Is Alex angry with Piper because Piper waffles and refuses to commit, or does she not approve of Piper's bisexuality and uses it against her? Both? On a larger scale, is Alex's relationship with Piper sincerely romantic and healthy, or are there some seriously abusive and toxic undertones? As of the second season, more fans are leaning towards the latter, though the fandom is mostly split on the issue. Averted in the next 2 seasons, as the relationship becomes more stable and human.
Does Healy really have a crush on Piper in the first season? Does he have fatherly feelings for her? Or does he see her as a personification of what he values in a woman and that's why he's devastated when she turns out not to be what he thought?
The "The prison system is broken and needs fixing, and convicts and ex-cons alike aren't treated fairly" message was obvious the first dozen times. By the time Alex gets a close-up when stating that "nobody cares about an ex-con," it's almost a redundant message.
A season three episode elaborates how the representation of women in media, particularly by the beauty standards is artificial and inaccurate, because in reality women appear in various sizes, shapes, ages and races. Watching the show in which women appear in various sizes, shapes, ages and races, most of the viewers have probably gotten the memo long ago.
Early in Season 5 we get Day In The Lime Light episode for Janae that flashes back to her middle school years when she visited a prestigious, predominantly white academy. The moral of the flashback seems to be Janae's resentment towards white students getting better educational conditions than black or Hispanic students which is a fine point but what really oversells it is the moment when young Janae sees an all white production of Dream Girls. Out of everyone in that entire school, did really no one find it awkward that they were whitewashing a traditionally African American cast and music group? Was Dream Girls the only play the school could think of?
Piper. Though she's the main character, it's hard to find people who cite her as their favorite character. Though it's generally agreed upon that she's not the most interesting member of the cast, the base-breaking is revolved around whether or not the story should even be about her. Word of God acknowledges that she's the only way the show could run, but at this point few seem to care about how her story plays out when there are more interesting characters whose backstories are often shortened so that her plotline can be advanced. This argument seems to have lessened in season two, where she's increasingly Out of Focus to spend time with other characters, and she's gotten less irritating, but has ramped up again in season three, with a split between those interested in the beginnings of her as a Villain Protagonist and those who hate where her character is going.
Alex, as well. When it was announced that Alex would appear in almost all of season 3 after having only a few appearances in season 2, many fans reacted very positively or very negatively. Fans of Alex enjoy the character's complexity or were fans of Laura Prepon from That '70s Show and enjoy the actress's chemistry with Taylor Schilling. Many dislike her for causing a large amount of the drama on the show and don't care for the main storyline with Piper in general.
Sam Healy. A fair number of fans actually do feel sympathy for him, given that, from what we've seen of his personal life and upbringing, he is deeply lonely and rightly feels that his overtures are not appreciated. However, the fact remains that a large number of fans have not forgiven him for his actions in the first season finale, which have yet to be addressed or answered for, nor do they believe that his more overtly villainous behavior should be excused so easily.
Black Cindy and Watson both became this when they Took a Level in Jerkass in season 2 with those who dislike them claiming they were too Easily Forgiven by Poussey and Taystee and their fans saying that Vee manipulating them and them realizing it provided a Freudian Excuse for their forgiveness.
Aleida. A mother who's made a lot of mistakes in the past and is trying to make up for them, or a verbally abusive mother to Daya who's in no way a good parent? While these were mild complaints during the first two seasons, in season three, her going behind Daya's back and telling Mendez's mother, who was more than willing to raise the child and seemed like a better choice than Cesar, that the baby died during childbirth so she would (unknowingly) back off, has made many think she's a horrible mother.
Stella. Some viewers like her because she's portrayed by Ruby Rose, is extremely attractive, and helped to shake up the Piper and Alex dynamic. However other viewers find her character boring and pointless. It doesn't help that Stella is the only inmate who always has a full face of perfect make up and neat hair, everyone else looks more 'realistically' tired and unkempt.
The new guards in season 4, led by Piscatella, who turns a blind eye to their sadism and mistreatment of the inmates. Many viewers are stuck between them being a strong jab at actual sadistic prison guards, or whether they are a heinous stereotype of military veterans as psychopathic monsters. Especially considering that that the things Dixon admits to Bayley would never have happened without someone questioning as to why a Marine disappeared from an FOB with several grenades and checked back in without them, the result of this being very, very bad for Dixon.
