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  • Alternate Character Interpretation:
    • Does McManus really care about helping prisoners, or is he just doing it to feed his own ego?
    • The way Keller's death scene is shot leaves two interpretations: that he killed himself to frame Beecher out of spite, or that Beecher accidentally pushed him over the ledge while grappling with him.
  • Anvilicious: The creator's thoughts on capital punishment and prison reform are made very obvious. The fact that Governor Devlin is a pretty blatant Straw Character based on mid-late 90's Republican governors doesn't exactly help. Then again, the very liberal McManus is also portrayed as a hypocritical, selfish man who constantly underestimates the prisoners.
  • Base-Breaking Character:
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    • Alvarez. Some fans see him as a Jerkass Woobie and a Butt-Monkey who keeps getting himself screwed over as he tries to survive in Oz. Others see him as your everyday Jerkass who blames all the misfortunes he goes through on other prisoners, despite his impulsive decisions, like the eye gouge incident.
    • Also Ryan O'Reily. He is both disliked immensely and very popular due to how slick he is. Then you have thosupe who believe him to be even worse than Schillinger since the latter at least loves his sons albeit not enough to deter the death of his younger one and his granddaughter while the former is all about himself with his Morality Pets being ineffective and/or dead.
  • Best Known for the Fanservice: The way people talk about the show you'd think the whole series was just a looping 30 minute clip of men getting it on in prison.
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  • Better on DVD: The arcs and loads of characters are easier to follow on DVD, though the fixed setting can feel repetitive when watching a lot of episodes in a row... or put you in the right mood to take it all in.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment:
    • Robson's hallucination after Beecher bites off the tip of his penis in "The Tip".
    • The aging pill storyline. It's absolutely bizarre and out of place with the show's realistic setting, and it has no effect on the plot outside of killing a Recurring Extra.
  • Bizarro Episode: The Season 5 episode "Variety" has Hill's narration segments replaced with various characters singing classic numbers.
  • Catharsis Factor:
    • Usually, seeing someone get knocked out and literally shit on wouldn't be so satisfying, just gross. But because it is Schillinger, and his attacker is Beecher (who he has tormented beyond belief), it's one of the most cathartic moments in the whole show.
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    • Devlin's shooting is really satisfying to watch after all the shit he's pulled, even if he comes out of it alive.
    • As silly as his death is, it's still pretty satisfying to watch Timmy Kirk get electrocuted.
  • Complete Monster: Even in this Crapsack World inside a Hellhole Prison, these characters (ordered by first appearance) stand out:
    • "Capital P": Richard L'Italien is a talkative Death Row inmate who quickly reveals himself to be one of the worst characters in the show despite his limited screen time. A remorseless Serial Killer since he was a teenager, L'Italien suffocated 40 young women to death, bragging about having raped and murdered his therapist back in juvie before doing the same to her daughter, all because he claims to "love" women and she told him that he actually hated them.
    • Timmy Kirk is a soft-spoken murderer who gets by in Oz despite his mediocre intellect and physical strength. Arrested for putting his own baby in a rat-infested dumpster, Kirk begins as an errand boy of the Irish gang, but shows what he's truly capable of when introduced to religion. He seals Reverend Jeremiah Cloutier in a wall to die a slow and painful death in response to the latter casting Kirk out of his Protestant congregation, usurping control of them and preaching that using violence is justified. After Father Mukada refuses to accept Kirk's reversion to Catholicism, Kirk responds by setting fire to his church in hopes of killing him, burning two priests alive. Kirk, by now a Satanist with a Devil Complex and facing execution, is happy that he might die knowing that his absurd allegations of molestation could see Mukada permanently stripped of his priesthood. In the end, Mukada came to the conclusion that there was no reason for Kirk's behavior, he was simply pure evil hiding behind the face of a choir boy.
