Orange Is The New Black’s Heartbreaking Death Will Change Litchfield As We Know It

We could use a hug right about now

If you're anything like us, then you probably forewent extraneous activity, human interaction, sunshine, and personal hygiene this weekend to binge the entirety of Orange Is the New Black Season 4. And when that unexpected, devastating event happened in the 12th episode, you probably sobbed like us, too. Orange Is the New Black delivered a soul-crushing goodbye, and we need to talk about it.

[Warning: Spoilers for Season 4 of Orange Is the New Black lie ahead. Read at your own risk!]

In the penultimate episode, titled "Animals," the inmates stage a peaceful protest in the cafeteria after the mounting psychological and physical abuse from the new Litchfield correctional officers reaches a boiling point. In an effort to get CO Piscatella (Brad William Henke) fired, the ladies stand atop the tables and refuse to move. So Piscatella orders the guards to move them.

But this sets off Suzanne (Uzo Aduba), who's still emotionally reeling from the fight CO Humphrey instigated between her and Kukudio (Emily Althaus). Piscatella orders Bayley (Alan Aisenberg) to get a handle on Suzanne, whose behavior is growing increasingly erratic. Poussey (Samira Wiley) intervenes and tries to help Suzanne, but Bayley forces her to the ground. In trying to apprehend Poussey and fight off Suzanne, he ends up kneeling, with his entire body weight, on Poussey's back. She struggles to breathe.

By the time Piscatella picks Suzanne up and drags her away from Bayley, Poussey is dead, her body lying on the floor of the cafeteria.

Just like that, Poussey Washington is gone.


It's devastating to watch Taystee (Danielle Brooks) collapse next to her best friend's body, heartbroken and screaming. Poussey has been a positive force in Litchfield since Season 1, and her friendship with Taystee is one of the most fundamental, and enjoyable, dynamics in the Netflix series.

Her death is shocking for everyone -- the viewers, her fellow inmates, and Caputo (Nick Sandow), who had to make the terrible call to her father in the Season 4 finale. And yet, during the season's final minutes, he neglects to even say her name during a televised press briefing that largely focused on Bayley's innocence.

In an interview with Vulture, Wiley praised the writers' decision to highlight the Black Lives Matter movement, saying, "Some people who love Orange Is the New Black don't know what Black Lives Matter is. They don't have a black friend and they don't have a gay friend, but they know Poussey from TV and they feel just like you said -- you feel like you knew her."

And that's exactly how OITNB fans reacted as they finished Season 4. They grieved for a character they felt like they knew on a deeply personal level.

By ending the season with a flashback to Poussey's perfect night in New York City -- as she smiles, big and bright, at the camera, breaking the fourth wall -- it's a reminder that she wasn't a criminal; she was a person. And she deserved better.

In killing Poussey, Orange Is the New Black is making a statement. The tragedy reflects the kind of violence that permeates our society on a daily basis. Poussey is restrained and suffocated, like Eric Garner in New York City. Her body is left on the ground for nearly 24 hours, like Michael Brown's in Ferguson, Missouri. And when Taystee cries, "He didn't even say her name," it's a direct nod to the aftermath of Sandra Bland's death in Waller County, Texas.

Caputo didn't say her name, but we will -- and we'll never forget it.