Brook Soso. Either she's incredibly annoying and the other characters are right to not want anything to do with her, or she's a sweet, well-meaning girl who just happens to be a bit of a Motor Mouth who only wants friends and is treated incredibly harshly by the other characters.
Piper and Alex's relationship in general; one side believes it's one of the best romantic dynamics on the show, loves how it's been evolving, and can't wait to see how it changes into the third season. The other side couldn't care less about who Piper ends up with, believing that the love triangle with them and Larry was bland enough and their continued relationship is just dragging the whole affair on, and they just wish Piper would end up with someone so that the focus can go to the supporting characters' lives instead of her love life.
The show's treatment of Piper's bisexuality gets this from many viewers. Many viewers see the other characters' not-so-enlightened comments about it as being Truth in Television and an accurate portrayal of how bisexuals are ignored by the straight and gay alike. Other viewers think the show's refusal to explicitly refer to Piper as "bisexual" is simply a watered down form of No Bisexuals and falls in line with the unfortunate trend of not "putting labels" on Ambiguously Bi characters or using descriptors such as "flexible" instead of identifying them as bisexual.
The Ship Tease between Red and Healy in Season 3, which fans either found touching or just awkward.
Bennett and Caputo getting their own episodes in the third season and the general Spotlight-Stealing Squad status of Caputo, Healy and to some extent Danny Parson's in the same season. Some consider fleshing out the members of the staff a good thing, while the others point out that watching adventures of free, white males is not exactly what one would expect of this show; or just consider these characters unsympathetic.
Pennsatucky's forgiveness of Coates' rape. Some believe that while he is Easily Forgiven, it is still an effective and natural development for Pennsatucky and a good continuation of the exploration of Pennsatucky's rape. There are others though who believe that he was too Easily Forgiven and should have suffered some consequences for his actions because Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil.
Nicky and Lorna's sexual relationship, for a similar but more subtle reason: some fans find the sexual tension between them cute and prefer it to Morello's often unhealthy relationships with men; others are disturbed by Nicky's increasingly aggressive attempts to resume their sexual relationship after her return from Max, despite Lorna loudly and repeatedly saying she's married to someone else and doesn't want to.
Poussey's death. Some commend the show for raising awareness of the brutality often faced by black women in prison, and thought it was done in a poignant and respectful manner used to expose this kind of injustice to millions of viewers. A similarly sized portion of the fandom hated it for what they felt was a cheap, unnecessary Bury Your Gays plot twist that they thought the show was above using, and that if they were trying to appeal to the Black Lives Matter movement then they shouldn't have portrayed the guard as a guiltless victim when those groups insist that in real life police/guard brutality often stems from malicious, intentionally violent racism.
The quality of season 3. Some fans feel that the season focused too much on the characters at the expense of building an overarching plot, that certain plot elements were pointless (Such as the entire character of Stella) and that the subplots became increasingly cartoonish (mainly in regards to Piper's panty business and Suzanne's erotic fiction), making the prison feel more like a summer camp than it had in the previous seasons. Other fans love the character focus and more laid back pace, and praise the payoffs of the last few episode.
Season 5 broke the base to the foundation. Is the format of an entire season taking place within a few days a fresh and experimental idea, or is it too reminiscent of the hated season nine of How I Met Your Mother, which uses the same format? Is the plot itself interesting and different, or does it feel like unrealistic fanfiction? Will the next season, presumably a plot taking place across different prisons, work, or will it flounder?
Crazy Awesome: Season 4 will probably leave you with some newfound respect for Flores. Punished by a guard to stand on a cafeteria table, she withstands days pissing and shitting herself in the process and only gets down when the whole prison gets a lockdown. And at the end of the season she is the first one to protest against Piscatella's treatment of Red, by getting on that table again and inspiring every inmate in the room to follow her footsteps.
A particularly notable example involves Sister Ingalls mentioning that she's masturbated while looking at a crucifix of Jesus that was "particularly ripped".
How Big Boo and Little Boo's companionship ended.
Nicky sitting on Soso's face to finally shut her the hell up.
After Big Boo, Mendez is the second character who rides on that trope.
The Judy King puppet show is appallingly racist, yet weirdly hilarious. Then she admits she was an idiot in The '80s, and "everyone was an idiot in the Eighties." Then she admits she was on cocaine at the time...
While as not as bad as some of the other men, Bennett has done a lot of things wrong (like having sex with an inmate and not even wearing a condom being the biggest) but they get overlooked and he's considered the nicest guy by fandom because he's attractive. It seems to have ended by the time when he leaves Daya and the prison, seemingly for good.