    • Chris Keller is one of the few recurring villains in the show, and by far the most manipulative. A charming sociopath who killed an innocent store clerk during a botched robbery, Keller is wanted by the FBI for raping, torturing, and killing several gay men. Obsessed with earning the heart of Tobias Beecher—whom he tortured for entertainment—Keller desires "unconditional love" in a partner, which means he only feels happy with himself when those who love him are made to suffer. Taking advantage of the war against the new pro-Homeboy director of Emerald City, Keller disposes of Beecher's hookups out of sheer jealousy, including his own old friend. When Beecher receives his parole and saves him from the death sentence, Keller shows his gratitude by incriminating him of drug possession to get him sent back to Oz. Orchestrating an anthrax attack to wipe out the Aryan Brotherhood, the entire prison has to be evacuated because of his plan, and, upon being rejected one last time, Keller commits suicide to blame Beecher for his own death, ensuring he faces the death penalty. While he started out as Beecher's Psycho Sidekick and had many chances to reform, Keller proved to be the same dangerous predator that he described himself to be.
    • "The Truth and Nothing But..." through "Legs": Malcolm "Snake" Coyle, a member of the Homeboys, is a disgustingly smug, hulking psychopath with a penchant for brutal sadism for the sake of it. Originally imprisoned for armed robbery, Coyle becomes a role model for the young, similarly depraved Homeboy Kenny Wangler in his attempt to take over the drug trade and delights in the fact that he casually murdered an Italian-American family one night for fun—two children and grandmother included. Raping the mother after slitting her throat and gutting the crying baby in the crib while his friend recorded everything on a videotape, Coyle takes pride in how he got away with the deed and threatens anyone who would snitch on him with murder. Not feeling a hint of remorse even at the prospect of being executed, Coyle is loathed by everyone in prison, and the rest of the gangs take the extraordinary step in protecting Augustus Hill for testifying against him.
    • "U.S. Male" & "Cruel and Unusual Punishments": Yuri Kosygin, introduced as a quiet and seemingly harmless inmate, is the most vicious lifer in all of Oz. A Professional Killer under the payroll of the Organizatse, Kosygin was recruited after strangling his own boss to death, gaining a reputation for being the most brutal hitman in Little Odessa, a title that he takes pride in. Sent to Oz for shooting up a restaurant in a drive-by that was meant for a single target, Kosygin returns to his old habits and murders another inmate for money. Learning that his only acquaintance in Oz snitched on him, Kosygin immediately tries to murder him while mockingly telling him that he has the honor of being his 50th victim.
    • Season 4A: Mark Miles, initially nothing but a cruel bully and a friend of the Aryan Brotherhood, is the only inmate in his block to lack redeeming qualities. A fan of Pater Familicide, Miles brutally murdered his own wife and son for no discernible reason, getting off scot-free by pleading insanity. Marrying another woman, Miles massacred her and his daughters in the same way—crimes that manage to shock even the other death row inmates, with one calling herself an amateur upon discovering the truth. A Dirty Coward who fears his own well-deserved demise, Miles spends his last days tormenting everyone around him for fun.
  • Creator's Pet: Ryan O'Reily. He manipulates everyone he comes into contact with for his own personal gain (including his own brother), is treated to a semi-sympathetic battle with breast cancer, is rarely in the crosshairs of anyone, arranges or is somehow connected to several deaths in the prison (including Dr. Nathan's husband, who treated him when he had cancer) and ends up with her in the end. On an entirely unrelated note, Dean Winters's brother was one of the writers on the show.
  • Critical Research Failure: Paidraig Connelly fears he will be hanged if deported back to Britain. Capital punishment was abolished in the '60s with the last executions taking place in 1964.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Donald Groves for providing comic relief in the earlier episodes and for being surprisingly affable and polite for a cannibalistic murderer. His execution is also one of the biggest tear jerkers in the series and a prime example of a They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character.
    • Agamemnon Busmalis, for similar reasons as Groves since both provide comic relief, but also because of his unique niche of being an escape artist and a manchild whose a big fan of Miss Sally's schoolyard. Him being one of the few recurring characters to survive the entire series doesn't hurt his popularity either.
