doesn't want her to see her mother behind bars. In season 7, Yadriel reveals that he has started dating another woman (also called Maria), and Ruiz is naturally furious. However, with the help of Joe Caputo's restorative justice program, she works towards being a better person, and eventually apologizes to Yadriel and asks if he can start bringing Pepa to see her again. He agrees, and in Ruiz's final scene we see her taking turns with "New Maria" to read a picture book called Mi Burro, Mi Burro to Pepa in the visitation room.
Aleida May or May Not Have Killed Daya
Dayanara Diaz, once a sweet girl who liked drawing pictures of anime characters, has been thoroughly transformed by the end of Orange is the New Black. She's the drug kingpin of Litchfield and addicted to drugs herself, and to make matters worse she recruits her 13 year-old sister, Eva, to help smuggle drugs into the prison.
Aleida was released from prison, but ends up back behind bars when she finds out that Eva has been dating a drug dealer twice her age, and goes on a violent rampage at the dealer's house. When she learns that Daya has roped Eva into her drug operation, there is a fierce confrontation between the two Diazes. After Daya asks Aleida if she knows what it's like to kill someone, Aleida punches her daughter in the throat, jumps on top of her and starts to throttle her, saying that she might be about to find out. We don't see the outcome of this fight, but it's possible that Aleida ended up killing Daya in order to protect her younger daughter.
Mendoza Gets Out and Returns Home
One of the happier endings in Orange is the New Black is that of Gloria Mendoza, who comes close to losing her release date over the contraband phone she smuggled into the ICE detainment facility. In a rare act of selflessness, Luschek (who is still reeling with guilt over his role in Pennsatucky's death) confesses to smuggling phones into Litchfield and says that he was forcing the women to smuggle them into the ICE facility. He asks that Gloria be spared from any punishment, before he himself is fired on the spot. His gambit pays off; Gloria is released from prison, reunited with her kids, and gets to meet her grandchild. While unpacking things she finds the picture book Mi Burro, Mi Burro, which she gifts to Ruiz.
Black Cindy Gets Out and Reconciles With Her Mother and Daughter
In Orange is the New Black season 6, Black Cindy testified that Taystee murdered Piscatella in exchange for early release. Taystee gets her revenge when, shortly before Cindy is released, she sends a letter to Cindy's daughter revealing that the woman she believes is her mother is actually her grandmother, and her "sister" Cindy is her real mother. This bombshell results in Cindy moving out of her mom's house and briefly becoming homeless. After reaching her lowest point, Cindy resolves once again to do better and meets her daughter, Monica, and mother at a fast food restaurant, promising that from now on she will show up and be there for Monica.
Flores Gets Out and Moves to Honduras With Diablo
During her time in ICE custody, Flores sees many women deported, including Maritza, Karla, and Nicky's new girlfriend, Shani. It seems like her own case is hopeless, but Karla helps her by telling her to ask for a stay of removal so that she can get her criminal conviction overturned - on the grounds that she wasn't told it would affect her Green Card status. Amazingly, she succeeds in fighting her conviction and is released as a free woman with a Green Card. However, the love of her life, Diablo, has been deported to Honduras. Despite having the option to stay in the United States, Flores instead chooses to go to the "murder capital of the world" to be with Diablo, and the two of them have a happy reunion at the airport.
Suzanne Grows Up (Sort Of)
Introduced as "Crazy Eyes" in Orange is the New Black season 1, Suzanne ironically becomes one of the most stable characters by the end of season 7. She becomes Mayor of "New Cluck City" (the name for the prison's new chicken enrichment program), and takes charge of caring for a group of a dozen chickens. She gains her own experience in crime and punishment when an "immigrant chicken" (the rogue chicken that wanders around Litchfield) makes its way into the coop and another chicken shows up dead. At first Suzanne imprisons the new chicken, but when another chicken dies she decides to put them all in "chicken SHU" to stop the violence. The chicken program ends up becoming a microcosm of the larger prison industrial complex, where Suzanne and Lolly reflect on the tricky nature of chicken criminal justice.
After Pennsatucky dies, Suzanne decides to release the chickens from solitary confinement, saying that "P-Tuck" had thought it was cruel. She holds a memorial for Pennsatucky, where she sings the Mountain Dew jingle. During a frank discussion with Taystee, Suzanne says that she's come to understand that she can't control everything, and she's now starting to grow up. The last time we see her, she is helping Taystee to lead the financial literacy class.
Sophia Opens Up a Boutique Hair Salon
As Piper is agonizing over her relationship with Alex, she gets a surprise bit of advice from none other than Sophia Burset, who was released from Litchfield at the end of season 6. She shows up for a parole appointment immediately after Piper's, and upon learning that Piper has a gala to go to, insists upon fixing her hair beforehand. We discover that Burset has opened up her own hair salon, Vanity Hair by Sophia. While Piper is in the chair, Sophia advises her to consider letting go of her life in prison and putting it behind her.
What Happens to the Rest of the Original Characters
At the very end of Orange in the New Black's season finale, we catch up with characters who were transferred after the prison riot, and others who we haven't seen for a while. Here's what happens to some of the other old Litchfield inmates - and those in charge of watching over them.
- Gina, Norma, Yoga Jones, DeMarco, and Big Boo are in the same Ohio prison as Alex, so at least she has some friendly faces in her new home. We see them all sitting down for a meal, and Yoga Jones invites a new inmate to come and sit with them. She then starts to give her the same "mandala" speech she gave to Piper in the pilot episode.
- Angie, Leanne, Janae, Alison, Soso, and Sankey have also been transferred to the Ohio prison, and we see them all outside in the yard. Angie pulls Leanne's pants down for a joke. Meanwhile, Alison times Janae as she races around the track. Sankey - a former member of Litchfield's white supremacist gang - tells Soso that she has been trying to reform herself, and shyly confesses via a poem that she has feelings for her.
- George "Pornstache" Mendez has shaved off his pornstache. We see him raising Daya's baby, Armaria (who was adopted by Mendez's mother, and is now a toddler), and teaching her to play the drums using pots and pans. He seems to be a much better father than he was a CO.
- Caputo and Fig give up on trying to conceive their own baby, and instead decide to adopt. Though Fig is at first set on adopting a boy under the age of two, we see them being charmed by a little girl called Vanessa who sings Afroman's "Crazy Rap."
- Sam Healey ends up working behind the counter at a smoothie bar.
- Tamika Ward gets fired from her job as Warden and is replaced by CO Hellman - though in his last scene it's indicated that the job isn't going to be fun for him.
- Joel Luschek gets fired after admitting to smuggling in phones.
- Chang ends up in the ICE detainment facility, where she complains about the open plan architecture.
In many ways Orange is the New Black's final season was the darkest and saddest season so far, but it ends on a hopeful note as Piper reflects on how she still loves to be clean - even though the meaning of that word has changed for her. Some characters end up in tragic places, but those who survived at least don't end up alone.