*This article contains spoilers for Orange is the New Black Season 6. If you haven’t watched yet, proceed with spoiler caution.
This season of OITNB feels turned upside down. Friends and family betray each other, beloved characters are saddled with serious charges for crimes they didn’t commit, and most of the cast is missing somewhere in Ohio. New and dangerous enemies abound and to say things are bleak in Max would be an understatement. There are a few bright spots however, and one of them involves the Piper Chapman and Alex Vause.
“Where is Alex,” are the first words we hear out of Piper Chapman’s mouth in Season 6, and they set the tone for what’s ahead for the will-they or won’t-they couple. After a few episodes of fearing the worst for her girlfriend (excuse me, fiancee) after the raid at the pool, Piper is reunited with Alex and the couple focuses on the future together. While the world falls apart around them, Piper and Alex are stronger than they’ve ever been.
We find out that Piper managed to escape extra years for her part in the riot (unlike Maria, Red, Taystee and Daya) and has only nine months left to her sentence. While contemplating her future on the outside (maybe she’ll write a book, wink wink), there’s one thing Piper knows for sure: she loves Alex and wants to be her wife. Alex is looking at another four years in Max, but Piper has no doubt that they can make it through the separation. While Alex doesn’t exactly love the idea of a prison wedding, she does love her some Pipes, and if it will make Piper happy to tie the knot while in the big house, then so be it.
Not to say that there aren’t forces outside of Vauseman that are trying to make things difficult. One of those would be new player Badison (Amanda Fuller), a villain with self-esteem issues that she’s directing at anyone who dares to stand up to her. It comes as no surprise that Piper manages to get on Badison’s bad side (is there another side?) and it takes a secret intervention from Alex with Badison’s boss lady, the even more dangerous Carol, to get Badison to back off.
When Piper is tagged for early release, their wedding plans are put into overdrive. Nicky Nichols does the honor of officiating the ceremony, where Piper and Alex finally get real with each other and the viewers.
Alex: It’s hard to know what promise I can make to you that won’t sound like a bunch of cliches that people say at weddings. So, I wanted to make a promise that fits us, considering the distance that we covered to get here and how far we’ll have to go before we can be together again. But to do that, I have to talk about something that’s uncomfortable to bring up. There was a time when I hurt you, and I did something unforgivable, and I don’t think that I can express, in words, the guilt and regret that I feel for having done that, to you the person that I care about most. So, my promise is to make it up to you every day. In small, quiet ways. For the rest of our life together.
Piper: I want you to promise me that you’ll get out of here. I need you. You’re my partner. Get out of here as soon as you possibly can so I can be with you. Do you promise me that you’ll do that?
Alex: I will, though that’s not really a vow, that’s more of a demand.
Piper: Okay. Then my vow is to wait for you.
And with Nicky, Lorna, Cindy and Flacca to witness, Piper and Alex say I do. All too often, our favorite queer couples get their hopes dashed on the rocks. Drama trumps stability for many storylines, but this season’s arc for Alex and Piper shows that drama can exist for a couple without it being about them as a couple. Villains, corrupt systems, distance, freedom and lack thereof, it all swirls around Piper and Alex but doesn’t destroy them, and that gives me hope for the future of LGBTQ storytelling.