    • Enrique Morales is one of the most popular villains, for being a menacing, badass, and strangely likable Magnificent Bastard.
    • Peter Schibetta is almost universally loved by the fans, likely due to being one of the biggest Jerkass Woobie in a cast full of them.
    • Dr. Tariq Faraj, the hilariously snarky dentist who pulls an elaborately clever scheme to get back at Robson for his constant racial slurs, which results in the latter spiraling into well-deserved comeuppance after spending season after season committing every horrible deed in the book. While the doctor appears in only few episodes, his character arc laments his status as one of the biggest Troll in the entire series.
    • Chucky Pancamo is popular among fans for his quirky but tough personality and for managing to survive the entire series.
  • Evil Is Cool: Several characters, while still evil and/or depraved and occasionally showcasing moments of Evil Is Petty and Kick the Dog, are just simply too cool to hate. Examples include:
    • Nino Schibetta and Antonio Nappa for being old school wiseguys. The top enforcers for the Italians, Charles "Chucky the Enforcer" Pancamo and Francis "Frank the Fixer" Urbano also count.
    • Ryan O'Reily and Enrique Morales for being two of the most cunning, charismatic and clever schemers in the entire prison. Some of the former's rivals, like Nikolai Stanislofsky and Jia Kenmin also count as they manage to outsmart him once.
    • Simon Adebisi who is utterly fearless, incredibly strong, and maintains a dreadful presence throughout the show.
    • Chris Keller, a charming Manipulative Bastard who sometimes teams up with O'Reily yet is also a bisexual Serial Killer that preyed upon gay men while outside of prison.
    • Yuri Kosygin, a completely terrifying and absolutely ruthless hitman for the Russian mafia who makes even Stanislofsky terrified. He also has a shank hidden in the temple pieces of his glasses.
    • Burr Redding becomes the leader of the Homeboys after Adebisi's death. A former Vietnam veteran, he was badass enough to take down an entire police squad while dual-wielding two handguns as seen in his crime flashback.
    • Alonzo Torquemada appears only in the last two episodes and would have become an influential inmate on his own had the show lasted longer, planning to take over the prison drug trade and make the Gays a powerful gang. His flamboyance and charismatic portrayal by Bobby Cannavale makes him a memorable character nevertheless.
  • Fanon Discontinuity: Most fans prefer to pretend the series ended with Season 5 and ignore Season 6.
  • Genre Turning Point: The first HBO original series, Oz was one of the first TV shows to prove that television could compete with films in the storytelling department with season long arcs and dark storytelling that didn't treat its audience like simpletons. The show inspired countless other TV shows in that vein.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: As time marches on, psychology, psychiatric medicine, and mental healthcare in general have improved enough that many of the problematic behaviors of the inmates are now seen as signs of untreated mental health issues, not individual moral failure. Just to name a few examples, Omar White's irritating chatter and behavior blindness would get him evaluated for anxiety and autism-spectrum disorders, Cyril's "unprovoked" violent outbursts against CO's would be recognized as a post-traumatic response if the staff had modern techniques for interviewing victimized children and the mentally-impaired, and Hoyt's deterioration into literal screaming madness would see him evaluated for a schizoaffective disorder whether anyone believed him or not. note 
  • He Really Can Act:
    • Atoning phony preacher Jeremiah Cloutier was the first role that showed how much Luke Perry was able to move beyond his "brooding bad boy" role in Beverly Hills, 90210.
    • Peter Criss turns in a good performance as weaselly inmate Martin Montgomery, making the character sleazily charismatic.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • CO Armstrong's helping a Christian inmate destroy the printing press that the Muslim inmates were using for a prison industry business, on orders of a rival business/gang leader, and his line "I guess this is one of those times you don't ask "What Would Jesus Do?"." The actor playing Armstrong, Tim Brown, is an ex-NYC firefighter and one of the main dissenting voices in the debate over whether to allow the building of a mosque near WTC ground zero.
