Is Piper leaving Orange is the New Black after THAT season six finale?

The end of OITNB season six threw up some serious questions for the future of one of the Netflix show's original stars – spoilers to follow

Taylor Schilling as Piper

They’ve actually gone and done it. After years of diminishing returns from Piper’s (Taylor Schilling) presence in Orange is the New Black, the show’s writers finally set her free in the season six finale.

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The character was granted an early release in the final episode of season six, departing prison just as Taystee (Danielle Brooks) was being brought back in after she was wrongly found guilty of murdering CO Piscatella in the riot, and while Blanca – who had also been released early – was being carted to an immigration detention centre.

The episode ended with Piper staring out of her brother’s car window, pondering his question, “So, what are you going to do now?”

We’re wondering just the same. Is Piper going to remain a part of the series – or is that the last we’ll see of her?

Is Piper really leaving Orange is the New Black?

Orange Is the New Black
Orange Is the New Black

No, at least according to the show’s producers.

According to executive producer Tara Herrmann, the plan has always been to finish Piper’s story by giving the audience a look at what life is like for her upon her return to the outside world.

While arguably this seems the right time to close out Piper’s storyline and focus on Taystee and Blanca’s plight, it seems season seven will at least partly follow her post-prison journey.

“She’s the grounding force of the show,” Herrmann told The Hollywood Reporter.

“Of course the thought of releasing Piper has come up in previous seasons, because the real Piper’s sentence was 15 months and we want to make sure that we can fully tell the story of what it’s like for Piper on the outside,” she added.

While the show has evolved greatly in recent years beyond the Piper Kerman story – OITNB is originally based on the real Piper’s memoir of her time in a women’s prison – the writers have never truly moved on from the original character.

The Crown - Matt Smith, Peter Morgan, Claire Foy - Writer/Creator Peter Morgan with Matt Smith (Prince Philip) and Claire Foy (Queen Elizabeth II) (Netflix, TL)

She played a bigger – if still relatively superfluous – part in season six than in the previous two seasons, and there are undoubtedly stories to be gained from seeing her re-adjust to society after smoking crack and getting married to her ex-girlfriend Alex (Laura Prepon) during her short stay in prison.

“As we were thinking of Piper on the outside, having them be married creates a lot more stories for us and possible conflict,” Herrmann explained.

Plus, we’ve seen with certain other characters that leaving prison does not necessarily mean leaving the series.

Aleida Diaz – Daya’s mother – was released from Litchfield in season four, but still played a significant part in seasons five and six, as we watched her attempt to earn enough money to get her kids out of foster care (and, ultimately fall back into criminal behaviour).

Laura Gomez has already confirmed that Blanca will be a part of the next season despite her early – and short-lived – release.

And, with Piper’s fiancée/prison wife still cooped up in Litchfield for the foreseeable, it’s almost a guarantee that she’ll be back in Litchfield in one form or another too – despite them having wrapped a neat little bow on her saga with that open-ended closing shot.

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Orange is the New Black season 6 is streaming on Netflix now