Six years after the adaptation of Piper Kerman’s memoir arrived in our Netflix queues, television has widely embraced much of what made the series feel so revolutionary — from its effortless mix of humor and pathos to its thoughtful representation of marginalized communities. That’s a credit to creator Jenji Kohan and the show’s writers, but it also means viewers have many more options. And since OITNB has faltered in its recent episodes — a decline that followed the show’s powerful but heartbreaking fourth season — some fans have abandoned the series altogether.
If you’re too far behind to catch up, we’re here to fill in the blanks on Season 7, which wraps up many of the main characters’ stories throughout its 13 episodes. Here’s what happened to Litchfield’s most prominent inmates. (One more reminder: spoilers galore!)
Piper (Taylor Schilling) got out of prison in the Season 6 finale, so now the first few episodes of Season 7 show her struggling to meet parole obligations while living in a cramped Jackson Heights apartment with her brother, Cal, his wife, Neri, and the couple’s infant daughter. Her longtime girlfriend, Alex (Laura Prepon), is still in prison. The undercurrent, of course, is that despite the frustrations of her post-prison life, her privilege still affords her an easier reentry than that of her former fellow inmates. Though her wealthy father refuses to help her financially, he eventually hires her to work for him.
By the show’s final episode, Piper has completed her parole and is slowly rebuilding her life; she is shown taking a course on civil procedure. Her love life gets a bit more complicated after she meets Zelda (Alicia Witt) on a wilderness retreat. Do she and Alex end up together? We’ll get back to that . . . .
Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren
Suzanne (Uzo Aduba) grapples with her mental challenges throughout Season 7. At one point, she recalls not understanding the impact of her crime — the kidnapping of a young boy she knew from her job as a store greeter — and realizes she does not “deserve” to be in prison, but rather, at a facility better equipped to meet her needs.
She remains a loyal and often unknowingly wise friend to Taystee and other inmates. Aduba reminds us why she is a two-time Emmy winner in the series finale, which features Suzanne performing an emotional tribute for her bunkmate, P-Tuck, a.k.a. Pennsatucky (see below). She also delivers one of the episode’s best and most astute lines — in reaction to learning the prison’s chickens were being used as drug mules. “I never prepared them for life on the outside,” she said. “Of course they turned to drugs.”
Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Doggett
Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning) spends several episodes diligently studying for the GED exam, discovering she has dyslexia in the process. When test day arrives, she is informed that a correctional officer overseeing the course did not submit her request for extra time. She panics, and she struggles to complete the exam.
Frustrated at her latest setback, the long-sober Pennsatucky returns to her former habits and overdoses in the penultimate episode. The series finale opens up with her in a body bag, but the sobering scene is followed by a questionable moment: OITNB briefly resurrects her, in translucent ghost form, so she can bid a pointed goodbye to Litchfield.
Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson
Despite the efforts of activists, pro-bono legal counsel and a telling journal entry from Suzanne, Taystee (Danielle Brooks) remains unable to prove she didn’t kill rogue guard Desi Piscatella during Season 5′s prison riot. Her discovery last season that she was implicated by her longtime friend, Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore), is also particularly to swallow. She’s despondent in the season’s final episodes, one of which sets up a troubling scene in which it appears she might kill herself. But Taystee has an ally in the prison’s newest warden: her high school friend, Tamika, who insists “tomorrow will be better.” That advice turns out to be true when Taystee discovers Pennsatucky passed her GED exam after all.
The bittersweet moment prompts Taystee to persevere despite her circumstances. She creates a microloans program — named for her late friend Poussey Washington — aimed at helping former inmates get back on their feet. But the injustice of her long prison sentence still stings.
Despite permanently losing her friendship with Taystee, things look fairly good for Cindy midway through OITNB’s final season. She gets out of prison on early release and, against all odds, secures a job at a nursing home. She also returns home to live with her mother (Natalie Carter) and Monica (Donshea Hopkins), her biological daughter who has been raised to think she is Cindy’s sister. But Taystee, smarting at Cindy’s betrayal, mails Monica a letter revealing the truth about her mother.
Monica is distraught to learn she has been lied to her entire life. A guilt-ridden Cindy leaves her family’s home, against her mother’s wishes, and fends for herself on the street. But she stays the course of trying to become a better person, and she later reaches out to her mother and daughter, pledging to meet them weekly at a local fast-food restaurant.
Lorna (Yael Stone) suffers her biggest breakdown to date after her pen pal-turned-husband, Vinnie (John Magaro), tells her \their infant son died of pneumonia. She refuses to accept the sad news, pretending that Vinnie is fighting her for custody and lashing out at anyone who challenges her delusion. Her fragile mental state gets her transferred to the prison’s “Florida” wing, which houses mostly elderly inmates.
Something is clearly off with Red (Kate Mulgrew) in Season 7. Later episodes reveal she is suffering from severe memory loss. That means she forgets the epic fallout she had with fellow Litchfield “Golden Girl” Frieda Berlin (Dale Soules) and befriends her again. Something triggers her memory in the series finale, and Red pledges to exact revenge on her former friend. Frieda, for her part, openly hopes Red forgets their beef.
