Warning: This post contains major spoilers for the fourth season of “Orange is the New Black.”
While the fourth season of “Orange is the New Black” had its ups and downs, the final stretch of the season made the show stronger and more relevant than ever.
At the end of season four, Poussey (Samira Wiley) is tragically killed by a guard in the penultimate episode, Caputo (Nick Sandow) is faced with a tough choice. In the end, he decides against giving the guard a harsh punishment, and a riot breaks out. Daya (Dascha Polanco) gets control of a gun, and then the episode ends.
Ending a show is never easy, and it is impossible to satisfy everyone, but “Orange is the New Black” always manages to do it right. One of this show’s rare talents is the ability to satisfyingly rap up 13 episodes while setting up the future and giving an equal balance to each.
That’s because the showrunners know how to pull off a cliffhanger.
Season two ended with the death of ultra-villain Vee (Lorraine Toussaint). Season four ended with the prisoners seizing control of the prison from the guards, presented as this season’s big bad. They always end with what you want to see, and then an additional question mark asking how this event will impact the future.
“Orange is the New Black” was created by Jenji Kohan. Before this, Kohan created “Weeds,” a show that had three excellent seasons and then went off the rails. “Weeds” ended each season with a cliffhanger as well.
However, the cliffhangers always faced a tough dead end. “Weeds” took place in the present day. If a season ended in 2005, the next season would take place in 2006. However, they always picked up from exactly where they left off. This led to an array of continuity issues.
Meanwhile, “Orange is the New Black” is set mainly in prison, so it is isolated from a lot of the changes in the world. Thus, it can seamlessly transition a cliffhanger from one year to the next. Season three ended with a majority of the prisoners escaping to swim in a nearby lake. Season four seamlessly started at literally that exact same spot. Where you leave off from can make or break the original cliffhanger.
In the era of binge-watching, cliffhangers from episode to episode are undervalued, given that you can just keep watching. Having one at the end of a show, and making us wait a whole year to see the conclusion, is the kind of entertaining and satisfying tease that TV is made for.
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