Follow TV Tropes

This is based on opinion. Please don't list it on a work's trope example list.


Nightmare Fuel / Orange Is the New Black

Go To
"They keep the lights on. You lose all sense of time. [...] Then, you start to see shit that ain't there. You hear voices. They keep you here until they break you."
Anything by Jenji Kohan is bound to have some Nightmare Fuel in it, but with this show being set in a prison, well, there's more to it than that.

As a Moments subpage, all spoilers are unmarked as per policy. You Have Been Warned.

  • Bennett snapping on the inmates in "40 Oz of Furlough", tearing up apart the beddings of Taystee, Poussey, and Janae in a fit of stress and rage. It's so bad that Pornstache has to cool him down and drag him out, and he actually apologizes to the inmates for Bennett's behavior.
  • In "Little Mustachioed Shit" Piper after sleeping with Alex is left alone when the latter makes a phone call. As she's laying in bed, a hooded figure stands at the door before lunging for and assaulting a screaming Piper. It turns to be Alex's new girlfriend, Sylvie, whose frightening rage (albeit justified nearly drives Piper out of the place.
  • Mendez's interrogation of Lorna. He spends most of the series a Large Ham, but he's in full-on Soft-Spoken Sadist mode here.
    • His way of getting back at Red by peeing in the thanksgiving gravy she made. Also Squick. And how he threatens her afterwards for drugs.
    • Advertisement:
    • Pornstache's attempts to extort Sophia into sex for her hormones, and she refuses despite the personal hell waiting for her when she goes through withdrawal and then a complete lack of hormones.
  • Pennsatucky toward the end of the first season. At first, she was a harmless annoyance, but became increasingly dangerous and disturbing over time. She honestly tried to murder Piper' while giving semi-coherent rants about "God's plan". Earlier, she cornered Piper in the shower, cut her own hand with a razor, and smeared the blood on Piper's chest, only to be stopped by Taystee. Her flashback of storming into an abortion clinic and gunning down a nurse without remorse is also extremely unnerving.
  • Piper scaring a girl straight without acting, exaggerating, or threatening her. All she does is give an honest, disturbingly calm assessment of what prison can do to your emotional well-being and sense of self-worth, and it's enough to render not just the girl she's talking to but all the other students, inmates, and staff members in the vicinity completely speechless.
  • Piper's full-on breakdown in "Can't Fix Crazy". Not made better by Healy ignoring Piper and leaving her to die.
    • Not to mentions she's beating Pennsatucky to a pulp to Christmas carols sung by children.
  • When you find out why Claudette is in prison. She killed the man who was abusing the girl who worked as his maid. (It's not revealed that this is the reason she's in prison. During the first season, Claudette is told there have been "changes to immigration laws," which might qualify her for an early release. It's implied that she's in for her illegal-immigrant cleaning service, and was not caught for the murder).
  • Lorna's crime. Throughout the first season, she goes on and on about how she's going to marry "Christopher" and furiously insists he is real. In Season 2, it is revealed that Christopher is real...and they went on only one date...after which, Lorna started stalking him, even after he insisted he wasn't interested, changed his phone number, moved, until finally she planted a bomb under his actual fiancee's car.
    • And then there's the scene where she breaks into Christopher's house and takes a bath wearing the fiancee's wedding veil.
    • Or in season 3 when she gets some guys to go to Christopher's house and beat him up in revenge for humiliating and rejecting her.
    • Season 4 ramps up the tension as she starts to stress about the possibility of Vince cheating on her.
  • In "40 OZ of Furlough", a flashback to when Red gets the shit beaten out of her. It's cringe-worthy, to say the least.
  • Vee is terrifying on numerous levels. Considering that her introduction shows her business model of manipulating vulnerable children with a conditional promise of family that turns into literally making them sleep on the streets if their profits are too low and she just gets worse? If Mads Mikkelsen is ever busy, Lorraine Toussaint has more than proven she could be the next Hannibal Lecter.
  • Even though he totally deserved it, seeing Gloria's abusive boyfriend die in that fire was terrifying.
