This post contains major spoilers for the fifth season of Orange Is the New Black, so consider yourself warned.
Orange Is the New Black is no stranger to writing off popular characters. At the end of Season 1, Miss Claudette (Michelle Hurst) was sent to Max, never to be heard from again. In the third episode of Season 3, Nicky Nichols (Natasha Lyonne) also went to Max, and we didn’t see her again until Season 4. The fourth season finale brought the tragic death of Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley), an event that directly led to the prison riot that frames Season 5, which hit Netflix last week.
The fifth season picks up right where the shocking fourth season ended: amid an intense standoff between the Litchfield inmates and the incompetent new COs. In the end, Daya (Dascha Polanco) pulls the trigger, shooting CO Humphrey in the leg with his own gun, a decision that ultimately fuels the chaos and confusion to come. Not to mention, it lands sweet Daya in some boiling hot water by the season’s end.
So hot, in fact, that Daya’s future on the series is uncertain. After all, it’s not like she’s going to get away with shooting a guard in cold blood. (Spoiler alert: Though Humphrey originally survived the shooting, he suffers a stroke after Maureen blows air bubbles into his IV. This, along with blood loss and lack of medical supervision, eventually kills him.)
In an interview with Vulture, Polanco reacted to Daya’s decision to pull the trigger. “To know that she actually did it, I was proud of her. I was like, Damn it, I’m proud, and if this is your end, this is your end. You’re gonna leave the show with a bang, and you’re gonna leave the show literally banging out.”
So does that mean Daya is officially gone for good? She did turn herself in. It seems incredulous that an inmate could walk away from a murder charge, even if the CO in question was a sadistic jerk who terrorized the women of Litchfield for months. Would that kind of defense work given how our criminal justice system consistently fails women of color?
Polanco, however, has no idea what’s next for Daya. “I don’t know,” she said. “We don’t know what’s gonna happen.” But at least Daya got some long-awaited resolution for her daughter, thanks to an emotional phone conversation with Pornstache’s mom, Mrs. Powell (Mary Steenburgen), in which she tells her to adopt her daughter. Daya finally made the decision to give her daughter the life she could never provide: a normal one.
“For me to have to think of mothers that actually have to do that for the well-being of their kids, it just broke me,” Polanco said. “It was a moment of like, holy fucking shit. This shit really happens where you have to just release what you created within you.”
It’s also one of the season’s most brutally affecting moments — watching Daya tell Mrs. Powell how her daughter is going to make some mistakes, and sometimes you just have to let her make them on her own. Overall, the fifth season of Orange Is the New Black was a mixed bag, but when it hits you in the gut, it really hits.