On July 26, Netflix released the final 13 episodes of its breakout, game-changing original series, Orange Is the New Black . Over the course of seven seasons, the show introduced us to one of the most memorable, diverse cast characters ever seen on television, and dared to tell stories that no one in mainstream media ever had before. In doing so, it changed the landscape of television (on streaming services and beyond) forever.
The show was not always perfect, to be sure. There were times, many times in fact, during the course of its run in which the storytelling felt messy, inconsistent, far-fetched or forced. But it was, at its core, a bold, groundbreaking and genre-defining series, which introduced the world to a lot of new faces, powerful stories and new ways of telling stories that have, I hope, opened a lot of minds (of viewers and content-creators alike) to new ideas and a lot of doors for new voices to continue telling brave, meaningful, intimate and compassionate stories about women on television and in film.
Like it or not, there is no denying this show was IMPORTANT in the way very few shows are anymore, in this age of intense overabundance of content. And while I am glad that it’s come a conclusion (a very strong one in my opinion, in which it reminded those of us who love it precisely why we fell for it in the first place–i.e., its compelling combination of wit, whimsy, gravitas and dedication to personal character development) without overstaying its welcome, it’s hard to see it go. Frustrating though at times it was, it was also completely wonderful–hilarious, insightful and surprising, with moments of absolute brilliance. In its terrific final act, it doubled down on what was always best about it: its fearless commitment to telling important, under-represented, often uncomfortable to watch stories with a lot of heart and not a lot of sugarcoating. I’ve always believed that the very best films and series are the ones that a hold a mirror up to society and force us to see, and sometimes confront, things about ourselves and the world that we otherwise wouldn’t have. Orange Is the New Black did that, with aplomb.
On a personal note, OITNB premiered about two months after I graduated from college. It was one of the very first shows I remember genuinely falling in love with as an adult, and for the past seven years, it’s enlightened and entertained and moved me. It was smart and silly and significant, and I’m not sad its over, but I’m very glad it happened.
This show and its characters have grown and evolved over the last seven years, as have I, so I can’t help feeling a bit nostalgic now that it’s wrapping up. I was a different person when it began–so young, so passionate and hungry, so full of possibility. And while I like to think I am still all of those things, the reality of aging is that I will never be as young as I was then again, never as full of possibility. So saying goodbye to OITNB in some ways means also saying goodbye to who I was when I watched it, to the years of my life I spent with it, and having to embrace who I’ve become in the meantime. And that’s not a bad thing, it’s an essential one, a natural one, but always an emotional one for me.
But, all good things must come to an end. Some people (and some shows) stay too long at the fair, and I’m glad this one didn’t. It went out on a high note, and I’m grateful to have been along for the journey it took us on, and to have been able to see it through to its finish. And to paraphrase the wonderful Danielle Brooks, whose emotional live rendition of her song “Seasons” played over the closing credits of the final episode, I won’t forget what it taught me, or how it made me feel.
“Seasons pass us by
And we think that we’ve got time
But here we are
At the end
It’s hard to let you go
I’ll miss you more than you know
And I won’t forget
How you made me feel.”