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Orange is the New Black: what happened at the end of series four?

Ahead of season five, refresh yourself on what Piper and the rest of the inmates were up to in the lead up to the riot

Published: Wednesday, 7th June 2017 at 11:10 am

Binge-watching is a bit like cramming for an exam: it’s likely that a lot of the information will fall out of your head pretty quickly after the fact. So don’t feel too hard on yourself if you need a refresher before digging into the fifth season of Netflix's flagship dramedy Orange is the New Black.


Tensions reached boiling point at the end of season four with the death of one of Litchfield’s most beloved inmates, Poussey Washington, at the hands of the inexperienced correctional officer Bayley. But, this was only the straw that broke the camel’s back. Ever since the prison became privatised in season three, the inmates had seen harsh budget cuts bleeding into every aspect of their lives in prison. That coupled with continuous abuse at the hands of the sadistic Piscatella and his COs had given the inmates more than enough cause for concern.

Ultimately, Warden Joe Caputo’s failure to hold Bayley responsible for Poussey’s death while he was addressing the press sparked the full-scale riot at the end of the season four finale. The screen faded to Orange as Daya pointed a loaded gun at CO Humphreys, while other inmates bayed for his blood around her.

Get up to speed on where each of the main characters are at below.

Piper Chapman

Life in Litchfield was looking up for Piper at the end of season four. After spending the majority of the season fraternising with white supremacists, she was violently branded with a swastika by Maria Ruiz after causing her to get time added to her sentence. But, the act seemed to bring her back down to earth after a spell of power-hungry darkness, and the trauma facilitated her reigniting her on-again-off-again romance with Alex Vause. As the riot broke out in the finale, Piper and Alex made an effort to stay out of the action.

Alex Vause

Vause started the season burying the body of a guard who had been sent to kill her, and ended it burying the hatchet with Piper. Though she remains tormented by guilt about the former...


In season four, Taystee became Caputo’s assistant due to budget cuts at the prison, which put her in prime position to hear the warden denying to the press that Bayley was responsible for Poussey’s death. Heartbroken and enraged by the injustice, she rushed back to the prison and let the prisoners know, inciting the riot.

Nicky Nichols and Lorna Morello

Nicky spent much of season four in max, which led to her relapsing her drug addiction, much to the despair of her closest friends. Towards the end of the season she got clean, helped through a spell of ‘cold turkey’ by Pennsatucky and Red. She continued to pursue former lover Lorna, only to be rebuked on several occasions.

Lorna was still holding out hope for her fledgling marriage to Vince, though her paranoia seemed to be scaring him away.


“Toast can’t never be bread again”, Pennsatucky told her abuser, the correctional officer Charlie Coates, who raped her in season three… Before she kissed him. Then, a riot broke out.


After becoming entangled in the investigation into who killed the CO (it was Alex), Red’s relations with shady Piscatella were at an all time low. The CO was determined to pin the murder on her, and continued to persecute her after it was revealed that Lolly had confessed. His final attempt to make an example of her in the cafeteria sparked the disorder that led to Poussey’s death.

Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ Warren

Maria Ruiz

After Piper ratted her out for conducting her own underwear-selling business, Piscatella ordered that three to five more years were added to Maria's sentence. She exacted her revenge by branding Piper with a swastika.

Daya Diaz

After giving birth in season three and having her baby taken away by child services, Daya spent much of season four in a vulnerable state. In the heat of the riot, she ended up holding a gun that had been smuggled in by CO Humphries, and the season faded to orange on her pointing it at his head, with her fellow inmates around her baying for his blood.

Aleida Diaz

Daya’s mother left the prison at the end of the season, promising to get her life together and regain custody of Daya’s child.

Sophia Burset

Sophia returned from the SHU at the end of season four to discover that her salon had been taken over by the Latinos, who had written transphobic abuse on the sign.

Brook Soso

Poussey's girlfriend was rocked by grief at her lover's death.


Orange is the New Black Season 5 lands on Netflix on Friday 9 June 2017.


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