Alex Vause as a female example. Though not evil, many of her fans gloss over her toxic qualities to paint her as Piper's soul mate.
Mendez to some degree, especially after Bennett proves to be a Dirty Coward. Yes, he shows love and a great commitment for Daya and her unborn child even after he learns it isn't his, and displays the bravery Daya wanted from Bennett. But he is also a sadist, a drug-dealer, a molester, and an implied rapist, so he is definitely not "better" than Bennett.
In Season 1, Morello was one of the more beloved characters despite her relatively minor role, due to being generally sweet and adorable. Then Season 2 came out and she got A Day in the Limelight, with her backstory and plot arc considered one of the highlights of the season.
Rosa gained a lot of fans in Season 2 due to finding out more about her past, and how she's dealing with her cancer treatment. What really sealed the deal was Rosa's escape from prison, set to 'Don't Fear The Reaper', and the fact she managed to kill Vee along the way.
The guard O'Neill. Mostly due to his scene with the nuns in the Season 2 finale.
Fischer has plenty of people who like her since deep down she is a good person and is the nicest guard. Many fans were upset when she got fired and are hoping she will return.
Sophia was one of the most popular characters in the fandom as soon as her character debuted in the first season, with the fans rejoicing that she was a strong character without being a token or a throw-away "progressive" character. Despite this, she was Demoted to Extra in the second season, most likely in order to give more time to the Vee subplot.
Poussey started as more or less a sidekick of Taystee (though their antics were still entertaining), but gained considerable popularity with time, partly for her character being endearing and partly for immediately realizing that Vee is full of shit. Her friendship with the lonely Soso also gained her a lot of fans.
Fandom Berserk Button: Some fans of the show get upset if you refer to Suzanne by her in-story nickname of "Crazy Eyes" because itís ableist. The creators seem to have taken notice, as even the show's characters almost never call her that in Season 4.
Alex and Piper had this before the two warmed up to each other when it just crossed into plain Les Yay.
Caputo and Figueroa with the former having an obvious sexual interest in the latter despite hating her, and the later knowing it and relishing that fact. In the third season they are regularly hate-banging each other.
"Funny Aneurysm" Moment: In one episode in season 2, Taystee tickles Poussey until she's out of breath saying "I can't breathe." Then comes season 4, where Poussey struggles to choke out those same words as she's being suffocated by Bayley.
In two scenes in "Bora Bora Bora", Suzanne can be heard quoting Shakespeare to a group of teenage delinquents in the "Scared Straight" program, soon after she complains about not getting to play any decent Shakespearean roles like "Ophelia or Desdemona". While most viewers can probably tell that she's quoting Shakespeare, considerably fewer people probably noticed that they're quotes from Coriolanus and Measure for Measure, two of the Bard's most obscure plays.
Piper's business "Felonious Spunk" is a pun on the name of jazz musician Thelonious Monk. Only Piper would think to stick such a high-brow reference on such a gross business model.
The "Bora Bora Bora" episode title and quote from the episode seem to be a very oblique reference to Tora! Tora! Tora!.
Chang is portrayed as having a comically ridiculous bathroom routine in "Ching Chong Chang", with a focus on her habit of pouring salt all over her toothbrush before brushing. But like most seemingly odd things she does, it has a logical purpose- brushing or rinsing with saltwater is one method of shrinking the gums and combating gingivitis.
It's not explained, but in "Power Suit," Black Cindy/Tova is shown putting a mezuzah at the entrance of her cubicle, following Jewish tradition. Since mezuzahs are placed at the entrance of one's home, it's certainly an attempt by Tova to mark her territory as a Jewish abode in the face of her new Muslim bunkmate.
One of Poussey's flashback episodes shows her hitching a ride with Buddhist monks on bikes in New York. She asks the leader what his philosophy is, and he answers to find something in this life that gives you pleasure and hold onto it. Someone familiar with Eastern philosophies, particularly Buddhism, can guess he's not a real monk before he tells her, because most Eastern philosophies are about transcending earthly pains and pleasures alike to attain spiritual enlightenment.
Genre Turning Point: The one-two punch of this show and House of Cards (US) practically singlehandedly convinced the world that online streaming services could be a viable platform for original programming. While Netflix was already hugely popular as a streaming platform, people really took notice when they realized that one of the most popular and acclaimed shows on television was only on Netflix.