  • "Thirsty Bird", the premier episode of Season 2, is an hour-long journey into the institutionalized hell of the prison system that would make Franz Kafka proud. After spending a month slowly going insane in the SHU, Piper gets released in the middle of the night with no explanation, then driven halfway across the state by bus and flown to a hellish detention center in Chicago—all without ever being told why she's there or how long she has to stay, and absolutely sure that she murdered Pennsatucky. And when she's at the detention center, she has to share a bunk with a crazed woman with an astrological fixation who casually admits to biting off her ex-girlfriend's tongue, she's forced to catch roaches to survive, and she ends up selling her panties to a hit-man for a favor. And the lovable characters and Black Humor that you've come to expect from this show? Gone. Piper has to face the horrors of the prison alone, and you genuinely think that she might lose her mind by the end.
  • A voice talks to Piper from the other cell about how she came to end up in the SHU: "They keep the lights on. You lose all sense of time. [...] Then, you start to see shit that ain't there. You hear voices. They keep you here until they break you."
    • Worse yet, we have no idea whether the voice Piper heard in SHU was real.
    • In the Season 2 premiere, Piper starts talking about her painting made of rotten egg yolks, Thirsty Bird, among various other Sanity Slippage incidents incidents during Season 2. Vaults straight into this.
  • In the season 3 premiere "Mother's Day", we get a look at the lovely childhood Healy lived: having to deal with his mother who was either schizophrenic or maybe even worse, who full on throws a filthy ashtray at him just for bringing her breakfast, and rambling about the lord. In fact, it's even worse when you consider one of the inmates he has to deal with when he starts working at Litchfield. Further flashbacks show just how bad his childhood was.
  • Bennet's flashbacks in "Bed Bugs and Beyond," which show his tour in Afghanistan. The last one has the Afghan soldiers throwing grenades around the FOB.
    • Also in the same episode, Cesar's reaction to his son not eating his chips: he pulls a gun on him.
  • Crazy Eyes' mental state continues to worsen from the spell that Vee has put her under. It even goes so far in "Finger in the Dyke" as to have her start dressing as her.
  • Flaca's backstory, at least for one moment. She starts selling fake LSD tabs, but then one of her customers jumps off the roof of their school and lands on the sidewalk below, and the last we hear of him is that he's in critical condition. All because of the placebo effect.
  • The ending to "A Tittin' and a Hairin'", where Coates rapes Pennsatucky in the back of the prison transport van. What makes this so bad is not so much the rape itself, but rather Pennsatucky's detached, bored look- as an earlier flashback shows, it's not the only time it's happened, and also, her look seems to suggest that she's accepting this as her destiny in life- she'll only ever be used and abused by someone she loves. Doubles as a Tear Jerker in context.
    • And her seeming treatment of this in the next episode as being her fault and that she "wasn't ready for it". Even Miss Squick herself, Big Boo, can't help but be disturbed by this.
      • They manage to eventually get Pennsatucky off driving duty. The celebration doesn't last long when they see Maritza now has the position, a terrifying Cliffhanger above any.
  • The final scenes of the season finale are heartwarming in a way, with the inmates charging into the lake outside the prison and enjoying themselves. But while this is going on, Alex has just been confronted by one of the associates of her former drug-dealing partner disguised as a CO who she has been in constant paranoia over the entire season, thinking he would send someone to kill her. Now he actually has, and it isn't shown what has happened to her. Is she dead, is she alive? We don't know.
    • As of Season 4 we do: Lolly walks in and kicks him to death, which is nightmarish enough. Then it's shown he didn't die, laid paralyzed but conscious under a tarp for at least a day, and then is suffocated by Alex, eyes open, aware, and helpless as she covers his mouth and holds his nose shut.
  • Morello begs Sophia to do her hair for her in "Mother's Day" because she wants to feel better and she admits that she throws up often now and it's the only thing that kind of makes her feel better. Also counts as a Tearjerker.
