Orange is the New Black is one of Netflix’s flagship TV shows. In many ways, this series was responsible for solidifying the streaming platform’s place as a content creator and entertainment juggernaut. It came out in 2013, just months after House of Cards and Hemlock Grove, becoming the third original drama series to premiere on Netflix.
Six seasons later, Orange is the New Black has become an ensemble show that is full of twists and turns, character additions, and behind-the-scenes controversies. Despite being a critical and commercial darling, it has certainly made mistakes over time that hurt the series as a whole, and even compromised its future.
On the other hand, many of the plot twists on Orange is the New Black have been for good, even if, at first, it didn’t seem like so. Showrunner Jenji Kohan, who was previously known for creating Showtime’s Weeds, made very bold choices and statements during Orange ’s run – telling important storylines, making the case for a mostly female ensemble, and being a prominent advocate for having diversity production team both on-screen and behind-the-scenes.
Without a doubt, Orange is the New Black has been a very important series for portraying authentic characters that exist as minorities, such as LGBTQ individuals, people of color, and inmates trying to survive within the prison system. Unfortunately, not all of the plot twists on Orange worked well or to the benefit of the show and its characters.
This is 10 Plot Twists That Hurt Orange Is The New Black (And 10 That Saved It).
20 HURT: TAYSTEE IS FOUND GUILTY
The entire fifth season of Orange Is The New Black gave fans hope that maybe, just maybe, the Litchfield Penitentiary inmates would finally be heard, and that changes would be made. That season’s prison riot happened in the aftermath of Poussey Washington being a victim of police brutality, with Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson leading the negotiations between inmates and Management & Correction Corporation (MCC).
The prison riot did not lead anywhere, forcing Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson to be tried during season 6.
Since nothing was accomplished during the previous season, fans once again hoped that maybe, just maybe, the inmates would finally get their dues. However, season 6 ended with Taystee being found guilty for a crime she did not commit – a plot twist that many did not anticipate.
19 SAVED: LARRY CHEATS WITH PIPER’S BEST FRIEND
During season 1, Larry Abraham Bloom was a loving and supporting husband to Piper Chapman. It was easy to be annoyed with Piper’s treatment of Larry and to disagree with the way that she saw him. All in all, it certainly felt like Larry was dealing with the fact that his wife was going to go to prison in the best way that he could.
Then the second season of Orange is the New Black came along, and it started to become somewhat clear that Piper kind of had a point about Larry. Perhaps the biggest plot twist of the season was that Larry became romantically involved with Polly Harper, Piper’s best friend. In hindsight, this was great for Orange as a whole, as it placed audiences on Piper’s side and cleared the way for Larry to exit the show and Alex Vause to rturn.
18 HURT: BENNETT LEAVES PREGNANT DAYA
Correctional Officer John Bennett had always been set up as “one of the good guys” on Orange is the New Black. The fell in love with Dayanara “Daya” Diaz, and the series seemed to set up a Romeo & Juliet-esque storyline between an officer and an inmate. To take things even further, Daya got pregnant. However, because she had also been with George Mendez, the paternity of the child was put in question.
Even in the face of such adversities, it really felt like C.O. Bennett was on board with the whole thing.
He would take care of Daya’s child regardless of who the father was. Then, just like that, Bennett left, which was a damaging plot twist not only for Daya, but for Orange is the New Black as a whole.
17 SAVED: MENDEZ IS FIRED
George Mendez was the original “bad cop” on Orange is the New Black. Between seasons 1 and 3, he was responsible for some of the most despicable actions to happen on the show. Among them, Mendez engaged in relations with Daya, despite knowing that his actions would be construed as assault since inmates are not capable, by law, to give consent to correctional officers.
Later on, Daya rightfully framed Mendez as having assaulted her, which was a great way to protect her relationship with Bennett, justify the fact that she might be pregnant, and also get rid of the threat that Mendez represented inside the Litchfield Penitentiary. While this was a terrible thing to happen to Daya, it certainly allowed fans to celebrate the elimination of a terrible man.
16 HURT: PISCATELLA GIVES RED A HAIR CUT
Among the Litchfield Penitentiary inmates, Galina “Red” Reznikov was originally perceived as a villainous character, particularly due to the fact that she was very mean to Piper in season 1. Over time, however, fans were allowed to understand where Red was coming from, as she showcased redeeming qualities and proved that there were much worse women than her in those prisons.
In season 5, C.O. Desi Piscatella held Red and other inmates as hostages inside the Litchfield Penitentiary, tormenting and beating them.
Piscatella cut Galina Reznivok’s red hair, ruining the trait that defined her entire identity.
C.O. Piscatella’s actions were very hurtful to Red, but they were also incredibly hard for fans to watch, as Red had become one of the most beloved Orange is the New Black characters.
