PLL Disclaimer: I know, I am two episodes behind on PLL rankings! Unacceptable! Honestly, I’m so sorry, but with real life work going crazy and the World Cup (I love ya, USMNT), I just haven’t had time. I haven’t even watched this week’s episode yet! But don’t you worry — I’ll be back making fun of Aria and singing the praises of Spencer Hastings ASAP, I promises!
If you’re anything like me, you spent at least 13 hours of the beautiful weekend of June 6-8 (at least, it was beautiful on the East Coast of the USA) sitting inside binge-watching season 2 of Orange is the New Black on Netflix. Yes, I’m a TV addict, but come on — it was impossible to stop! I loved season 1 of OITNB, but season 2 was, like, significantly better somehow. I’m not sure why or what really changed (other than my interest in Piper about which more later), but I just know that I loved season 2 and I can’t wait to watch it all over again.
So, naturally, I decided to rank all of the characters! Of course, when I say “all” of the character, I don’t really mean that. This is a huge show, so of course, I’ve forgotten a few people. Also, some people simply weren’t on the show long enough to get ranked (see: Piper’s roommates from Chicago). Note that these are my own personal rankings — this is the order in which I like these characters after spending a significant amount of time with them.
Final point: SPOILER ALERT!!! This post will contain season 2 Orange is the New Black spoilers. You have been warned.
Now, on with it! In reverse order:
UGHHHHHH. Does anyone not feel this way about him? I don’t think so. In fact, the AV Club’s reviews even have a section titled “Ugh, Larry.” Every time Larry is on the screen it’s a horrible snoozefest. He’s a drip, he’s a bore, and, for all Piper has screwed him over (which, admittedly, she has), he is also a terrible, selfish character. Starting with the ridiculously tone deaf and out of touch faux-This American Life Story, moving on to his attempts to get Piper to once again elevate his journalistic ambitions this season, and culminating with the absolutely ridiculous and insane Larry/Polly plot line from this season. I was fine with this because I hate Larry, but that was the most messed up thing in the universe. I know Piper cheated on Larry, but his first act is to not only hook up with but get serious with her best freaking friend?! That is too messed up for words. I hate Larry. He’s boring and the worst. Moving on.
Speaking of the worst. I’m not sure what was her worst act this season — the bathrooms, the Louboutin comment, the blatant criminal fraud — but I’m glad she’s gone. (For now, presumably, anyway.)
You know how I said I hated Larry and Fig? I HATE Healy. He is a disgusting, misogynist, homophobic pig. I know he’s also a sad pathetic old man, and maybe we’re supposed to feel bad for him, but I can’t. He did a few good things this season, namely saving Suzanne from max by faking a work order and providing hilarity to my life in his interactions with Pennsatucky, but he remains a gross person.
Team Poussey! Team Rosa! The way Vee went out was the most satisfying end to a season to television that I’ve seen in a long time. As Rosa said, this lady was RUDE. (Not to mention a crazy, manipulative psychopath.) She did a multitude of horrible things all season, but her flashback with her pseudo-son RJ was the icing on the eff-ed up cake. Peace out, Vee. I will not miss you.
Horrible, pathetic loser whose life is completely ruined now, but he doesn’t seem to be aware of this fact. I can’t forgive him for poor Tricia’s death last season.
Someone hook this woman up with lessons in Girl Code, STAT. More flaming bags of poop for you, Polly.
Whatever. Messed up that he bailed on Polly and fatherhood, but I’m super glad he got to punch Larry in the face. (#Jealous.)
36. Piper’s Dad
35. Piper’s Mom
These two are both horrible. I have nothing further to add.
34. Larry’s Dad
I didn’t really dislike Larry’s dad (I actually thought Larry’s parents were kind of hilarious last season), but the scene between Larry and his dad in the gay bathhouse was awful and totally turned me against him. Besides, he produced Larry. That’s enough for me not to like him.
33. Wanda Bell (female prison guard dating O’Neill)
I don’t have strong feelings about either of these two. Bell is kind of a moron, as is O’Neill, but at least O’Neill got to yell one of my favorite lines of the season: “Scatter the nuns!”
31. Daya’s Mother
I don’t know her name for some reason, but I’m not a big fan. She’s suddenly all territorial over her daughter, but we know from Daya’s flashbacks that she was not a good mother. Plus, I really like Gloria, and they two have had some conflicts, so I’m Team Gloria.