    • The main protagonist is a prisoner named Tobias and his difficulties adjusting to prison life. A few years later, another man named Tobias who is clearly out of his element would be sent to prison, albeit this time to prepare for the role of "Frightened Inmate #2."
    • Tobias declines to fill out his swastika brand into a grid, as it meant a lot more burned flesh. Twenty years later, the lead character of another iconic prison series decided to go through with this very thing.
    • Fans of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and/or Law & Order: Criminal Intent will find it funny (if not downright jarring) to see that at least one of the actors who would go on to star as a lead detective (Christopher Meloni for the former, Kathryn Erbe for the latter) on both shows had portrayed a vicious killer here, particularly if they viewed/heard of SVU or Criminal Intent prior to Oz. note  Not to mention Dr. Skoda as the vicious Aryan leader Schillinger. The Bad Guys Are Cops, indeed.
    • This show would not be the last time a character played by J. K. Simmons would abuse and break down a younger man, although it ended much better for him the next time.
  • Jerkass Woobie: A trademark of the series. Every character is loathsome but is invested with a story or acting performance to show that They are still human and have suffered Their own tragedies.
    • Schillinger stands out the most. He's crossed the Moral Event Horizon God knows how many times but J. K. Simmons' acting is so good and the writing is strong enough that he can still be sympathetic while ordering the deaths of children.
    • Dino Ortolani is a violent, short-tempered bigot, but he's shown to legitimately care about his family and he's heavily implied to be suicidal because of his life imprisonment. He's ultimate burned alive immediately after his first act of compassion.
    • You wouldn't think a cannibalistic murderer who ate his own parents would be at all sympathetic, but it's hard not to feel just a little bit sorry for Donald Groves when he's executed because of his genuine regret for his crimes after his victim's mother forgives him.
    • Miguel Alvarez. He's a violent and callous thug, but he suffers from severe depression and is prone to self-harm, he had his beloved infant son die in his arms, he had to watch his grandfather slowly die after developing Alzheimer's Syndrome, El Cid, Glynn, and Guerra are constantly making his life hell out of spite, and he frequently winds up locked in solitary confinement, which he admits is his greatest fear. Even his genuine attempts at redemption are met with nothing but (admittedly justifiable) hostility, and he's ultimately denied parole out of spite by a man who has somewhat arbitrarily decided he deserves life imprisonment, leading to him crossing the Despair Event Horizon.
    • Nino Schibetta is a racist Bad Boss, but his undeservedly horrific and slow death makes him somewhat pitiable.
    • Peter Schibetta is a smug Jerkass, but all the shit that happens to him (being raped by Adebisi,getting driven insane and locked in Psych Ward for three seasons, being gang-raped by the Aryans, developing PTSD as a result) makes it impossible not to feel sorry for him.
    • Jefferson Keane is a cold-blooded killer, but his genuine and surprisingly sweet love for his wife makes it heartbreaking when she leaves him out of fear. His subsequent quest for redemption results in him gradually turning into a Stoic Woobie.
    • Andrew Schillinger is a cruel Neo-Nazi, but only because the ideology was beaten into him by his abusive father. Not only that, but he's killed by his own father right after he renounced his racism and stopped taking drugs.
    • Burr Redding after Hill dies. His grief is palpable, and he starts making an effort to be a better person, even if he winds up being a Well-Intentioned Extremist.
    • James Robson in Season 6. While he undoubtedly deserved some comeuppance, the absolutely horrific things that happen to him and his subsequent redemption make him rather pitiable, as does the reveal that he was sexually abused by his own father and his life of crime started after he ran away from home.
    • Shirley Bellinger is a racist madwoman who killed her own daughter, but it's impossible not to feel any sympathy for her when she breaks down and panics as she's brought to the gallows.
    • It's hard not to feel at least a little compassionate for Carlo Ricardo. as his connection with his family slowly fades away completely. His humanity and sanity aren't far behind sadly.
