Netflix’s top-rated comedy-drama Orange is the New Black follows the lives of the staff and inmates at a women’s prison in upstate New York. As the sixth season of the series came to a close, Piper (Taylor Schilling) and Sophia (Laverne Cox) had both received parole, but just before leaving, Piper got “prison married” to fellow inmate Alex (Laura Prepon). Meanwhile, the big kickball game between C and D blocks was about to take place, and all the inmates were stocked with weapons and ready to go to war. However, the joy of being outside and the fun of the game took over and Murphy’s (Amanda Fuller) signals to attack went ignored. Meanwhile, pregnant Lorna (Yael Stone) went into labor, Tasha ‘Taystee’ Jefferson (Danielle Brooks) was convicted of murdering the guard in the prison riots thanks to Cindy’s (Adrienne C. Moore) plea deal, and Blanca was taken by ICE and was to be brought to the PolyCon ICE Detention Center, a holding facility for illegal immigrant detainees.
The seventh/final season of the series picks up shortly afterwards. Piper is now out of prison, trying to rebuild her life and dealing with her long distance relationship with Alex. She’s living with her brother Cal (Michael Chernus) and his wife Neri (Tracee Chimo Pallero) and their newborn, but is still struggling to make ends meet, and her father won’t answer her calls. Meanwhile, CO Rick Hopper (Hunter Emery) and former inmate/lover Aleida (Elizabeth Rodriguez) have moved in with one another, along with Aleida’s children, but everything at home is not happy. They continue to funnel drugs into the prison to Dayanara to sell, but she has become addicted to the product herself. Meanwhile, Alex is also getting forced to sell drugs for CO Hellman (Greg Vrotsos) after his top earner becomes unavailable. CO McCullough (Emily Tarver) plays a more prominent role this season as she is in need of money and, upset by the boy’s club at work, decides to take matters into her own hands, though she doesn’t really thinks things through first.
There’s a lot of shake-ups at the prison. Linda Ferguson (Beth Dover) reassigns warden Natalie Figueroa (Alysia Reiner) to run PolyCon’s new ICE Detention Center, and makes diversity hire CO Tamika Ward (Susan Heyward) the new warden at Litchfield Penitentiary. However, Tamika quickly discovers that she may be in over her head and that Linda expects things to be done her way, with no money being spent. Those in the SHU are released back into genpop, and while Murphy goes back to her scheming, Taystee is eager to appeal her case, and Red (Kate Mulgrew), Gloria (Selenis Leyva), Marisol (Jackie Cruz) and Nicky (Natasha Lyonne) are sent to run the kitchen in the new ICE Detention Center. There, they discover many women in desperate need of help, including familiar faces Blanca and Maritza (Diane Guerrero). Back at Litchfield, former warden Joe Caputo (Nick Sandow) is trying to help with the new Restorative Justice program, which involves the inmates taking classes, studying to take their GED, and even raising chickens. But Joe is also dealing with trying to have the baby with Natalie—which they discussed last season—and some new fallout from the #MeToo movement.
The seventh/final season of Orange is the New Black feels a lot like the previous seasons, with a familiar mix of drama and comedy. The series tackles some more-serious issues this season, looking at the treatment of people in ICE detainment centers, the lack of resources for mentally ill inmates, and how the prison system sets newly-released inmates up for failure. There are also some somewhat dark and depressing storylines for Lorna and Red this season. Each season, this series uses flashbacks to flesh out the backstory of one or more of the characters, or to inform current motivations of the characters or current events happening in the prison. This season these give a glimpse into the lives of Piper and Larry (Jason Biggs); Blanca getting her green card but still being arrested by ICE; Gloria leaving her daughters in Puerto Rico; Aleida resorting to prostitution at a young age; Maria and her relationship with Yadriel; Pennsatucky reuniting with her father only to have her learning disability be a source of ridicule; Red giving a young man some bad advice that makes him a target; and Taystee’s struggle to reintegrate into society that landed her back in prison during the first season.
Last season, a lot of the show’s humor came from the antics of CO Copeland (Shawna Hamic) and CO Alvarez (Nicholas Webber) as they played their fantasy prisoner game. This season there is no game, but these two continue to provide the comic relief. There also also laughs whenever Suzanne (Uzo Aduba) has a scene. This season Crazy Eyes is always writing her story down in a notebook, or having wacky conversations with Doggett (Taryn Manning). She also makes it her mission to reconcile the rift between Cindy and Taystee, and has taken the lead on the chicken farm project, where she is joined by oddball Lolly (Lori Petty).