15 SAVED: PENNSATUCKY HAS A HEART
Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Doggett was perhaps the biggest antagonist on season 1, as she was directly opposed to Piper Chapman, who at the time was Orange is the New Black’s main heroine. As the seasons went by, Pennsatucky became a much softer character and showcased many redeeming qualities, which made her less of a villain and more of a victim of her terrible circumstances.
The plot twist came through her conflict with Coates, since Pennsatucky had always been perceived as such a strong woman, but this allowed audiences to see her in a brand-new light. In hindsight, this terrible thing allowed Orange is the New Black to show Pennsatucky as a real person with flaws and qualities, rather than simply an antagonist.
14 HURT: PENNSATUCKY ESCAPES PRISON, THEN COMES BACK
The big storyline concerning Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Doggett on season 6 was that she escaped prison with the help of C.O. Charlie Coates. However, Orange is the New Black ended that storyline with a plot twist: she came back.
Having Tiffany run away and then come back was a storyline that served no purpose.
She did not face any major repercussions, nor was anything significant revealed about her during her time running away. If anything, the time that Tiffany spent outside of prison just deepened the certainty that her relationship with C.O. Coates makes no sense. Tiffany has much more valuable storylines inside of prison, such as becoming Suzanne Warren’s sidekick in an ongoing investigation.
13 SAVED: ALEIDA STARTS DATING C.O. HOPPER
As Aleida Diaz was released from Litchfield Penitentiary, Orange is the New Black fans became worried that this signaled to the end of her journey. Sure, Daya would probably still see her mother on occasion, but we were likely to see less and less of Aleida from that point on. Fortunately, the series realized that Aleida Diaz was a very compelling character that fans would like to see more of.
Thus, Orange is the New Black presented yet another plot twist: Aleida started dating C.O. Rick Hopper, who works at Litchfield Max. Initially, she fools him into smuggling drugs inside the prison, which Daya sells. Later, however, as Hopper catches on, they start working together.
12 HURT: SOPHIA ENDS UP IN THE S.H.U.
In many ways, Laverne Cox’s career was jumpstarted due to her excellent portrayal of Sophia Burset on Orange is the New Black. The actress became the first trans person to ever be nominated in an acting category at the Primetime Emmy Awards. With so much acclaim, Laverne Cox became a household name and was instantly attached to several other projects, such as the television series The Mindy Project and Doubt, as well as the musical TV special The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do The Time Warp Again.
It was clear that Orange is the New Black would have to give fans a plot twist to justify Sophia Burset’s absence from the show.
It is just unfortunate – and hurtful – that this twist was the character being sent to a security housing unit (S.H.U.), isolating her for months.
11 SAVED: PIPER GETS AN EARLY RELEASE
Piper Chapman’s time in prison could have been much shorter if only she had not beaten up Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Doggett in the season 1 finale of Orange is the New Black. However, Piper was still given an early release after all, even if it came much later, in season 6.
As Orange is the New Black evolved from no longer being focused on Piper's story, it is safe to say that it was about time for the character to be released from prison. Fans no longer need Piper present to follow the stories inside prison. What’s more, audiences can now follow what will happen to her now that she's out in the world as a former inmate, allowing Orange to tell a new story.
10 HURT: BARB AND CAROL TAKE EACH OTHER OUT
Much of the sixth season of Orange is the New Black was about the conflict between sisters Carol Denning and Barbara “Barb” Denning, both of whom had eliminated their little sister Debbie. These characters were introduced in an attempt to become the “Big Bad” villains of Litchfield Max, only to leave the show during the very same season they were introduced on.
After watching Barb and Carol destroy one another, the entire storyline that led them there felt unimportant and quite unnecessary.
Season 6 of Orange is the New Black was already filled with changes and character additions, and this felt like one that did not add much to the series as a whole.
9 SAVED: LINDA GETS STUCK IN PRISON
Linda Ferguson was introduced on season 4 as an antagonistic character who worked for the Management & Correction Corporation (MCC). However, Orange is the New Black delivered a plot twist that not only softened her up as a character, but actually made her become a hilarious one: Linda got stuck inside the Litchfield Penitentiary during the season 5 riot.
Over the course of the show’s fifth season, we watched Linda Ferguson go from trying to convince the correctional officers that she was not an inmate, to actually enjoying her time spent along inmates. As a matter of fact, she even engaged in a romance with Carrie “Big Boo” Black, who protected her inside prison without knowing that Linda was actually telling the truth about working for MCC.
8 HURT: VEE ESCAPES PRISON, THEN IS RUN OVER
As was the case with the Denning sisters in season 6, Yvonne “Vee” Parker was introduced in season 2 as the new major antagonist. This was good, in a way, for Orange is the New Black fans to see that there were much rougher and tougher inmates than Red had been in season 1. On the other hand, the introduction of Vee proved to be somewhat pointless and unnecessary.