  • Piper taking revenge on Stella for stealing her money by filling her bunk with contraband. And then placing a tip in with the guards, ensuring that she gets sent to Max. It's a vicious and cold-hearted move and Piper's unemotional stare while showing her new "Trust No Bitch" tattoo really sells it.
    Piper: I don't fuck around. Let the people know.
    • Her last scene of the season is her giving herself a tattoo of the infinity sign she mentioned earlier with barely a hint of pain on her face, as she declares it "fucking awesome" with a sadistic smile on her face.
  • After several occasions when a (sometimes well-meaning) Alex screwed Piper over, Piper finally gets a pretty twisted revenge: she gets a freed Alex thrown back into prison with her. She says this is because she doesn't want to be without Alex. On the one hand, this is very decent revenge for Alex coercing Piper into perjuring herself while Alex made a deal and was set free, and on the other hand, Piper can justify it by claiming that she was saving Alex's life by getting her out of reach from a man who wanted her dead, which is in fact true.
    • Adding to this is that Piper enlists Polly and Larry into getting Alex thrown back into prison. Larry rightly guesses that part of Piper's motivation is to get Alex back in with her, and it's not quite a reconciliation between them, but Piper points out that it gives them a chance to screw over someone they don't like.
  • Lolly's obsession with Alex Vause when she is caught staring at Alex. Alex also caught her sneaking around in her bunk. Alex becomes so paranoid from this that she looks through Lolly's bunk and finds a notebook containing notes about Alex's daily routine.
    • Lolly and Alex's fight in the bathroom.
    • She and Lolly are doing maintenance work when Lolly 'accidentally' breaks a Greenhouse window and hides a piece of glass. When Alex answers what happened to the glass Lolly says she doesn't know and she tries to use it on Alex in the above fight.
    • Lolly staring at an unknowing Alex while writing down Alex's schedule while creepy music plays in the background.
  • Soso's attempted suicide. You slowly see her become more and more depressed as the season goes on, and it's so sad and terrifying to see the once bright and chatty girl become so desperate for an end to the loneliness.
  • In Season 4, we see just how tormented Lolly is by the voices in her head, and how it's ruined her journalism career, left her homeless, and eventually landed her in jail.
  • The sociopathic behaviour of the new guards is truly terrifying after 3 seasons of Bunny-Ears Lawyer type guards. They routinely abuse the inmates, treat them like animals, an eventually end up killing Poussey when the guards treat a peaceful protest started over their cruel mistreatment of Red as a full scale riot.
    • The aftermath of Poussey's death. The guards treat it like it's all her fault, and Cuputo is horrified.
    • The prison management company calls spin doctors to try and make her look like a violent thug who bought this on herself, before they call the police.
    • The guard that drives her distraught killer home explains some HORRIFIC things he did in the war, such as letting off steam by letting a kid juggle live grenades and then shooting him afterwards so he doesn’t live as a cripple and snitch, or strangling a local woman whom he just raped. And he talks about it with the same tone of voice as someone would talk about letting off steam by playing Call of Duty or taking up painting to relieve stress. It's so chilling.
    • Maritza's description of being forced to swallow a baby mouse. The feeling of it moving inside of you while it dissolves and dies.
    • One guard brings a gun into the prison for "safety". Imagine living in a country where that is a possibility.
    • Aleida watching the news of the conditions at Litchfield, and not knowing who's been killed.
    • Blanca makes herself extra smelly to avoid getting pat down by the guards for contraband so as punishment they make her stand on the cafeteria table and don't allow her to leave until she physically can't stand. Since she's not allowed to leave the table she is forced to pee herself and is not allowed any food. If anyone offers her food, like when Piper offered her a granola bar, they are to join her. And Blanca has been standing there already for two days.
  • Maria, Flores and the Hispanic inmates crudely branding a Swastika onto Piper's forearm.
