“Orange is the New Black” and “House of Cards” helped put Netflix on the map, establishing the service as an original programming force. However the prison drama has stumbled in the latter half of its run, as it heads into a final season elevated and given a sense of urgency and purpose by a timely hook involving immigration and detention.
In hindsight, the three-year renewal that Netflix gave the show in 2016 did the producers no favors creatively speaking, leading to a somewhat meandering stretch, including the too-drawn-out prison-riot storyline that basically encompassed an entire season.
The seventh season, inevitably, is still dealing with some of the fallout from that, as well as the challenges that several inmates face when released back into society. There is also plenty of prison politics, and the ongoing, on-again/off-again relationship between Piper (Taylor Schilling) and Alex (Laura Prepon), which has grown increasingly tiresome. It’s complicated by the fact that the two now find themselves on opposite sides of the wall despite being engaged.
‘Orange is the New Black’ final season finds urgency and purpose in ICE plot
All of that pales, however, compared to the stories that surround the incarceration and deportation of those caught up in Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a web that entangles multiple characters (names withheld to avoid spoilers). Some of whom have spent all or most of their lives in the U.S.
Separated from children, unable to secure effective legal counsel and in some cases forced to return to countries that are utterly foreign to them! Those sequences have a more pronounced headlines quality than anything you’ll find on “Law & Order.” They give the final season an emotional impact that’s occasionally been missing as “Orange” flits about trying to adequately service its dozens of characters.