Sadly finished after seven amazing seasons, Orange is the New Black was one of Netflix’s biggest hits, with a diverse cast of characters unlike anything most audiences had ever seen before. Female-driven, OITNB gave us villains and heroes, but mostly everyone was some shade of grey, from the C.O.s who kept the prisoners in line to the families who had been left behind to the inmates themselves.
With any series, though, there are weaknesses, and while some characters made the show a standout on the streaming service, others were more of a hindrance. These characters were often one-dimensional or served only one purpose, or their character arcs and backstories simply weren’t interesting or compelling enough for us to look up from our phones. As the series has drawn to a close, we looked back on 15 characters who hurt the show and 4 who made it better.
19 HURT IT: Judy King
Judy King had the misfortune of arriving in what was the lowest-ranked season of the series (season 5) and as the Martha Stewart-Paula Deen hybrid, her character wasn’t really all that fleshed out for all the hoopla surrounding her arrival. Her brief series finale appearance did put some good stuff in motion, though.
18 HURT IT: Polly Harper
Ugh, has there ever been a TV best friend as terrible as Polly Harper? After Piper was sent to Litchfield, a pregnant Polly was left to deal with the absence of both her BFF and her husband, before seeking solace in Piper’s equally-dull fiancé Larry Bloom. Polly was the NYC judgmental mom we can all do without and we were thankful when she disappeared.
17 HURT IT: Alex Vause
While Alex’s actions and naming of Piper is what spurred the whole show into action, she was never a likable character, and her on-off relationship with Piper wore thin, even going into the final season. Her infidelity with C.O. McCullough was brushed off this last time, but her character took a backseat after the first season in favor of more interesting inmates.
16 HURT IT: C.O. John Bennett
Woke bae Matt McGorry captured out attention in the first season of OITNB and it was cute when he fell in love with Daya. We were rooting for them to make it against the odds, but then Bennett suddenly left his baby mama and never returned! His complete personality change definitely hurt the show and made Daya more of a resentful person.
15 HURT IT: Dayanara Diaz
Speaking of Daya, the show made her a lovable, sweet-natured young woman who had gone the way of her mother, Aleida Diaz, in getting into prison. By the final season, however, Daya had become a ruthless, cruel inmate, addicted to what she sold and completely without redeeming qualities.
Her evolution was a sad one to watch, but it was a slow progression that we were more annoyed to see than anything.
14 HURT IT: Piper Chapman
The de-facto protagonist of the show, the first season of OITNB has long been considered one of its weakest, largely because so much of it focused on Piper, who just wasn’t that interesting when compared to the other Litchfield inmates. As the show progressed, we saw less and less of her, which was a good thing, since her whining became hard to take.
13 HURT IT: Stella Carlin
Played by Ruby Rose, Stella Carlin was a nice bit of eye candy in the bleak walls of Litchfield, but she only served to be a distraction for the inevitable reunion between Piper and Alex. We never learned much about her backstory, suggesting even the writers were apathetic about Stella.
The show became much better when she was sent away after Piper’s meddling.
12 HURT IT: George Mendez
An evil C.O. that put others to shame, Mendez was a pretty horrific character and one who seemed outright cruel for no discernible reason. Then, he weirdly switches when he thinks he’s the father of Daya’s baby, and the final season even has a sweet scene with him and his daughter.
Overall, though, the hammy acting of Mendez was one of the worst parts of the show.
11 HURT IT: Brook Soso
Brook’s relationship with Poussey Washington was sweet, but did anyone ever really care about Brook, even when she was grieving? Her reason for getting into prison was suitably boring and her character was more of an annoyance than anything. Taystee’s grief felt much more visceral than Brooke’s, and we weren’t sad when she was sent to Ohio.
10 HURT IT: C.O. Thomas Humphrey
Humphrey or “Humps” was easily the worst C.O. in the entire series. He was cruel and sadistic with an evil streak that seemed almost comical if it weren’t so disgusting. A one-dimensional villain, he seemed to only exist for us to hate, and in a show that is so good with showing everyone’s shades of grey, he was a weakness.
9 HURT IT: Linda Ferguson
When Linda Ferguson first accidentally fell into the midst of the Litchfield riots in season 5, she was almost likable! Then, as the seasons progressed, we saw her for the vain, ruthless, and money-hungry woman that she was.
While her character had enjoyable moments of comedy, this final season hit too close to home for Linda to be anything other than a one-dimensional villain.
8 HURT IT: Sam Healy
Sam Healy had a hard life, due to the mental deterioration of his mother, but that didn’t excuse some of his more questionable actions on the show. In the first season, Healy could have been an interesting villain, but his character never fully delivered on his promise. He was a bland character on a vibrant show, and we never found ourselves much engaged with his story arc.
7 HURT IT: Desi Piscatella
Like many of the C.O.s in seasons 4 and 5, Desi Piscatella was a hard one to root for. He was cruel, malicious, and took out his anger on his inmates. While Piscatella may have been an interesting monster, he was a monster nonetheless, and served to be a more brutal part of the crueler seasons of the show, which wasn’t a good thing.
6 HURT IT: Larry Bloom
Piper wanted a normal, average life, and there’s no one quite as average as Larry Bloom. A man who took Piper’s imprisonment as a personal slight, Larry was a waste of air, and one of the most disliked characters on the show. He was a bore to watch and scenes involving him seemed to drag. We were more than thankful when he was written out altogether.
5 HURT IT: Madison ‘Badison’ Murphy
The villains of OITNB are some of the most compelling to watch, but “Badison” Murphy was not one of them. Presented as the head honcho in season 6, Badison was more annoying than anything and viewers couldn’t even give her much sympathy, as her backstory was a dull one. It didn’t come as a surprise that she was shipped off in the first episode of the final season.
4 HELPED IT: Tiffany ‘Pennsatucky’ Doggett
Originally positioned as a bigoted, angry addict, Pennsatucky soon became a fleshed-out figure who had been through a lot and was looking to atone for her sins. The final season was a tragic one for the layered character as she pursued her GED, and solidified why she was one of the best parts of the entire series.
3 HELPED IT: Joe Caputo
Joe Caputo was not without his flaws but, unlike man of the other characters, he owned up to them, especially in this final season. Even when he made mistakes, he was a likable guy who was working on the inside, trying to make the prison better. It was impossible not to root for him, and his friendship with Taystee made him that much better.
2 HELPED IT: Galina ‘Red’ Reznikov
Likable from day one, Red took a no-nonsense, tough-love approach to everything she did. Her interactions with the multitudes of characters were some of the best parts of the series, and her downfall in the final season only heightened how strong a presence she was on the show. Her backstory was a fascinating one and overall she was one of the most compelling inmates.
1 HELPED IT: Tasha ‘Taystee’ Jefferson
The heart and soul of the show, we witnessed Taystee’s difficult life as a foster child, her relationship with Vee, her friendship with Poussey, and how Poussey’s death reoriented her completely.
Taystee is a universally beloved character and one we wanted to see make it out because she really deserved it. Her ending, while bittersweet, was ultimately satisfying.