Alex's threat to essentially rape Pennsatucky in the first season becomes much harder to take after Pennsatucky is raped by a guard in third season, following the revelation that she has actually been raped repeatedly throughout her life, but has been consistently unable to distinguish consensual sex from non-consensual due to her upbringing and mental problems.
Some of season 4 (the race wars), most notably the penultimate and final episodes (the manslaughter of black inmate Poussey by a white 'policeman' prison guard, making a social point of the manslaughters of black individuals by white police officers, which was followed by unified prison riots, the season ending with a character of minority pointing a guard's own gun towards the officers), considering what began in the USA before the end of the month (a greater number of reported white-police-on-african-american-killings, leading to the widespread shootings of white officers by black individuals). And that's all we'll say about that.
A more minor example, but a cute scene in Season 2 with Taystee pinning Poussey to a bunk and tickling her ends with Poussey crying out "I can't breathe!" This becomes a cringe-worthy line upon rewatching and knowing that being pinned down and not being able to breathe is how Poussey dies.
Another minor example. In the Season 2 Finale, Cindy and Janae come into the library to talk to Taystee and Poussey. Poussey grabs a book and uses it as a shield. Cindy knocks it out of her hand and Taystee picks it up. As Taystee is holding it, you can read the title: "Fighting for Air".
There are some Die for Our Ship Piper/Alex fans who hate Larry, not for Larry's genuine flaws, but because they believe having the main pairing on the show be heterosexual is somehow homophobic.
It also says something when there's a portion of the fanbase who believes that Piper is a "bad bisexual" because she chose Larry, a man, rather than an unhealthy relationship with Alex, who's an attractive woman.
When O'Neill starts singing "Do You Hear The People Sing?" in "We Can Be Heroes", Ford's objection of "black people don't know this song" becomes this when you remember that the 2014 Broadway revival cast featured African-American Kyle Scatliffe in the role of revolutionary leader Enjolras, who sings the aforementioned song. (And of course, Kyle Jean-Baptiste)
Samira Wiley later married the writer of the episode where her character was killed off.
In Season 1, Nikki is called "Rabbit Pearl" while gouging a hole in the wall. A few years later, Natasha Lyonne got a recurring role on Steven Universe.
Polly is confused about Piper being sent to SHU in the Season 1 finale, thinking an actual shoe is involved. Guess how the Sesame Street parody handles it?
Hollywood Homely: The young Mei Chang, played by the beautiful Teresa Ting, is an obviously attractive girl with bad skin. Everyone talks about her as if she's "ugly," ignoring the fact that she just needs a dermatologist.
Hollywood Pudgy: Daya gets this treatment for being curvy, at least from her mom and the other women who are relatively model-thin. Ironically, this is what attracts Pornstache, since he thinks Daya actually has breasts and curves compared to her mom.
Hype Backlash: The show is an excellent character drama and garners a lot of praise, but some newcomers have scorned fans comparing it to shows like The Wire. This can lead to an underwhelmed, if not disappointed, reaction from newcomers to the first couple of episodes, especially those thinking that the whole show is about the prisoners' lives and not the Alex-Piper-Larry love triangle (which many fans of the show didn't care about, to be fair). Unfortunately, those who express ambivalence or even dislike to the show are liable to getting ripped apart by some members.
Jerkass Woobie: Most of the cast counts, given that they have committed crimes but have also led fairly harsh and disadvantaged lives. Several of the prison staff as well:
Also Caputo, who is a total asshole to everyone save for newbie officer Fischer, whom he has a blatant crush on. He then buys her flowers right before she introduces him to her boyfriend. The fact, that he is the least apathetic of the workers and wants to improve the prison's condition also earns him redemptive points.
Alex when she tells Piper that the latter broke her heart—and then her speech about heroin being "the perfect girlfriend."
Despite turning his back on Piper when she could be getting stabbed to death, Healy comes across like this when more of his background is revealed. He hasn't got any real friends, his wife is a mail-order bride who mostly ignores him and he looks genuinely heartbroken when he overhears Soso mentioning that none of the girls like him. Like Mendez, a lot of Healy's jerkassery appears to come from the fact he really is a very lonely person. It's also revealed that Healy had a troubled childhood, and that his issues with women stem from the fact his mother was clinically insane, and he had to try to take care of her from a very young age.