I find Luschek oddly charming for some reason. Even though he’s a pretty awful human being generally, I don’t hate him. I think that’s because, as Friend of Christine, Katie, pointed out, he’s friendly with Nicky (about whom more later).
Caputo is also not a great human being, but I don’t hate him either. I believe that he generally does want to do the right thing for the women of Litchfield, even if he’s got some gross tendencies. Unfortunately, his reign as assistant warden is off to a bit of a rocky start, so who knows what will happen to the advancing career of poor Joe Caputo.
I’ll be honest — I had to look up this inmate’s name because I couldn’t remember it. She’s the one that’s always with Norma, the silent one, and the one who was accidentally burned by Red. I have no strong opinion on her one way or the other, though I respect how much she cared about Nicky and whether or not she was being tempted by Vee’s heroin. (You may sense a theme here related to one Nicky Nichols….)
Ah, another inmate whose name I had to look up. Ruiz had a baby last season and spent much of season 2 having one-sided conversations with her boyfriend in the visiting room. In their last interaction, though, he adorably showed her how much he’d been talking to the baby and being a good dad and it was really very cute. For that reason alone, I like Ruiz ok.
A new season 2 character! Soso arrived on the same day that Piper got back from Chicago. She’s actually super annoying, but I grew to like her, and her genuine convictions, by the end of the season. She really was a nice, peaceful person who wanted to effect meaningful change on Litchfield (via her hunger strike). While I’m certain that I would have found her deeply irritating in real life, I ended up respecting her on the show. Plus, she was responsible for possibly my favorite moment of the season — the power outage singalong. A million points for trying to start it with “Bitch” by Meredith Brooks and even more points for actually succeeding with my own, personal karaoke jam, “Stay” by Lisa Loeb.
25. Leanne and Angie (aka the other meth heads aka “potato with eyes”)
Last season, I probably would have called these two the Pennsatucky-ettes. This year, Leanne and Angie decided that life in Litchfield was easier without Pennsatucky, so they broke out on their own. And, mostly, good for them. They ate a bunch of nutmeg, which can apparently get you high (?), Angie got called a potato with eyes by Pennsatucky, which killed me, and they joined Soso’s hunger strike (though their demands were ridiculous and Angie licked a slice of pizza at one point…). Anyway, we still don’t know too much about either of these two, but they came into their own this season a bit. Looking forward to hearing more about them in season 3.
24. Flaca and Maritza
Once again, I had to look up the second inmate’s name because I couldn’t remember it. Mostly, I think these two are funny, but they were incredibly horrible to Crazy Eyes the night of the Christmas pageant, which led to her kicking Piper’s butt, so I enjoyed it when the old ladies threatened them. But they probably had the best exchange of the season when they discussed what love meant to them. Flaca said that love is like being in a bathtub while The Smiths’ “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” is playing. Maritza added the most important part — you also have a pizza. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.
23. The new old ladies
Ok, yeah, I don’t know any of their names either. But this is the group of old ladies who seem like totally harmless people until it turns out they’re completely badass! I mean, one of them tries to kill Vee! (And accidentally stabs the wrong person, leading to a great quote from Red: “It’s like, step one, pick the person to kill. Step two, kill that person.”) And the scene where they threatened Flaca and her buddy in the kitchen was absolutely fantastic.
I think Bennett is absolutely adorable and I like Daya, but I can’t say I really, really care about either of these two. This storyline isn’t that interesting to me and I see no universe in which it works out. (Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing for TV purposes.)
20. Cal (Piper’s brother)
I’m also including Cal’s wife, whom he married during their grandmother’s funeral, in this one. Cal is hilarious and the only person in Piper’s family who isn’t the worst. Plus, major props to Cal and Mrs. Cal for putting the flaming bag of poop on Polly’s porch.
19. Black Cindy
I think Black Cindy is really funny sometimes (loved her takedown of the “real criminals,” like big pharma during the job fair episode) and I’m glad we got her backstory this season. I totally buy her as a TSA worker. But she’s also pretty awful sometimes (can’t believe she went along with blaming Suzanne for beating up Red) and is a complete follower who seems pretty unwilling to stand up for anything most of the time. I’m right in the middle on Black Cindy. Hence, she’s near the middle of the rankings.
