SPOILER ALERT: This contains spoilers for the season 5 finale of Orange is the New Black.
Destruction of property, kidnapping, abuse—this is just a sampling of what’s plagued Litchfield Penitentiary over three seemingly endless days. The riot—which began as a cross between unadulterated revenge and noble aspirations for reform—has left the Litchfield and all connected to it in shambles. From inmates to guards to the callously neglectful MCC (Management & Correction Corporation), no one is making it out of this riot unscathed, and for some, we have no idea if they’ll make it out at all. Here are the eight questions we came away with after that cliff-hanger ending.
1. Who, if anyone, survived the S.W.A.T. team’s assault on the pool bunker?
Taystee (Danielle Brooks), Piper (Taylor Schilling), Alex (Laura Prepon), Red (Kate Mulgrew), Frieda (Dale Soules), Suzanne (Uzo Aduba), Black Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore), Gloria (Selenis Levya), Nicky (Natasha Lyonne), and Blanca’s (Laura Goméz) fates were left up the in air at the end of the season. After sweeping the jail several times, the S.W.A.T. team realized that 10 inmates were missing (more on this in a minute) and went back in to find these women, who were hiding in Frieda’s bunker. So, the season ended with the women holding hands and bracing themselves for the SWAT team’s assault, which is bound to include some casualties — or at least some injuries — because the governor has authorized lethal force if there’s any resistance.
2. What’s the future of Litchfield?
In addition to the inmates’ uncertain future, there’s also the matter of the prison itself, which went to hell and back during the course of this three-day riot. Will part of the show still be set there? If so, will any of the changes Taystee bargained for be implemented, even though negotiations fell apart? Or, will MCC just go back to running the prison the way it was before the riot broke out. There’s also the question of management — because there’s little doubt in our mind that Caputo is done for.
3. If Litchfield is done for, where will the inmates be sent?
No question; we’d probably be hard-pressed to find another prison that manages such a balancing act of terror and heartwarming camaraderie, especially a maximum-security prison.
Though it seems like a lifetime ago, we have switched prisons at least once before in the Orange canon. Granted, it was way back in season 2 when Piper was mysteriously shipped off to Chicago, but it happened. Who’s to say it couldn’t happen again?
The difference this time, of course, is that Piper is no longer the face of Orange, and hasn’t been for a while. Following the eccentric — and sometimes terrifying (see: that time she got branded in the kitchen) — experiences is pretty doable, but following the many characters now in the limelight might make for a disjointed experience.
This leaves us with two probable scenarios. One would see most or all of the primary inmates (essentially everyone stuck in Frieda’s bunker) ending up in the same prison, be it Litchfield 2.0 as Maria (Jessica Pimentel) called it, or Max, or what have you. The other scenario would see a good amount of the inmates we’ve come to know being phased out of the story line altogether.
What makes the former less likely is the potency of doom-and-gloom that hung over the sequence in which the prisoners were being loaded onto buses. Punctuated by The Cinematic Orchestra’s “To Build a Home,” the fear and confusion were pushed further by emotional and vulnerable farewells. To come back next season and say that, for instance, Maritza (Diane Guerrero) and Flaca’s (Jackie Cruz) tear-ridden goodbye was all for naught would be a relief, sure, but a slap in the face to the plot. Given that Poussey’s (Samira Wiley) spirit pretty much drove this season’s story, the latter scenario seems more and more feasible.
To not see the inmates face any consequences, as they would in the real world, would be to backtrack and lose momentum. The Litchfield we know can’t last forever; nothing does.
4. Which inmates will get extended sentences?
We already know Daya (Dascha Polanco) got sent to Max, but what about Maria? Piscatella’s (Brad William Henke) punishment might have just been for show, but that was before she was a ringleader in the riot. Her only real bargaining chip is that she released the guards.
Once they had the gun, Angie (Julie Lake) and Leanne (Emma Myles) regularly threatened the safety of the inmates and guards. Ouija (Rosal Colon), Pidge (Miriam Morales), and Zirconia (Daniella De Jesús) were all key players in the mayhem. Frieda shot guards with darts, and the skinhead posse kidnapped Judy (Blair Brown). While “D-List Martha Stewart” likely won’t press charges, Brandy (Asia Kate Dillon) and friends were rounded up after their Home Alone-style attack on the CERT team. Could Taystee’s decision to prolong the riot make her semi-responsible for the damage caused, including Piscatella’s demise?
Though Red and the gang captured Piscatella, there’s little chance they’d rat on each other. The same is true for Suzanne, who’s unlikely to tell anyone Maureen caused Humphrey’s stroke.
5. Is the S.W.A.T. team just bad at math?
If you paid attention to the finale, you know that those 10 women in the bunker aren’t the only inmates missing. When the S.W.A.T. team breached the prison, both Chang (Lori Tan Chinn) and Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning) managed to escape through a hole in the prison fence, which means there are actually 12 prisoners missing. However, we also know that they’re erroneously counting Linda (Beth Dover) as a prisoner. So, they should have come up with 11 missing prisoners, right? How did the S.W.A.T. team screw that up?
6. How did Frieda build/furnish that bunker without anyone noticing?
Frieda is, without question, a successful survivalist, but there’s a difference between knowing how to build a bunker and being able to execute it, especially in prison. Litchfield’s guards have never been the brightest, but what are the chances that Piscatella, always searching for “conspiracy,” never noticed when items like an old desktop went missing?
The pool was the first place Fig (Alysia Reiner) and Caputo (Nick Sandow) thought of when they were told prisoners might be hiding, yet we’re supposed to believe Caputo never checked up on it? Especially since Caputo and Fig always aim to one-up each other, it seems odd that he would not have gone back down there, if only to find a new use for the area and prove Fig wrong.
Also, do minimum-security prisons usually have pools, and if so, why was this one emptied to begin with?
7. Will we see Healy again?
At the end of season 4, C.O. Healy (Michael Harney) checked himself into a mental facility after realizing he needed help because he almost took his own life. This explains why we didn’t see him in the time-compressed fifth season. At this point, we have no idea what season 6 looks like, but hopefully, if the show returns to the prison, we’ll see him again.
8. Will Alex and Piper actually make it to the altar?
While the show’s lovebirds took a backseat to most of the action this season, they did take one big step in their relationship. After their deadly encounter with Piscatella, Piper decided to propose to her on-again-off-again girlfriend, and Alex said yes. Given the season’s cliff-hanger, we can expect that it’ll be some time before they actually walk down the aisle — assuming they both make it out alive.