All of her corruption and callousness towards the prisoners aside, even Figueroa had a woobie moment when it was revealed that her husband is gay and is having an affair with his campaign manager. It is also implied that when she had originally started her job, she was idealistic and optimistic like Caputo, but the years of the prison system's corruption and incompetence that she faced eventually turned her into the cold-hearted bureaucrat that she is now.
Pennsatucky in season two, when her former clique shuns her and she struggles to become a better person, and also in the first season when she landed in Psych - due to actions she committed genuinely believing she's helping people. Plus in season 3 it's revealed that she was raped as a teenager. And at Litchfield, she's assaulted again, by CO Coates.
Piper showed these tendencies at times, helped by her Cry Cute moments. It comes to a head in season 4 where Maria, Flores and the Hispanic inmates crudely brand a Swastika onto Piper's forearm while she screams in agony. Despite her jerkass tendencies, that scene, complete with her being ignored by the prison population while everyone is socializing together and dancing, is quite sad. And then Hapakuka turns on her for treating her horribly and sells her out to the Hispanic inmates.
The next episode shows Piper crying in her bunk and when a now guilt-ridden Hapakuka asks her if she's okay, Piper responds brokenly "Not even a little bit." She also looks unwell physically as well as mentally.
Like You Would Really Do It: The Bolivian Army Ending for the ten women in Frieda's bunker in season 5. While the show has been known to occassionally kill or send off a major character, eight of the mentioned ten - Piper, Alex, Red, Nicky, Suzanne, Taystee, Cindy and Gloria - are the most core characters of the show, so not many viewers believe that they might not survive this situation.
After Vee's "you're a rose and that bitch is a weed" speech to Suzanne, some members of the fandom took it as an "inspirational message" and adopted it as a personal motto, some even sending it up as a highlight of Vee's positive qualities, not realizing (or caring) that that quote is the start of Vee's manipulation of Suzanne. It wasn't even an empowering quote in context, as Vee was using it to exacerbate the racial divisions within the prison and take Suzanne away from someone legitimately wanting to be her friend (Piper).
Alex Vause seems to have a sizable fandom, with fans often citing her as "better" for Piper than Larry and often shipping her with Piper. This is despite the fact that she is a complete sociopath without any remorse for any of her crimes and cheating her into going back to prison while getting an early release for herself in season 2. In a way, Jenji Kohan brought this on herself by having Piper hook up with her repeatedly in jail, but even then, the show seems to not shy away from how toxic their relationship is.
While most of the show's fanbase mostly feels sorry for Morello's clear mental illness and don't condone her crimes, there is a decently sized (and vocal) portion of viewers that still seems to have thought of Morello as a complete Woobie, the reasoning usually being that she's 'cute.'
Morello getting together with Vince at the end of season 3 was lauded by Morello's fanbase, who said that "Morello deserves to be happy," seemingly ignoring the fact that she got Vince to organize a beating on Christopher (who was unequivocally the victim) just because she told him that he was mean.
Sofia, to a certain extent. While she's one of the most nuanced transgender characters that you're likely to see in contemporary pop culture, and definitely one of the most good-natured prisoners at Litchfield, some of the fans seem to forget that her means of seeking gender reassignment therapy aren't exactly presented in a 100% sympathetic light. She's in Litchfield because she resorted to stealing credit cards to pay for hormones, which left her wife to raise their child alone after she was busted and imprisoned.
In Season 5, several of the inmates rape prison guards. Their actions range from voyerism and molestation to full on penetration, and they justify this because the victims are guards. Angie and Leanne casually joke about this, the former non-chalantly admitting to having raped men before she was jailed. This may well completely destroy any sympathy held for those responsible.
Soso's hair being cut by Leanne, which was a very poorly disguised maneuver to cover the fact, that the actress wanted to get a haircut. For a supposed Traumatic Haircut in prison, Leanne surely gave Soso's "Pocahontas hair" a very even and moderate trim, still leaving her hair looking stylish and semi-long.
Piscatella's actor's face is adorable, especially after he shaves. This sometimes undermines the character's status as a Nightmare Fuel - he can be genuinely chilling when in action, but when sitting tied down in a basement in season 5 he looks most like a good natured giant St. Bernard's dog waiting in front of a shop.
The guards breaking out in Do You Hear The People Sing? at the end of "We Can Be Heroes". It makes sense in-universe, as O'Neil starts it and they had watched the movie recently, but it's still Narm.