Nicky (Natasha Lyonne) finds romance with a new inmate, Shani (Marie-Lou Nahhas), who has a particularly sad backstory and ends up getting deported back to Egypt. Nicky, who has always been a nurturing and nonjudgmental friend to Lorna, seems primed to pick up Red’s title of prison mom.
Maritza (Diane Guerrero) is out of prison when Season 7 begins, but her freedom is short-lived. She tests the rules of her probation — namely the curfew and restrictions on alcohol and places that serve it — and ends up in the middle of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement sting at a nightclub. This is where we learn that Maritza relies solely on her good looks to get into clubs; she has no identification on her, and she is taken to an ICE facility. Her situation takes a tragic turn when she learns, through her estranged mother, she is not a U.S. citizen. She is deported to Colombia in a plot line that evokes the real-life story of Guerrero, whose parents were deported to Colombia when she was 14.
You can’t mention Maritza without mentioning Flaca (Jackie Cruz), who is inspired to help other undocumented inmates following the deportation of her close friend. “I’m going to keep doing the work,” she tells Gloria (Selenis Leyva) in the show’s final episode. “We helped people.”
Blanca (Laura Gómez), who was unexpectedly taken into ICE custody at the end of Season 6, advocates for herself after seeing a legally savvy fellow inmate defend herself in court. She is eventually released and, despite regaining her green card, chooses to go live with her longtime love, Diablo (Miguel Izaguirre), who was deported to his native country, which he half-jokingly refers to as “the murder capital of the world.”
Gloria (Selenis Leyva), a maternal figure to many of Litchfield’s Latina inmates, is singularly focused on her impending release, a goal that is threatened by her attempt to help several of the prison’s undocumented prisoners using a contraband cellphone.
She avoids extra prison time after shady corrections officer Luschek (Matt Peters) confesses to being responsible for the prison’s steady supply of mobile devices. Despite their riot-related fallout, Maria extends an olive branch to Maria (Jessica Pimentel) upon her release.
Though she struggles to mend her relationship with Gloria, Maria makes peace with her former boyfriend, Yadriel (Ian Paola), and his new girlfriend, (also named Maria), and persuades Yadriel to let their young daughter, Pepa, come along with him on visits again. Maria is later seen reading to Pepa in the prison’s visitation room — the book, “Mi Burro, Mi Burro,” is a gift from Gloria, who remembered Maria saying her mother used to sing the children’s song “A Mi Burro” to her when she was a child.
Aleida (Elizabeth Rodriguez) is sent back to prison after attacking her underage daughter’s much older boyfriend. She ends up at Litchfield Max alongside her daughter, Daya. Their relationship grows increasingly contentious. Which brings us to . . .
Daya (Dascha Polanco) has become a veritable kingpin, overseeing the prison’s insidious drug operation after killing (via tainted drugs) her lover, Dominga “Daddy” Duarte; Daya also frequently dips into the prison’s supply. By the series finale, she and Aleida are (literally) at each other’s throats, and Daya appears on the losing end of the fight.
Alex (Laura Prepon) is forced to sell drugs for several corrections officers in Season 7. One CO (McCullough, played by Emily Tarver) falls for Alex, and the two begin a physical relationship that creates tension between Alex and Piper. When Alex firmly rejects McCullough, she retaliates by getting Alex transferred to a prison in Ohio.
Alex and Piper confront their codependency (long a source of frustration for OITNB fans) in an emotional conversation that ends with Alex breaking up with Piper, attempting to not hold her back, as Alex has three years left on her sentence. The series ultimately leaves their relationship status somewhat vague. We see Piper in her car, presumably driving to see Zelda, but then we see her visiting Alex, presumably at the Cleveland prison.
Alex’s transfer reunites viewers with a slew of familiar faces: The Cleveland facility also houses “Yoga” Jones (Constance Shulman), Janae Watson (Vicky Jeudy), Norma (Annie Golden), Gina Murphy (Abigail Savage), Carrie “Big Boo” Black (Lea DeLaria), Anita DeMarco (Lin Tucci), Alison Abdullah (Amanda Stephen), Brook Soso (Kimiko Glenn) and Litchfield’s meth-addicted duo, Leanne Taylor (Emma Myles) and Angie Rice (Julie Lake).
Other OITNB mainstays you might be wondering about: Yes, Larry (Jason Biggs) and Polly (Maria Dizzia) make a brief return, sharing an awkward dinner with Piper and Zelda.
Piper also reunites with Sophia Burset (Laverne Cox), who does Piper’s hair at the high-end hair salon where the former Litchfield hairstylist now works.
We also see former Litchfield warden Joe Caputo (Nick Sandow), whose inappropriately flirtatious ways catch up to him when a former employee publicly alleges he sexually harassed her. Despite this, his former boss-turned-girlfriend, Fig (Alysia Reiner), sticks by his side; the two appear ready to adopt a little girl in the series finale.