  • Love to Hate: Scum and despicable doesn't begin to describe Vern Schillinger, but J. K. Simmons' performance is so good that he turns a repugnant rapist into a surprisingly fascinating character.
  • Magnificent Bastard:
    • Ryan O'Reily is an Irish convict in the Emerald City wing of the Oswald State Correctional Facility. More than any other inmate, O'Reily is frequently at the center of whatever intrigue is going in the prison, forming alliances with other inmates to take over the drug trade inside Oz by arranging the deaths of various gang leaders and even becoming a major figure in a prison riot. O'Reily also gets Dr. Gloria Nathan to fall in love with him after putting out a hit on her husband, later personally murdering a criminal who raped her, uses various dirty methods to ensure that his brother Cyril will win the prison boxing championship, and has Officer Claire Howell—whom O'Reily is sleeping with—kill his rival Stanislofsky after a dispute over a contraband cell phone turns sour. Ryan O'Reily possesses a sense of charm and bravado unmatched by many of the thuggish inmates in Oz, and his uncanny ability to get others to do his dirty work for him and turning his enemies against each other makes him one of the few characters to successfully survive the entire run of the show.
    • Enrique Morales establishes himself as one of the most cunning and pragmatic prisoners on the show. After arriving in Oswald State prison, he usurped control over the Latinos by forcing the kindly old prisoner Bob Rebadow to kill his unpopular predecessor El Cid, then takes over the drug trade inside the prison with the Homeboys and Italians and proves himself more wary to attempts by the authorities to infiltrate the organization than his associates. When Morales develops a feud with Homeboys leader Burr Redding, he manipulates Chinese refugees housed in the prison against him with false claims of race hatred and attempts to have Redding framed for a murder. A capable fighter as well when the chips are down, Morales swiftly foils an attempt on his own life by killing the assassin, and lulls his late sister's abusive husband into a false sense of security before pounding the everloving crap out of him. Always a persuasive and purpose-driven man despite being a murderer and gang leader, under the clever rule of Morales, El Norte truly became a force to be reckoned with within Oz.
  • Memetic Loser: McManus. From the comment sections for clips on YouTube to the episode recaps on the late, great Television Without Pity, if the fandom is united on anything it's in dissing McManus for his incompetency, unreliability, and inability to not ask just about every female character out to dinner. Compilations of his lowest moments (be it getting shanked or otherwise insulted) are not uncommon.
  • Mind Game Ship: Chris Keller/Tobias Beecher. Ryan with whomever he is manipulating, to an extent.
  • Misaimed Fandom: Especially during its original run, there were some viewers who thought the Prison Rape scenes were funny, mostly the ones involving Peter Schibetta. This is despite the fact that the subject is treated very seriously by the show, and is never Played for Laughs. Most disturbingly, the only characters in the show who find rape funny are the most despicable prisoners (like the Aryans), which says a lot about these fans.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • Hoo Boy.. Schillinger and Ryan O'Reily both could fit a whole page with this.
    • Beecher selling off Adam Guenzel to the Aryans in Season 5. While there are plenty who say it was a completely justified thing to do after Gunzel humiliated Beecher, and that Guenzel merely got what was coming to him, there are many others who feel like nothing could justify letting something like that happen, especially after Beecher's experience in the first season.
      • Beecher's manipulation of Andrew (who was a jerk) would normally count, but doesn't because Beecher's responsibility is a bit cloudy, and the realization of his contributions causes Beecher to feel genuinely guilty.
    • Kenny crossed it in the Season 2 finale when he killed Jara. Before then, Kenny was starting to go through Character Development and actually seemed like he could redeem himself. But when Season 3 started, he became an irritating and despicable punk with a stupid nickname who only cared about himself.
    • In-universe, Coyle's murder of an innocent family, including the rape of the wife and the murder of small children, is treated as such. You know you've spectacularly blown past the MEH when the black Muslims, the white supremacists, the Latino gang and the Italian Mafia all pre-emptively get together and agree to protect the guy who snitched. And when someone pulls a Pay Evil unto Evil on Coyle by brutally murdering him in his cell, no one including the prison staff particularly seems to give a shit.