Paranoia Fuel: Have you been the victim of stalking? Death threats? A car bomb? Don't worry, your stalker is in prison, and she won't be coming near you for a long time. Unless of course she drives the prison van to your house, breaks in, runs a bath and tries on your fiancee's wedding veil while you're not home. And then send her new boyfriend and his buddies to your home to beat you up.
Relationship Writing Fumble: Pennsatucky/Coates comes off as this. In Season 3, they have a fun banter, until Coates starts violently raping her. Penn and Boo plot revenge, but ultimately do not follow through. In Season 4, their sex is framed as being Questionable Consent, and Coates is portrayed as a good guy who made a mistake, and good compared to Piscatella's guards. In Season 5 Penn basically treats Coates like a boyfriend. Their friendly interactions after he's repeatedly sexually assaulted her are very problematic to some fans. In-Universe, Big Boo vocally disapproves. The writers' inconsistent treatment of Coates and his culpability varies from Ambiguous Situation to a straight up Retcon. Needless to say you won't find too many people who ship them as a couple.
Rewatch Bonus: Remember when Suzanne explains to Piper that she has a system with the guards to tell them that she's got everything under control? How she gestures to her eyes to show that she's okay and doesn't need to be put into psych? Watch when Suzanne throws her pie at Alex, she makes that exact same gesture to the guard on duty, several episodes before she explains this tic to Piper.
The Alex-Piper-Larry love triangle (or anything regarding Piper's love life) is often accused of taking up so much time that it swallows up time that could be devoted to what the fans prefer seeing, such as prisoners' backstories and the Vee plotline, or even development in Piper's character that doesn't revolve around her deciding who she wants to be with.
Continued in the third season despite the absence of Larry and the appearance of the much awaited Ruby Rose's character taking her place in the love triangle. Many fans, while considering Stella hot and even taking an interest in Piper or Alex-related storylines (like Piper's Start of Darkness and Alex's paranoia over her former boss' revenge), literally beg for tossing out the romantic drama between them.
As mentioned already, Larry. The guy certainly has his Jerkass moments, but if you never watched the show and headed into watching it with most of the fans vision of him, you would be surprised to see that he isn't as bad as everyone makes him out to be.
Christopher, for being "mean" and yelling at Morello. Some of Morello's fans go as far as find his beating up received from Vince "satisfying."
Larry is this to incredibly memetic levels, despite Jason Biggs doing a rather good acting job. The reasons for the dislike seems to be both how boring and disconnected from the prison his scenes can be, how he begins to act like a complete Jerkass to Piper, and keeping Alex and Piper apart (for fans that prefer that couple).
Vee is a tad too close to being a Villain Sue in many fans' eyes and in contrast to literally every other antagonist, she doesn't have a single sympathetic or humanizing trait. Again, the actress is doing a good job, but the character is so despised that running Vee over with a van instantly elevated Rosa to a fan favorite.
Polly wasn't much liked either by viewers during the first season although she gained a lot of detractors when the second season arrived with a storyline of her getting together with Larry, who is also disliked. This likely contributed to her lack of an appearance in season 3.
Stella is viewed as this for many fans, who believe her character is poorly written and overly fanservicey. Also some viewers have uncharitable opinions on Ruby Rose's acting.
The white supremacist prisoners are heavily disliked by the fandom despite the attempts to make them somewhat less two-dimensional.
The third season were to introduce a new character named Stella Carlin, about whom was known that a) she would be played by Ruby Rose b) she would be 'an object of lust of both Piper and Alex'. Shipping wars were in motion before she even appeared. That's what you can do by featuring a pretty face. It however mostly died out when they really introduced Stella, she turned out to be less interesting than the fans expected, and was only Piper's — not Alex's — love interest.
Even though Litchfield is a playground compared to maximum-security prison (and this is without even including men's prisons, which are a nightmare), the show is clear that the prison system in general needs to be reformed. However, it's also clear that there's no easy answers to the problem; bureaucracy can put a damper on any attempted reforms, well-meaning staff can't fix the problems they see, the public essentially doesn't care about prisoners, and even if reforms were put in place, it's hard to balance rights with the punishment that prisoners are there for.
Noted in Kerman's book and a running theme throughout the show: Drugs Are Bad. No one in the series does drugs or is involved with the drug trade without some kind of consequence, to varying degrees of awfulness. It's the ones like Nicky who keep going back that you want to slap, but there is a lot of Truth in Television there, in that most addicts have a life long relationship with drugs.
