Going into the final season of Orange is the New Black, audiences knew they were in for some emotional farewells. Whenever a popular series ends, sad goodbyes just come with the territory, but Orange is the New Black is a show known for especially heartbreaking moments. Over the course of the series' seven seasons, people constantly moved in and out of the prison, so fans should already be at least somewhat prepared to leave these characters for good. But even still, there's one goodbye that is especially jarring. Pennsatucky's final Orange is the New Black scene is really taking fans by surprise. Warning: Spoilers for Orange is the New Black Season 7 follow.
It might be difficult to remember all these years later, but when Orange is the New Black first premiered in 2013, Tiffany "Pennsatucky" Doggett (Taryn Manning) was introduced as a villain. When Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) first entered Litchfield Penitentiary, Pennsatucky tormented and bullied her. However, throughout the show, Pennsatucky's tough exterior softened as she became a person who meant well and was always genuinely trying to improve herself. In Season 7, she dedicated herself to studying for her GED, and showed a real penchant for learning. Things seemed pretty hopeful for her... that is, until her final scene showed her getting zipped into a body bag.
Pennsatucky's Season 7 storyline is truly heartbreaking. While she studied for her GED class, there was a flashback of her with her dad. The audience saw that Pennsatucky's dad used to insult her intelligence, in particular when her difficulty reading a map led him to the wrong fishing spot. However, in the present, Pennsatucky's GED teacher helped her realize she was dyslexic. That discovery meant she got extra time during her exam, and it gave her the confidence to study hard with the help of Taystee (Danielle Brooks).
However, when the day of the GED exam arrived, the correctional officer running the test forgot to report that Pennsatucky was allotted additional time. She was forced to finish her test without her accommodations and therefore became completely convinced she failed. It's devastating to watch Pennsatucky, who had been so exhilarated by the idea of earning a degree, deflate like that. It was even worse to see what came next.
After the test, Pennsatucky walked up to a woman doing drugs in the laundry room, and asked the woman if she could help her finish the stash. The next time audiences saw Pennsatucky, she was dead on the floor, discovered by her tutor Taystee.
Pennsatucky's death is especially surprising because much of Season 7 was spent gearing audiences up for a different character's death, which turned out to be a red herring. Throughout Season 7, Taystee contemplated suicide after being sentenced to life in prison for a crime she didn't commit. In fact, it looked like she was about to complete the act around the time she discovered Pennsatucky. Both Taystee and Pennsatucky's Season 7 storylines show audiences how easy it could be to lose hope as the systems in place repeatedly fail people.
Pennsatucky's death is even more heartbreaking (if possible) in the days following it. Taystee discovered that even despite her lack of extra time, Pennsatucky had still passed her GED exam and earned her degree. The happy news came too late for Pennsatucky to appreciate it herself, but it does still brought one glimmer of hope. Taystee realized that she could make a difference by helping people, and because of that she dedicated her life sentence to continuing to pay it forward. It doesn't make Pennsatucky's death any less shocking or tragic, but it does give it plenty of meaning.
You can watch all of the seventh and final season of Orange is the New Black on Netflix now.