I could write volumes on Orange is the New Black – what it means, what makes it such a great show in the first place, my thoughts on season 2, so on and so forth. Instead, though, I’m just going to drop some thoughts on the various characters, based mostly upon quality of acting performance, character depth, and general tolerability/likability. [SLIGHT spoilers from Season 2 has factored into these rankings, but takes a back seat to entire body of work.]
Agree? Disagree? Enjoy the fantastic 13 episode run that released on Friday, then sound off.
1. Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren – A bonafide, can’t-keep-your-eyes-off-her star and certified scene-stealer. Impressively eccentric, unstable, violent, poignant, and sympathetic all at the same time – who can forget “Why do they call me Crazy Eyes?” — even if her haircut does make her look like Coolio.
2. Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson – To tell you the truth, Taystee’s story is probably my favorite in the series, despite how startlingly common it must be. Maybe that’s the point. Same as Randy or Duquan in the Wire, Taystee embodies the inner-city child whose potential ends up tragically mishandled, the child who simply needed one thing to go right, and never got it. Yet, even in spite of that mishandling, Taystee’s character still flashes enough hope for there to actually be some in her future, like Bubbles. Hard not to love.
3. Sophia Burset – Docked only, and solely due to low usage rate in Season 2, Sophia is a pretty much a one of a kind character in all of television. Her storyline appears to be more or less wrapped up currently, but the massive breakthrough she represents for transgendered narratives earns her this place at the top. I expect her to stay pretty high, regardless of what happens going forward.
4. Rosa – Once languishing off on the side bunks, the cancer-stricken Rosa stepped into the spotlight in Season 2 to engineer some of its highest, most heart-wrenching moments, while barely ever raising her voice. Not bad for someone we thought would never really play a major role.
5. Yvonne “Vee” Parker – Intricately tied up in Taystee’s past, this newcomer inmate knows the system as well as anybody. Better, even.
6. Poussey Washington – A largely joke-cracking enigma before Friday, Poussey’s character saw much more playing time with these 13 episodes, shedding real insight into why she and Taystee, a relationship ends up driving a lot of the emotion behind Season 2. We wouldn’t have to necessarily care about that relationship, though, if Poussey wasn’t compelling on her own, something she accomplished without us having any idea what she’s in for. Translation, when we get an even closer look at her, she could go even further up this list. Any scenes where Poussey and Taystee code-switch into imitating “White” English are a treat.
7. Nicky Nichols – Tough, tortured, and as we find out, competitive as all hell. She’s a key component in keeping Orange is the New Black lighthearted and humorous, while still tender.
8. Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Doggett – SLIGHT SPOILERS BUT I’M SORRY I’M JUST SO EXCITED WE DON’T HAVE TO LOOK AT THOSE TEETH ANYMORE!!!!!! But really, her dramatic character change from Season 1 to 2 makes her far more worth caring about, and she handles the transition from insane cult-leader to a more emotionally in-tune inmate quite well.
9. Sister Ingalls – You ever wonder how a nun ends up in prison? Well, me too. And when you find out, you’ll look at her in a very different, likable light. One of the most creative backstories of anyone on this list, save for perhaps Sophia.
Receiving votes (In general order):
Lorna Morello – Count me as pleasantly surprised at her arc and transformation. By the end of Season 2, Morello is no longer the wedding-obsessed future housewife we thought she was, and that’s for all the better.
Piper Chapman – One of the major flaws in Piper is her general whininess, which has mostly been toned down to the point of tolerance now. Having to share screen time with more cast members this year has at least made Piper less irritating, although the will-she-won’t-she angle that continues with Alex Vause is starting to stale.
Galina “Red” Reznikov
Aleida/Dayanara Diaz – Lumping these two together. I find it hard to care much about the baby, just like the ongoing thing with Vause.
Supporting Character Tier (in general order): Yoga Jones, Jimmy, Carrie “Big Boo” Black, Cindy “Black Cindy” Hayes, Norma Romano, Marisol “Flaca” Gonzales/Maritza Ramos, Gina Murphy, Angie Rice/Leanne Taylor, Chang
INCOMPLETE: Alex Vause
NOT RECEIVING ANY VOTES OF ANY KIND: Brooke Soso – Just watch. You’ll understand. If you know me, then you already know that I am ecstatic to see an Asian American character of significance – well, half, it seems like – on screen at all, but her hateability and general annoyingness eats into any pride I personally take in that. Two steps forward, one step back…and so it goes. I’ll take what I can get.
And as a bonus…my Season 2 Awards:
MVP: Taystee Jefferson, Rosa, Vee Parker
Rookie of the Year: Vee Parker
Most Improved Player: Rosa, Morello, Pennsatucky,
Sixth Woman: Poussey