18. Big Boo
I feel similarly about Big Boo as I do about Black Cindy. She is hilarious (her conversation with Pennsatucky about the homosexual agenda was one of my favorite moments of the season), but she’s completely willing to sell out anyone if she thinks it’s too her advantage (see: telling Vee about the greenhouse pipeline). Either way, I want a Big Boo backstory next season! I feel robbed! Let’s make her the same person as her character from First Wives Club who dances with Elise Elliot in a gay club. Please!
17. Janae Watson
I liked Watson last season, particularly her relationship with Yoga Jones. I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt because of that, even though she was totally mean to poor Yoga Jones this season.
Meh. I don’t love Red, but I don’t hate Red either. As long as she’s cool with the characters I like and as long as Nicky loves her (there’s that theme again), then she’s fine with me.
I really like Gloria. She makes me laugh and I loved her helping Norma make a crazy potion to curse Vee or something. Her backstory was super sad also. Gloria is like the Vee/Red equivalent for the Latina women in prison. She’s not as commanding or ruthless as Vee or Red, which is probably why I like her more than either of them. Go Gloria.
I LOVE Fischer. She’s so sweet and nice! Yeah, she’s a little naive (how did she not notice that Morello had taken a freaking bubble bath while she was in the hospital with Rosa??), but she’s got a great heart and she really wanted to be kind to the prisoners. I was so mad at Caputo when he fired her, but as FoC, Katie, pointed out, she was too good for Litchfield anyway. (Even still, I hope she’s back next season.)
13. Yoga Jones
Fun fact: Yoga Jones = Patty Mayonaise! So that’s fantastic. Yoga Jones is also just generally a sweet, peaceful person. She joined Soso’s hunger strike because she hated the way the guards used SHU as an arbitrary punishment and then she got a little bit cranky from not eating, which was also great and totally realistic. I could go for more Yoga Jones in season 3.
I know, this feels a bit high for Pennsatucky, right? She was truly, hideously awful last season after all. I mean, she almost killed Piper (until Piper thoroughly kicked her ass that is). But this season? This season she was 100% hilarious. She got new teeth, she called Angie a potato with eyes, she deemed herself “facilitator” of Healy’s Safe Place group, and she hilariously joined the homosexual agenda with Big Boo, even going so far as to get a pixie cut (but not going so far as to actually engage in any girl-on-girl activity, as she informed Healy). She’s still crazy, of course (see: slamming Leanne’s head into a washing machine), but she was mostly just a funny crazy this season. Great job by Taryn Manning.
11. Sister Ingalls
My sister and I loved Sister’s backstory because (a) it totally reminded us of The Sound of Music (probably just because of the habits, but whatever) and (b) my sister loves hippies and peace and Sister was all about hippies and peace! Honestly, I just thought her story was really interesting and relatable. I’ve always said that I think one of the hardest lessons in religion is that you are supposed to do good things, but not seek praise or credit for them. I think for human beings, that’s near impossible. And so it was for Sister Ingalls, a nun who liked attention and praise. That’s a really complex story, and I liked watching it.
Sophia didn’t do much this season, but I continue to really enjoy her. I was so glad to see her bonding with her son over a game of cards. I also love her friendship with Sister from last season and she gave a hilariously informative lecture on female anatomy to the ladies (and O’Neill).
Who knew how much I liked Rosa?! Great backstory, great story with her chemo friend, and an amazingly fantastic ending. Thanks to Morello, who Rosa called “fantastic” in a really touching moment, Rosa sped away from Litchfield and slammed into Vee with her car (because she was, as Rosa said, “very rude”). It was great and I loved it. I’ll miss you, Rosa.
8. Suzanne “Crazy Eyes”
Oh Suzanne. She continues to be a fantastic character, but her arc was more complicated this season. We saw again that Suzanne’s childhood was super difficult, despite the efforts of her sweet and supportive parents. Crazy Eyes really is just a bit crazy and she fell under Vee’s spell quickly and easily. By far the most troubling moment of the season was watching Suzanne kick the crap out of Poussey in the shower stalls. It was awful and hard to watch. But it’s hard to really blame Suzanne. She was confused and she was swayed by someone who made her feel loved and valued. It may be tough for her to rebound next season without Vee around. Time will tell.