  • 4.3 has yet another flashback to Healy's childhood, albeit it's (for the most part) lighter in tone than the one in Mother's Day. Even though the scene doesn't make an effort to hide the fact that his mother is clearly fucked in the head, it's NF-less for the most part, as Healy walks in on her making eggs in the middle of the night, only to have her offer him eggs... only to find out he's allergic. It's heartwarming... but then suddenly, she leaves the room. That alone can get anyone concerned, but the kicker comes when Healy walks outside, looking for her, and she's nowhere to be found. The scene just goes on for a full, dreadful minute of Healy staring into the night, crying out "mom?". An absolutely masterful and perfect example of Nothing Is Scarier done right.
  • Piper's My God, What Have I Done? moment at the end of "We Still Have Baltimore" for accidentally starting a "white lives matter" chant.
  • As tragic as the direct circumstances surrounding Poussey's death are, they're also pretty nightmarish. Imagine being pinned to the ground, unable to move and free yourself while becoming increasingly less able to breathe, let alone yell for help. Plus, on that note, imagine trying to yell for help to prevent an extremely preventable death, yet no one notices until after it's too late. And seeing Poussey's face turn practically blue sure doesn't help.
  • Many of the prison guards take far too much enjoyment in the pain they cause the women. Yes, the women are criminals and are in prison for punishment, but since when did it become okay to rape, torment, hurt and even murder someone with absolutely no provocation? Yes, Pornstache was locked up for one of his many rapes, but that's the one and only bit of retribution inflicted on any of these guys as of season four. After a while, you get the feeling that the guards chose to work in a prison because they would be allowed to get away scot-free with their asshole behavior. There's little doubt that, if not for their jobs, the guards would be the ones behind bars. Remember kids: as long as you have the money for the proper schooling and training, you too can fly completely under the radar and even get paid to beat, rape and torture people because a butchered system says they deserve it!
  • In season 3, Sophia has to watch her son become more and more of a criminal without being able to do anything about it, has to deal with constant bullying, misgendering and eventually transphobic violence at the hands of fellow prisoners (that leaves her all but mutilated) and is ultimately punished for the hate crimes committed against her by being sent to solitary confinement. Not only that, but when she is in confinement in season 4 she tries to get out and get back at Caputo by both attempting to drown herself in her cell by clogging the toilet and starting a fire with a towel on a lightbulb. If the guards and Caputo had not come in time on both occasions she very well may have drowned or been burned to death and she wasn't terrified at all! Consider how broken the poor woman must be after all the abuse she has suffered...
    • While Nicki is still in Max, she is assigned to wash the hallway of where Sophia's staying, and they talk about how horrible it is in there. Only a week later, Nicki is working that hallway again, and she gets told to clean Sophia's old room. The entire place is covered in blood, and we only find out at the end of the season that Sophia isn't dead.
  • The flashback showing Piscatella burning an inmate to death with scalding hot water in the shower.
  • The entire episode "The Tightening" which is an homage to slasher films.
    • Pisacatella is especially extra frightening in this episode, as he captures Piper, Alex (whose arm he goes on to break), Nicki, Flores and Boo, ties Red to a chair and shaves her head off with a large knife, all to break Red down and make the others see her fear.
  • How quickly things devolve in the prison once the guards are taken hostage and the roles are reversed. The guards are sexually harassed, forced to strip and remain that way for the entire season.
  • The lingering, closeup shot of Linda's sorority sister's frozen corpse in a flashback, as well as how she uses the situation to her own advantage.
  • In Season Six, we find out why sisters Carol and Barb Denning were sent to Max: they murdered their kid sister Debbie by locking her in their parents' car and pushing it into a freezing lake.
    • And in the season six finale,the two end up killing each other, and the shot of their lifeless bodies as their laughs from a flashback fade out, is truly mortifying.
  • Daya and Aleida’s story ends with Aleida appearing to kill Daya after learning she got her younger sister involved in their drug trade.
    Daya: You know what it’s like to kill somebody? Nah, didn’t think so. Get in line, and leave the family stuff to me, because Eva’s gonna do what I tell her to do, and we may even bring Lucy in. Can’t trust anybody but family, right?
    (Aleida cracks Daya’s windpipe and starts strangling her in front of the other inmates)
    Aleida: (seething in Spanish) Maybe I’ll know what it’s like now!


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: