The only definitive truth in Orange Is the New Black, the long-running Netflix show which recently came to an end, is this: It’s all Natalie Figueroa’s (Alysia Reiner) fault. While she is the Executive Assistant to the Warden, Fig embezzles prison funds for her husband’s political campaign, which ultimately leads to the privatization of Litchfield.
After that pivotal decision is made, Fig is replaced by a new warden, Joe Caputo (Nick Sandow), who isn't any better. Known to jerk off at his desk and crush on COs, Joe walks around with his shoulders in a perpetual shrug; he can't fix anything, so he won't bother.
So, consider it a miraculous feat of storytelling that the union of these two villains, the ice queen and the limp pushover, became the highlight of Orange Is the New Black’ final season. To my surprise, I shipped Fig and Caputo — and I wasn't the only one. Twitter was abuzz with viewers similarly shocked by their sudden affection for Fig and Caputo, the middle-managers who wreaked so much havoc on marginalized women prisoners.
Fig and Caputo take a long and often cringe-worthy journey toward their storyline in season 7, when they are living together and trying to have a baby. Stops along the way include the time that a desperate Fig gives Warden Caputo a humiliating blowjob so that she might keep her job and their constant, self-described "hate-fucking." In the unlikely setting of season 5's prison riot, some real affection manages to sneak into their charged interactions. Then comes Joe's karaoke serenade of Bruce Springsteen's "I'm On Fire" in season 6, which melts Fig's icy heart (as much as it can be). In the final season of Orange Is the New Black, Caputo and Fig are locked in for the long haul.
Like many couples in the series, Fig and Caputo's origin story doesn't make for cute double date small talk. But the show's mission statement was never to be a model of functional relationships. It was to follow complicated ones.
In that arena, OITNB excels. Take the twisted romantic progressions seen in this season. Daya (Dascha Polanco) deliberately forces her girlfriend, Daddy (Vicci Martinez), to overdose, and takes her place as the prison’s drug czar in the final act an already messed-up tale. Aleida (Elizabeth Rodriguez) juggles between her ex-husband, Caesar (Berto Colon), and her CO boyfriend, Hopper (Hunter Emery), so she can make money. And if Alex Vause’s (Laura Prepon) and Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) on-again, off-again relationship gets more complicated, viewers will need a degree in Vauseman to keep up. Only Blanca (Laura Gomez) and Diablo's (Izaguirre) love is pure, which makes it all the more vulnerable to heartbreak.
Compared to those situations, Fig and Caputo are golden: they're honest with each other, they share a dark sense of humor, and they're still having sex in drab prison offices, which apparently is their favorite aphrodisiac (to each their own).
Before riding off into the sunset, though, Fig and Caputo face a final obstacle: their pasts. Orange Is the New Black remembers their history. In a brilliant turn this season, Caputo and Fig are forced to confront their misdeeds.
Fig is placed in charge of Polycon's ICE addition to Litchfield. Facing rows of helpless women awaiting trial, the boundary separating her from incarcerated erodes. Fig can't classify them as guilty, and herself as innocent; them as not worthy of respect, and herself virtuous. Essentially, they are no longer an "other" to her. In a final redemption, Fig sacrifices her IVF treatment to get an abortion for a pregnant detainee.
Caputo awoke to the injustices of the criminal justice system long ago. He now teaches prison reform classes in a local university and facilitates a restorative justice workshop at Litchfield. But what happens when his criminal history comes back to haunt him? Susan Fischer (Lauren Lapkus), a former CO at Litchfield, accuses Caputo of sexual misconduct. Fig may have forgiven Caputo, but she remembers that humiliating blowjob he coerced her into giving. Caputo learns how to apologize.
From near-lethal insults to questionable hook-ups, Fig and Caputo have done terrible things to each other. The show remembers, and so do they. Ultimately, this honesty is what makes shipping Fig and Caputo, two former villains, a good couple. After seven seasons, these flawed characters have arced toward goodness, and accept where the other has landed.
Orange Is the New Black, a show about people serving time, has never espoused the idea that one has to have an immaculate record to be loved. Fig and Caputo know each other, and they love each other anyway. That's no small miracle for them or anyone. So, Fig and Caputo, you flawed, crazy kids, go forth and prosper — and binge Love Island. Adopt that kid, and tell her who you really are. She'll love you anyway.