    • Clayton Hughes murdering Johnny Basil just because he called him out on being an asshole and laughing about it to Glynn's face.
    • In general, played with. While many appear to have crossed theirs (Keane, Adebisi and William Cudney being some examples) by virtue of the crimes they committed, the show's themes of morality and redemption work it in such a way that they are not as evil as they may have been portrayed otherwise. While most cross theirs while in prison (Schillinger, Robson and Keller to name a few), they are never explicitly viewed as beyond any redemption.
  • Narm:
    • Often Hill's narrations verge on this.
    • Thy name is Cyril O'Reily, especially in later seasons. The forced tender moments start seeming ridiculous after he kills or incapacitates multiple people.
    • There was quite a bit in the last season, but the "Men of Death Row" photo shoot and Hoyt electrocuting Kirk with a light fixture was over the top even by Oz's standards.
  • Narm Charm: The series has tendency towards the melodramatic and can feel over-stylized at times... but most of the drama is compelling enough to make it work.
  • Never Live It Down: The show itself is mostly remembered in pop culture as being "that show with Prison Rape" and not for much else.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Eric Roberts' performance as a death row inmate at the end of the fourth episode is simultaneously terrifying and mesmerizing.
  • Ron the Death Eater: McManus can be a bit of a petty dick and has problems with ego and his treatment of women but he often tries to help the inmates, even ones who despise him like Said and tries to stick to his morals. The way some fans talk though you'd think he was as evil as Vern.
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: Robson. After the gum incident at the end of Season 5, he became a prag. From that point on, Robson Took a Level in Kindness (no, really) and was the center of a realistic subplot involving prison rape.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
  • The Scrappy:
    • Clayton Hughes and his character's rapid slide into insanity were poorly received.
    • Omar White probably embodies this trope better than anyone. While it's clear we were meant to have some kind of affection for him at times, his habit of always getting himself into trouble (despite given numerous "last chances" by McManus and Said to get his act together), blaming others for his own messes and generally spending a lot of time being an ungrateful jerk to those trying to help him meant that an awful lot of people end up glad to see him go by Season 6.
    • Similarly to both Hughes and Omar, there's CO Dave Brass who spends his overtly long character arc doing the same mistakes over and over again and blaming others for his own Jerkass tendencies. While having his achilles tendon cut would normally earn him some sympathy points, Brass goes well over his head being an obnoxious individual to even those who try to help him frequently. His frequent drips into insanity were also fairly disliked.
    • Jia Kenmin was not well-liked, mainly thanks to the show trying to prop him up as O'Reily's new arch-nemesis for no real reason and his actor's lackluster efforts to act intimidating.
    • Lemuel Idzik is widely despised by the fandom, mainly for killing Saïd, a universally beloved fan-favorite.
    • William Giles is not well-liked by the fandom, mainly thanks to his story arcs generally being non-plot relevant padding and not having any real personality to speak of. Not many complained when he succumbed to Chuck Cunningham Syndrome.
  • Seasonal Rot:
    • Some fans felt that show's increasing usage of bizarre elements, most infamously the "aging drugs" straight out of a sci-fi story, jarred with the quirky but still generally gritty and realistic tone set in earlier seasons. A few fans also felt that the loss of fan-favorite Adebisi hit the show hard.
    • Season 6 is widely reviled thanks to having a large amount of Narm, completely jettisoning any sense of realism, and dropping bridges on most of the cast.
  • So Okay, It's Average: The general consensus on Season 5. It's good outside of a few bizarre storylines, but it doesn't match the heights of previous seasons.
  • Spoiled by the Format: To modern audiences, Beecher getting paroled in the 4th season finale is very obviously a fake-out, seeing as there are still 2 full seasons left after it.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Quite a few because Anyone Can Die, especially at the beginning and end of the series.