Initially this seventh season didn’t really feel much like final season. However, the final episode does a nice job of wrapping up as many storylines as it could, and also manages to bring back many of familiar faces for some fun inmate cameos. While the finale ultimately leaves things on a somewhat positive high note, not everyone gets a happy ending, and over the course of the season, several beloved characters are lost. Thinking back at where some of these characters started, it’s amazing to see how much many of them have grown. Some who started off as these despicable people have truly been rehabilitated over the course of the series and have become so likeable. I was genuinely a little choked up during the final episode—who knew the Mountain Dew jingle could be so emotional?! Overall, this final season was a pretty satisfying conclusion to the show’s seven year run. During the final credits there’s even a fun gag reel/goodbye message from the characters.
For this final season, Lionsgate has decided to skip the usual Blu-ray release and only give consumers the option of a DVD. This was extremely disappointing, especially for those of us who have collected the first 6 seasons on Blu-ray—not only will the DVD not fit on the shelf next to the other seasons, but it’s also not in HD! The DVD release also skips the usual digital copy that would have come in the Blu-ray edition. That said, the picture is still pretty solid, just not quite as sharp and detailed as the past Blu-ray releases. The audio track provides clear dialogue and is utilized well to provide ambiance and a more immersive viewing experience. Each episode usually ends with a song, and these sound great. The release contains three bonus features, including a 15-minute featurette with the cast, 5 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage from the last day of filming, and a 2-minute goodbye message from the cast and creator. The episodes and bonus materials are spread across four discs, which come packaged in a standard multi-disc DVD case without a slipcover. There is no digital copy code/redemption included.
- All 13 Episodes of Season 7:
Disc 1: “Beginning of the End”, “Just Desserts”, “And Brown is the New Orange”, “How to Do Life”
Disc 2: “Minority Deport”, “Trapped in an Elevator”, “Me as Well”
Disc 3: “Baker’s Dozen”, “The Hidey Hole”, “The Thirteenth”
Disc 4: “God Bless America”, “The Big House”, “Here’s Where We Get Off”
- 480i / Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
- Audio: English 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital
- Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Bonus material is spread across discs 3 & 4.
- The Evolution of “Orange” (15:43)
The cast and creators look at the evolution of the series over the past seven years, from the lighter, earlier seasons to the more dramatic later seasons as the prisoners headed to maximum security, and leaving the series on a high note. They also discuss some of the topics and issues raised in this final season, and the diversity of the show both in front of and behind the camera. Includes behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews with creator/showrunner Jenji Kohan, showrunner Tara Herrmann, and stars Natasha Lyonne (“Nicky Nichols”), Kate Mulgrew (“Galina ‘Red’ Reznikov”), Yael Stone (“Lorna Morello”), Laura Prepon (“Alex Vause”), Selenis Leyva (“Gloria Mendoza”), Laura Gómez (“Blanca Flores”), Taylor Schilling (“Piper Chapman”), Adrienne C. Moore (“Cindy Hayes”), and Dascha Polanco (“Dayanara Diaz”).
- Here We Are… At the End (5:28)
Behind-the-scenes footage from the last day of production, as series creator Jenji Kohan speaks to the cast and crew, and the various actresses wrap their characters. The actresses provide voice-over comments about their time on the series.
- A Message to the Fans (2:13)
The actresses thank the fans for supporting them over the past seven years. Includes messages from Jessica Pimentel (“Maria Ruiz”), Jackie Cruz (“Marisol ‘Flaca’ Gonzales”), Selenis Leyva, Adrienne C. Moore, Dascha Polanco, Laura Prepon, Yael Stone, Natasha Lyonne, creator/showrunner Jenji Kohan, and Taylor Schilling.
The seventh season of Orange is the New Black provides some interesting, entertaining and thought-provoking character arcs and storylines as well as a solid, uplifting conclusion to the series. Unfortunately Lionsgate has only released this final season on DVD, despite all of the previous seasons receiving Blu-ray releases. There is also no digital copy included this time around. The release comes recommenced for fans of the show wishing to complete their collection, but it’s unfortunate that there is only a DVD option.