Spoiler alert! This article contains spoilers and plot points from Orange is the New Black. If you have not seen it yet, then what are you waiting for?
Orange is the New Black took us by surprise with its rich storylines and fascinating characters. Like many of you, I binge watched the series over the span of 48 hours. I emerged from my bedroom bleary eyed, satisfied and wishing it was Taco Night. (Spoiler alert: It was beef and noodle.) What is so endlessly fascinating to me is that at the center of this story is the perpetual fuck-up, tear-your-hair-out insufferable Piper Chapman. I goddamn love Piper Chapman. Love her with the heat of a thousand fiery suns. I recently wrote that I believe Piper Chapman is the anti-hero we’ve been waiting for, and I think it’s about damn time.
One of the things that makes Piper so compelling is how she pieces herself back together over and over again, because of Alex Vause. With the news that Laura Prepon is likely leaving the show, and will be wrapping up her storyline, we are left with some big, looming questions. Will Orange be the same show without her? How will her leaving affect Piper’s storyline? What will happen to those sexy ass glasses?
Hell no, please don’t go!
For purely selfish reasons, I want Alex to stay. The chemistry and dynamic between Alex and Piper is red hot. Alex’s easy charm is the perfect foil for Piper’s neurotic, self-interest. Somehow, Piper can handle prison, yet it’s Alex that unravels her. (No more Alex also means no more sexy Piper/Alex flashbacks.) So much of who Piper is, whom she really is inside, comes pouring out around Alex. Unstoppable desire is a hell of a thing to watch unfold. While there is no doubt that Piper loves Larry, she is a bursting dam full of cracks that he can never hope to fill. Piper’s relationship with Alex allows us to sympathize with the often-unsympathetic Piper.
Alex is the unstoppable force. What happens when you take that away? For one thing, the writers are going to have to find another way to let Piper’s inner turmoil rise to the surface. Perhaps a major focus of season two will be Piper soul-searching in the aftermath of her altercation with Pennsatucky. There is also something so striking about Alex, so deliciously imposing. When she is onscreen, she draws your attention with her tattoos, and her 5’10” frame. (5’11” with those prison boots. Get me some goddamn smelling salts!) I will miss the sight of her, and how Alex fits so perfectly in her arms.
How are they going to pull this off?
There are a few ways that Alex’s exit could be handled. One way, and I for one would love to see this, would be for Alex to take the fall for Piper. They could easily send her down the hill, or to the SHU for a long time. It would certainly be the way that Alex could right the wrongs she did to Piper, while also showing that there is still a very deep love on her end. This would give Piper a hell of a narrative.
What do you do when someone makes the ultimate sacrifice for you? How do you deal with the guilt? There really isn’t a way for Alex to “stay” at Litchfield and not be seen. Her storyline is also tangled up in Nicky’s, who is about to lose her fuck buddy and friend. Another plausible direction would be to just transfer her to another facility. There is one more possibility, and I’m hesitant to mention it, lest the “gods of lesbian TV tragedy” rain down their judgment upon me. Ok fine. They could kill Alex off, but I don’t think that serves the story well. It would add a layer of darkness that doesn’t quite fit with Orange.
So, where does that leave us?
With or without Alex, Orange is the New Black has an ensemble that is impossible to beat. Maybe less focus on the Alex/Piper relationship will allow us to explore characters like Taystee, Sophia, Crazy Eyes and Poussey further. Morello’s fiancé Christopher has supposedly been cast, so we are bound to see a few flashbacks and focus in her direction. They are also adding a few new cast members, including the amazing Lorraine Toussaint. There are still a lot of stories to be told and if this season is any indication, they will be told beautifully.
And Piper? Well, Piper is a survivor. She will somehow make it through. There is always the possibility that they will introduce a new love interest for her. If that does happen, she would have to be the opposite of Alex. Trying to replicate that fire with a stand-in wouldn’t be fair to Piper or the audience. Perhaps a character that brings out a different side of Piper, one that we haven’t seen yet. Chapman has more layers than an onion, and I can’t wait to see them peeled away.
If you love Orange for its spirit and ensemble work, then Alex’s departure will likely not change the show much for you. If you love the push/pull dynamic between Alex and Piper, then it will be a bitter pill to swallow. I’m going to miss Alex, her attitude, and even her eyebrows. (I really don’t know why everyone has such an issue with them!) Sometimes great characters come into your life, and exit just as quickly.
Who knows? Maybe Laura Prepon won’t exit after all, and we will get to gaze upon her gorgeous, bespectacled face for another 13 episodes. All I know is that someone, somewhere (cough, Netflix, cough) should make an official statement so we can all deal with the outcome, and prevent further confusion and frustration from clouding an otherwise, wonderful series.