I have always liked Morello because she’s just an incredibly nice person. And she remains an incredibly nice person to her fellow inmates. But this season, we learned that Morello is a completely delusional, occasionally violent, insane person. And it diminished my affection for her not at all. Go figure! But seriously though, Morello’s episode might have been the craziest one of the season. The mounting insanity of her flashback (first, you’re like, oh, ok, Christopher was real and she did date him and then you’re like, omg, she only had coffee with him once and then she completely went off the rails) coupled with her decision to bail on the hospital and drive the prison van to Christopher’s house, then BREAK IN and TAKE A FREAKING BATH WEARING HIS FIANCEE’S WEDDING VEIL?! I mean, it was insane. Luckily, she got out of the house without him noticing and Fischer never realized she’d been gone. It was so sad when Christopher showed up at Litchfield and reamed her out in front of everyone and then she broke down crying to Nicky … I mean really, that was awful. So yeah, despite her blatant craziness, I love Morello and I’m rooting for her (to be with Nicky … I totally ship them).
Taystee had a complicated year, huh? She was one of my favorite characters last season, and ultimately, she’s still one of my favorites, but she really went astray thanks to Vee. The estrangement between Taystee and Poussey was really painful for me. Her flashbacks were incredibly illuminating, though, as was her entire relationship with Vee. It was so sad to watch someone so bright, so vibrant, and so smart, like Taystee, be unable to overcome the hand life dealt her. All of these stories touch in some way on depressing aspects of reality, but Taystee’s really stuck with me, probably because it’s so clear how smart and talented she really is. Anyway, once Vee ends up at Litchfield, it’s only a matter of time before Taystee once again falls under her spell. Watching her be awful to Poussey and give heroin to Nicky, an openly admitted heroin addict, was really horrible. Finally, though, by the end of the season, we got our old Taystee back. And even before that, we did get to watch a delightful game of “Celebrity” featuring Taystee and Poussey on the same team and use of the phrase “the white Michelle Williams,” which absolutely slayed me. I think we’ll have Taystee as her usual, utterly charming self from here on out. There’s only one possible point of tension: Poussey is totally in love with her and Taystee … might or might not be interested? Looking forward to seeing where that one goes.
Ok for real, who else loves Norma aka the silent member of Red’s kitchen posse? Show of hands please. Everyone? Right. Ok. Obviously Norma’s greatest moment was last season, when she sang, in the most beautiful way, at the Christmas pageant, but she was killin’ it this season as well. As we saw in flashbacks, she’s a longtime loyal friend of Red’s, but she sided with Gina when Red burned her. That was badass and I dug it. But thankfully, she makes up with Red in the cute family dinner in the greenhouse and is just generally adorable all the time. Oh and also she tries to kill Vee, first with food or something, and then with a crazy witch potion. Well done, Norma. Well done.
This ranking is a strong reflection of just how far Piper has come in my estimation over the course of a season. Truthfully, I wasn’t really crazy about Piper last season. She was so horribly selfish (she still is pretty self-involved, it’s true) and she was just not as interesting as many of the other characters. This year, Piper finally got some perspective. It’s actually interesting to compare Larry and Piper in that respect — as discussed above, one of the worst things about Larry is how incredibly self obsessed he is. Larry hasn’t changed at all, but Piper has. (Yes, I grant you, Piper is in prison and Larry isn’t. Fair enough.) Prison has made Piper more hard, more cynical, and more badass. I also think Taylor Schilling was really very good this season; she wasn’t bad last season, but her portrayal of Piper really grew, I think. My favorite episode of this season was the one where Piper gets furlough. It was great to see her back in her “normal” life and to see just how she changed and didn’t exactly fit in anymore. Contrast that with Litchfield, where Piper increasingly seemed at home and comfortable. It’s kind of a weird thing — recognizing and sort of liking that the character fits in better in prison than she does in her old life — but it was very compelling to watch. (Another reason why 40 Oz. to Furlough was my favorite episode? The last scene: Piper passing over champagne for a 40 and then sitting on the street drinking it with NYC behind her. Amazing sequence, amazing shot.) Admittedly, Piper is still sort of a lousy person (see: trying to basically sell Soso to Big Boo in exchange for a blanket), but she’s improved in a lot of ways (see: going to check out Red’s store and then kindly lying to her by saying it’s doing really well). And let’s be honest: I cannot WAIT to see new-and-improved Piper and Alex 2.0 next season. Speaking of which…
