Series finales are hard. There's always a lot of pressure on the creators of a TV show to really stick the landing by tying together an entire series' worth of stories in one episode. All that pressure gets intensified when the series that's ending is a truly iconic one like Orange is the New Black, which released its seventh and final season on Netflix on July 26. The show ended with both heartbreaking and heartwarming moments for the large ensemble of characters, but there's a possibility the show could have ended very differently. Orange is the New Black's alternate ending would have been very weird, and it would have reminded fans of another iconic series finale. Warning: Spoilers for Season 7 of Orange is the New Black follow.
The very first episode of Orange is the New Black began with Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) talking about how she's always loved getting clean as she prepared to begin a prison sentence at Litchfield Penitentiary. Seven seasons later, in the series finale, Piper's voice closed out the show with a similar speech about getting clean and how the definition of cleanliness has changed for her. It's a full-circle moment that acknowledged how much Piper had grown over the course of the series. But, the creators of the show thought about another ending that would have been a much more in-your-face way of closing out the story.
Orange is the New Black is based on the 2010 book of the same name, which is a memoir by real-life former inmate Piper Kerman. On the show, Piper's story veered in a different direction from her non-fictional counterpart's throughout the series; for one thing, Kerman is still married to the real-life Larry, unlike the character. But regardless of how the series diverged from Kerman's own life, her story was always at the heart of the series. That's why the creators the show thought about ending the series with a very on-the-nose nod to Kerman's memoir and the series' conception. Executive producer Tara Herrmann told The Hollywood Reporter:
Since season one, the joke ending that would come up occasionally was to get super meta and cast an actress to be Jenji [Kohan, who created the show] who goes into Netflix and pitches a show.
In Season 6, Piper became obsessed with leaving a meaningful legacy behind at Litchfield. For a few episodes, she considered writing a memoir. Kohan told The Hollywood Reporter she and the other writers thought about having Piper follow through with that plan and then creating a show based on her life, within the show that's already based on Kerman's life.
"Piper having a meeting and then selling the show and having her watch someone playing her. We toyed with it," Kohan said.
This ending might sound familiar to fans of another Netflix series. Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life actually did include a self-referential ending like this one. The main characters Rory and Lorelai discussed a book Rory planned to write about their lives. Lorelai suggested a name for it: the exact name of the series itself. "Drop the the. Just Gilmore Girls," Lorelai told Rory. It's a kind of cheesy ending that was great for the Amy Sherman-Palladino series, but it probably wouldn't have worked for Orange is the New Black. It turns out, a consultant very close to Kohan was the one who convinced her not to do it.
“I was at dinner and joking about it and my 13-year-old son was like, ‘No. You cannot do that,’” Kohan said.
It's a good thing Kohan's son stepped in, because the ending she and her team decided to use was a pretty poignant conclusion for the show.
You can watch all of Orange is the New Black on Netflix now.