Red's message to Piper at the end of the first episode. " Egg McTampon. Rare."
Mendez urinating in the gravy.
Pennsatucky's teeth. Taken Up to Eleven in season 2 when we see the results of what Piper beating the crap out of her did. Most of her teeth are knocked out and it is not a pretty sight.
Let's hope nothing did happen between Boo and Little Boo that involves peanut butter...
The scenes of raw sewage bubbling out of the Spanish Harlem showers.
In a flashback, Alex's ex-girlfriend Sylvia sends a "message" to Piper: a burning bag, revealed to be a turd when Piper stomps on it to put it out. Piper later enlists new sister-in-law Neri to send the same "message" to Polly after Piper finds out about Polly's affair with Larry.
The entirety of the "bedbugs" plot. Especially Taystee...well, tasting one.
I'm about fifty-fifty!
In Season 4, we have the "shower pooper," Piper digging in the port-a-potty and getting poo all over her hands, the "gun to your head" discussion (and its later ramifications), and the source of Nicky's crack.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Some feel Stella was this, given that she had a lot of hype behind her that ultimately never truly paid off. Stated to be the object of lust for both Piper and Alex, she's definitely not this for the latter, with Alex more peeved at her than anything else. After a brief relationship with Piper, she's reveals that she is being released soon and in the finale, she's Put on a Bus to Hell when Piper frames her after discovering she was the one taking money from her accounts by putting a lot of contraband in her bunk and gets her sent to Maximum Security, where we will probably never see her again (the screwdriver from season 1 is found in her possession, which has been stated to add up to five years to someone's sentence). We never find out what she is in prison for and most, if not every scene she has features Piper on-screen in some way. As of Season 4, we do get a glimpse of Stella in max with Nicky, and they even have a brief, off-screen affair. Nicky breaks it off because of Stella's drug use, which is most likely the reason Stella is in prison.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: After spending the latter half of the first season building Pensatucky up as an antagonist to Piper, and ending with Piper mercilessly beating her, there is absolutely no hostile interaction between them in the second season, with their plots being completely separate.
Vanilla Protagonist: Piper for many fans, as her background story is significantly less interesting than those of many of the other inmates. In Season 2, she became more and more Out of Focus as the season's main ongoing plot arcs shifted to the supporting characters (Red and Vee's rivalry, Daya's pregnancy, Soso's hunger strike and depression, etc). In Season 3 she receives more focus again, but she is noticeably less vanilla at the time.
Piper. Quite often, actually. Some of her reactions are understandable and at the same time very cringing. She gains more prison smarts as the seasons go by but her decisions still get her and her fellow inmates in trouble from time to time.
Christopher visiting Morello in prison and making a loud, audible threat to kill her if she comes near him or his family again. Sure, she has been stalking him, but there was a guard within earshot to HEAR that threat.
Soso's complete ignorance on how life in prison works is mind-boggling. While a period of acclimization is understandable, it takes her the entire season to realize that that prison is not daycamp, the people aren't there to make friends, and the rules aren't intended to make her comfortable.
The Woobie: Despite being prisoners, some of the women qualify even without the "Jerkass" part.
Tricia: she was young, well-meaning kleptomaniac and an addict who wanted to atone for the acts she had committed because of those issues... the first attempt landed her in jail, the second caused her death.
Poussey, the nicest one of the black clique, who goes trough hell in the second season in the hands of Vee, whose mother died while she was in prison and who had to coped with homophobia of her first love's father and Incompatible Orientation of her second (on-screen) love. Samira Wiley's tremendous Puppy-Dog Eyes probably help as well.
It gets worse later. Poussey, unlike most of the other girls, lead a decent life, was brought up by loving parents and was generally a happy person. Her reason for being in prison? Possession of less than an ounce of pot (which, knowing how copson this show are, might have been planted on her as a pretext to arrest her) and how do we even come across this information? Because Poussey was killed in trying to protect her friend.
Maria, who gives birth while in prison, is separated from her child and when it looks like things can go fairly well for her (given the circumstances), she is dumped by the father of her daughter and separated from her for good.
Soso has no friends, is completely unable to adjust for prison life and at one point was almost being sold for a blanket. She was also used and coldly dumped by Nicky, and is bullied by the members of Norma's cult in the third season, to the point that she attempts suicide, and in Season 4, her girlfriend is killed during a protest. The fact that she won't stop talking until you sit on her face probably would stop most people from giving her a hug, though.