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[This story contains spoilers from the entire sixth season of Netflix's Orange Is the New Black.]
There is one all-encompassing and persistent true villain on Orange Is the New Black: the prison industrial complex.
The injustices that befall the starring characters of the Jenji Kohan-created prison dramedy are a commentary on the reality of what people who are incarcerated, or who have been incarcerated, face in the country. Throughout the series' six seasons, however, complicated villains have also emerged in the faces of prison guards, corporate executives and jumpsuit-donning inmates.
Below, The Hollywood Reporter ranks the most threatening characters who have stepped inside Litchfield's prison walls — from Vee and Pornstache up to season six's sisterly duo of Barb and Carol — based on the impact they made, or continue to make, on the world of OITNB, which returns next year for season seven.
Sound off on the villain rankings in the comments section below, and keep checking THR.com/OITNB for season six coverage.
The show's revolving door of corrections officers in both Litchfield's minimum and maximum security facilities have consistently represented how inept and ill-equipped the prison system is to handle the amount of inmates who are incarcerated. A handful of the guards have emerged as formidable dangers who terrorize the inmates of OITNB — like with season six's "Fantasy Inmate" — but the group as a whole has often been used for moments of levity, to some criticism.
"Badison" Murphy emerged as the truer villain of Barb and Carol Denning's (Mackenzie Phillips and Henny Russell, respectively) sidekicks in season six. Though each cell block boss had a No. 2, Badison never veered from being a one-note villain with an inferiority complex, while Daddy (Vicci Martinez) emerged as a much more complicated and layered character. Badison and her Boston accent's sole purpose, it seemed, was to get under everyone's skin and, kudos to the actress who played her, it worked.
Even though she spends time behind bars and gets to experience Litchfield life as a prisoner — thanks to a mistake and Caputo's (Nick Sandow) silence during the season five riot — Linda has unabashedly no interest in prisoners' rights. After being mistakenly locked up, developing a relationship with Big Boo (Lea DeLaria) and lying about who she is, Linda uses the mistake to better her own position with the rebranded corporation that owns Litchfield, PolyCon. Linda provides for enjoyable moments of comedy all the while never veering from who she is: In the season six finale, she reveals herself as the true face of the for-profit prison when she unveils new plans for immigration detention centers.
For the first three seasons, Healy embodied the ineptitude of corrections officers. His early moments of sympathy for the inmates in his charge were typically overshadowed by his backwards views on the world and decisions based on white privilege and a sexist tunnel vision. The later seasons, however, revealed Healy to be more of a lost man than a joke, and a much more complex character who has a history of mental illness. His checking himself into a psych ward after a near-death experience results in a satisfying full-circle cameo in season six.
Though the truest Vauseman fans did not welcome Stella's arrival, the new season-three inmate shook up the relationship at the center of the show and became a provocative romantic interest for Piper (Taylor Schilling). Ultimately, Stella betrayed Piper and the OITNB protagonist sent her away to Max, where she also had an impact on Nicky Nichols (Natasha Lyonne), but their courtship provided a hurdle that Piper and Alex needed to get over before getting engaged — and ultimately married — in season six. The newest season also sealed Stella's fate when Badison revealed that the former fan-favorite had been released.
Fig was introduced as the corrupt face of the system when she bungled her job as Litchfield warden and left over an embezzlement scheme. But as she continued to return in subsequent seasons and develop a burgeoning relationship with warden Joe Caputo (Nick Sandow), Fig has emerged as an enemy viewers relish in hating. She shed some of her villainous skin with her compromising attitude in the failed riot negotiations, but it was season six when she truly revealed herself as a more of an empathetic foil to MCC/PolyCon's Linda — even though Fig doesn't fight as hard as she should for the women who are incarcerated.
Chief guard Piscatella, who took over in season four, changed Litchfield forever. Under his abusive lead, one of his staffers murdered fan-favorite Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley), setting off the season five riot and season six fallout that brought OITNB to Max. The stakes were raised as Piscatella terrorized inmates like Red (Kate Mulgrew) and gave officers like Humphrey (Michael Torpey) enough leeway to torture others. When facing his death in season five, the layered monster appeared to show a level of remorse. His death, at the hands of one of the riot officers, is covered up and Taystee (Danielle Brooks) is the one who unjustly goes down for his murder (despite failing to pull the trigger in season five) at the devastating end of season six.
The Denning Sisters
The newest OITNB villains came in the pair of Barb and Carol Denning. Their decades-long feud became the backdrop for season six as it moved to the maximum security prison down the hill and featured a smaller group of the show's massive ensemble cast. After a season-long buildup to a cell block gang war masquerading as a kickball game, the Max bosses ended up killing each other. In their absence, the infighting between cell blocks ceases and the inmates enjoy an afternoon game, once again showing how the system is the enemy. Barb and Carol, who had revealing backstories, met a fitting ending for a season that tackled white privilege when it was revealed that the childhood story they had each claimed as their own was actually a tale told to them by a black waitress they worked with before their incarceration.
George Mendez, aka Pornstache, was the first sociopathic corrections officer to run Litchfield. His role highlighted the physically and sexually abusive guard-inmate relationship in the female prison, as he traded drugs for sexual favors that led to the death of Tricia Miller (Madeline Brewer). He evolved, however, once Daya Diaz (Dascha Polanco) plotted to frame him as a rapist in order to explain how she was pregnant (with the departed CO Bennett's baby). After he is fired from Litchfield and sentenced to his own prison stint for raping an inmate, he falls in love with Daya and ultimately vows to be a father to what he thinks is their baby. After her part in the riot fallout in season five, Daya hands custody of the child over to Pornstache's mother (Mary Steenburgen), keeping Pornstache's legacy alive should she, the key inmate, ever reunite with her daughter.
The life and death of Yvonne Parker aka "Vee" had by far the largest impact on Litchfield and its inmates. (Who didn't cheer when Rosa veered off the road to flatten Vee with the prison van?) Her one-season reign nearly tore apart the girls of the Ghetto Dorm, including the core friendship between Poussey and Vee's adopted daughter Taystee. In her wake, the women emerged as the tight-knit family that propelled the next three seasons forward. But Vee's betrayals as a manipulative mentor to Taystee continue to haunt the main character, who is once again facing a hopeless situation and is unsure of who to trust after season six's grim outcome.
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