WARNING: This article contains spoilers for season 4 of Orange is the New Black.
Orange is the New Black (OITNB) is quickly becoming one of Netflix’s most popular original series. Adapted from the book Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison (2010) by Piper Kerman, the show revolves around a women’s prison and protagonist Piper Chapman.
The show gained popularity for its amazing, powerful cast and dark comedy. Recently, it was renewed for another three seasons, but a fan favourite character won’t be returning next season.
At the end of season 4, the show’s creator, Jenji Kohan, made the bold decision to kill Samira Wiley’s character, Poussey Washington. One of the few characters that has survived since season 1, Poussey has become a fan-favourite, especially in this season.
After a protest against the prison’s unprofessional guards goes horribly wrong, Poussey is crushed to death by a guard whilst trying to protect her friend, Suzanne (Uzo Aduba). The death of one of the most popular characters made the show blow up on social media, drawing in even more popularity.
In an interview, Samira Wiley said, “This is not thoughtless. It is a senseless death, but it’s not a thoughtless decision on the part of the show. It echoes so many deaths that have happened in the last year, even. Eric Garner. Mike Brown. This happens in real life, and people are so upset.”
The shocking death of Wiley’s character has sparked discussion about racism and the Black Lives Matter campaign. Although many fans are outraged or upset, this event reflects the sort of thing that happens in real life, in and out of prison, and the severe outcomes of racism.
The entire season focused on the theme of racism, with the prison’s various ‘family’ groups going up against each other. Furthermore, the portrayal of the relationship between Poussey and Asian prisoner Brook Soso was very important, as it showed that there shouldn’t be a racial divide. This season in general gave very pointed arguments against racism, and so it makes sense to show the real extent of the problems that black people can face.
Although this isn’t the first character that we’re saying goodbye too, it’s certainly one of the most heartbreaking. However, knowing that Poussey Washington’s death is bringing to light important issues that happen in the real world is a consolation.