Yes, I know, Alex was only in four episodes this season. It was a damn shame, wasn’t it? True, on an episode-to-episode level I didn’t miss Alex that much. But man, when she was back, I was like, “Oh yeah, I love this character!” She’s funny, she’s brutally honest to the point of being mean, she’s kinda sexy with those glasses and that bad guy vibe … she’s just all around great. (Full disclosure: I have a longstanding girl crush on Laura Prepon, which is mainly because of her role as the great Donna Pinciotti on That 70s Show. I realize that my impact my feelings about Alex. Moving on.) In case you hadn’t guessed, I’m a total Alex/Piper shipper. I know why people are against them together — mainly because they can’t stop royally screwing each other over — but don’t they have great chemistry though? Here’s where I will unnecessarily bring up Taylor Swift because, obviously: you know the song The Way I Loved You? It’s about Taylor’s current boyfriend, who is nice and stable and patient and gets along with her parents and generally seems perfect except for the fact that he’s BORING. Contrasted with her former flame, with whom her relationship is volatile and crazy and passionate (filled with screaming and fighting and kissing in the rain!). Clearly, the preference is for the passionate relationship. Some people don’t agree with this perspective — volatility and passion can be bad of course. But I’m one of the people who sees the romance in it. And that’s how I think about Alex and Piper (“so in love that I acted insane” = called your probation officer to get you thrown back in jail so you don’t murdered by a drug kingpin). Anyway, we’ll see how this plays out with my girl LP in every episode of season 3. I am counting down the days.
If I had done this exercise after last season, Poussey would have been somewhere in the middle of the pack. I thought she was cool and all, but she didn’t really stand out to me. Well, now she does. She’s the only African American inmate to resist Vee’s charms and to see her for what she is — a manipulative, psychopathic bully. To her detriment, Poussey refuses to go along, to the point where Vee gets Suzanne to beat the crap out of her in the showers. (This scene really, really broke my heart, truly.) Speaking of heartbroken, that was Poussey pretty much all season. She was alone, without friends and without Taystee, her #1 girl. Yeah, she developed something of a prison hooch addiction, but Poussey was basically the ethical center of Litchfield the season. She saw the difference between giving out cigarettes and dealing heroin and she especially noted how messed up it was to provide heroin to people like Nicky. Her backstory was also incredibly sad and made you understand her character even more. (Essentially, Poussey’s dad was in the army and she lived in Germany, had a serious girlfriend, got caught in bed with the girlfriend, and, as a result, the dad got transferred. Poussey was going to try to shoot the GF’s dad, which obviously was a bad move, but luckily her dad stopped her. All very sad and powerful stuff.) Basically, I think Poussey is objectively the best person in Litchfield Prison. I love her and I’m so glad that she’s finally been reunited with her bestie. Happy days are here again.
As you may have guessed, for me, Nicky Nichols is the best character in the OITNB universe by a wide margin. I love her unconditionally and in an unqualified way. Why? Well, for starters, she’s played by the great Natasha Lyonne. If you don’t already, I would suggest following Ms. Lyonne on all forms of social media and just generally being obsessed with her because that is the right thing to do. Secondly, Nicky is freaking hilarious. She, like Alex, is also brutally, painfully honest, but she’s even funnier than Vause. She’s cutting, she’s self deprecating, she is totally unafraid to poke fun at the absurdity of life in Litchfield … in short, she’s the prisoner you’d most want to hang around with. Nicky is also a great friend and is totally loyal (see her relationships with Red and Morello). The scene where she gave Red the heroin had me on my feet clapping in joy. Finally, Nicky is also a deeply flawed and wounded character, but she deals with her pain with humor and perspective. It’s admirable, especially given the situation she’s in. (Plus, no offense Big Boo, but Nicky totally wins that contest.) Basically, Nichols is the greatest and, though I’m worried about her and the heroin in the vents, I have confidence that she’ll be ok in the end.
So that’s it my friends. It’s bittersweet, isn’t it? One weekend of bingeing, several hours/days of writing, and then almost a year of waiting for more episodes. I encourage everyone to follow the OITNB cast on Twitter and especially Instagram — they’re super active and they’re always hanging out with each other. It’ll make you feel like the show is totally real (except for the prison thing)!
‘Til next time, you’ve got tiiiiiiiiimeeeeee…