Despite being billed as a major threat, the character exited the show in the very same season that she was introduced.
During the season 2 finale, the big Orange plot twist was that Vee escaped Litchfield Penitentiary. Then, another plot twist came: Rosa Cisneros, who had also escaped prison by driving off in a car, ran Vee over.
7 SAVED: BLANCA IS CAUGHT
There are many black and Hispanic characters on Orange is the New Black, but stories concerning immigration were not necessarily tackled by the series until season 6. All of that changed with what was perhaps the biggest plot twist of Orange’s sixth year: as Blanca Flores was released early alongside Piper Chapman, she was actually taken by immigration agents.
Fans were obviously aware of the fact that Blanca Flores was Latina, but no one could predict that she was in the United States illegally. The plot twist of Blanca being detained by these agents was gut-wrenching, but actually gave Orange is the New Black the chance to tell a very valid and important story.
6 HURT: PIPER IS BRANDED
A terrible plot twist that took place on the fourth season of Orange is the New Black was when Piper told C.O. Piscatella about Maria Ruiz’s illegal operations inside Litchfield Penitentiary, which Maria responded to by branding Piper’s arm with a racist symbol.
While these are stories that raise the stakes and create conflict, it is always tough for Orange is the New Black to tackle stories that involve two inmates making each other suffer, particularly due to the fact that they already go through enough in the hands of correctional officers and the prison system itself. Later on, Piper covered the symbol by burning her skin even further into the shape of a window.
5 SAVED: THE TAMPON SANDWICH
Piper Chapman had no idea what she was doing inside prison during the first season of Orange is the New Black. For instance, she did not realize that insulting Red’s cooking would have consequences. As such, to teach her a lesson, Red served Piper with a breakfast sandwich that enveloped a used tampon.
This plot twist was quite terrible for Piper, but it was the first sign that the show wasn't be afraid to explore such hilarious and realistic moments inside a prison filled with women.
What’s more, this taught Piper a lesson to respect the inmates around her, rather than believing that she was above the law for having committed a less violent crime.
4 HURT: SUZANNE BEATS UP POUSSEY
If there are two unanimous fan-favorite characters on Orange is the New Black, they are Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren and Poussey Washington. During season 2, however, Suzanne was unfortunately taken advantage of by Vee, which led to a plot twist no one saw coming: Suzanne beating up Poussey.
It was heartbreaking and generally damaging to Orange is the New Black to placed two of its most beloved characters in such a violent situation.
What’s more, this fight underlined Suzanne’s struggles with mental illness, and featured two beloved black female characters physically hurting one another. All in all, the fight between Suzanne and Poussey was not a good thing for the characters involved, and it was even worse for Orange is the New Black as a whole.
3 SAVED: MORELLO’S BACKSTORY
During season 1 of Orange is the New Black, Lorna Morello-Muccio seemed a bit off, but in a perfectly normal and natural way. It wasn’t until season 2, when Morello’s backstory was shown, that a major plot twist took place: Morello actually suffers from some sort of mental illness, and is prone to engaging in violent and irrational outbursts.
It was surprising for fans to learn these new truths about Morello. However, in hindsight, it was exactly that plot twist that allowed the character of Morello to gain a new depth and be appreciated by audiences in a new way. After season 2, Morello was taken much more seriously by Orange is the New Black and its fans, and no longer just “slightly cuckoo.”
2 HURT: BAYLEY SUFFOCATES POUSSEY
C.O. Baxter Bayley suffocating Poussey Washington was perhaps the saddest, roughest, most gut-wrenching plot twist in the history of Orange is the New Black. While that storyline served to raise the issue of police brutality, Poussey was the undisputed fan favorite of the entire series, and watching her go down in such a brutal way was not easy for fans.
Not many fans were expecting to say goodbye to Poussey Washington on season 4, as the production team behind the series did a great job at keeping this plot twist a secret.
Samira Wiley, the actress who portrayed Poussey, had many other projects lined up – including The Handmaid’s Tale – which led to her wanting out of Orange is the New Black. Poussey Washington’s absence is still felt by fans, and most of seasons 5 and 6 centered around the aftermath of her loss.
1 SAVED: PIPER BEATS UP PENNSATUCKY
Let’s face it: while it was hard to watch Piper Chapman – the undisputed heroine of season 1 – beating up Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Dogget, it was because of that action that Orange is the New Black was allowed to go on for so many seasons. After all, Piper had to face an extended stay in the Litchfield Penitentiary as a consequence.
As season 2 began, it became clear that Orange is the New Black would no longer solely focus on Piper. Instead, the show began to highlight the many stories inside Litchfield Penitentiary, making Orange a series that is much more about its encore than about any singular character. If it weren’t for the plot twist of Piper beating up Pennsatucky, she would have been able to leave prison much, much sooner.
What's your favorite plot twist in Orange is the New Black? Let us know in the comments!