    • Season 1 was probably the biggest offender, killing off Dino Ortolani, Jefferson Keane, Donald Groves, Eugene Dobbins, and Scott Ross, in spite of how fascinating they were to watch and their great dynamics with the rest of the cast.
    • Colonel Edward Galson has a great dynamic with Redding and Beecher, an interesting and menacing personality, and he seems to be set up as a major character. Instead, he gets killed by Morales in his fourth appearance.
    • Several characters introduced in Season 6, such as Torquemada and Jafree Neema, seemed to be placed for a prominent place in the storyline if the series continued.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot:
    • One can forgive the writers for not wanting to touch this with a 39 and a half foot pole, but a plot where Said and the other Muslims face increased discrimination in the wake of 9/11 would have been potentially brilliant, especially since Oz was one of the only shows running during the attacks to feature prominent Muslim characters.
    • Jia Kenmin's desire for vengeance against Morales is set up and then almost immediately forgotten.
    • At the end of Season 4, O'Reily starts to make a Heel–Face Turn during his collaboration with Connolly. It's absolutely fascinating Character Development that's immediately ignored in the next season.
  • Trapped by Mountain Lions: A chronic issue, possibly due to the large cast. Most prominent in Seasons 2 (Ryan's breast cancer and Peter Marie's dealings with Giles), 4 (Ageing drugs) and 5 (Alvarez and the dog training program, Omar's singing).
    • Cyril momentarily acquires a sock puppet named Jericho who speaks and behaves the way Cyril did before his brain trauma, and seemingly becomes consumed by it with some kind of split personality... Then Sister Marie says that's creepy, took it away and it was never addressed again.
  • Too Bleak, Stopped Caring: This is bound to happen due to being a very cynical drama about an extremely violence-infested prison. Most characters are hardened criminals who are simultaneously sympathetic and unsympathetic (but mostly unsympathetic), and they constantly perpetuate a never-ending cycle of despair against each other. It seems that nobody, not even the surviving characters, are allowed to have a happy ending by the time of the series finale. The idealists in Oswald's staff (McManus, Mukada, Peter-Marie, etc.) really want to believe they can rehabilitate the inmates into better human beings. But in the end, only a few of them can be considered decent or redeemable people; most of the prisoners, even if they have some sympathetic qualities, are still largely unrepentant scumbags who just won't even bother to reform their evil ways.
  • Too Cool to Live: Due to the nature of Anyone Can Die, this is to be expected with despicable, but still enjoyable characters, some include: Simon Adebisi, Enrique Morales, and Kareem Saïd, to name a few.
  • The Woobie:
    • Beecher. He's a kind, shy man who is immediately forced into becoming Schillinger's sex slave and subjected to a hellish cycle of abuse that drives him insane, his wife, son, and father are murdered, and he's betrayed multiple times by his boyfriend Keller who ruins his chances of ever leaving Oz.
    • Cyril was left mentally disabled following a head injury, leaving him with the mind of a child. He's thrown into prison after his brother Ryan manipulates him into killing Dr. Nathan's husband and gang raped by the Aryans. He then spends the rest of the series being used as a pawn by Ryan, who at one point tricks him into beating another inmate so severely it leaves the guy brain-dead and mocks a guilt-ridden Cyril over it. He's eventually sentenced to death row for having killed another inmate in self-defense and executed while he desperately cries out for his mother and brother.
    • Hill. After being paralyzed when a cop threw him off a building and given a life sentence, Hill just wants to quietly serve his sentence and atone the best he can. As thanks, he's abused by his fellow prisoners who frequently use him as a pawn, and often receives little sympathy from the staff in turn. Eventually, his wife leaves him and his beloved mother dies in a bus crash, which causes him to relapse back into drug addiction and nearly die of an overdose. And when he recovers from that, he's accidentally shanked during an attempt on Burr Redding's life.
    • Alvarez, whenever he isn't being a Jerkass Woobie. He especially counts in the final season, where he's reformed but is still subject to his usual amount of suffering and is ultimately condemned to spend the rest of his life in Oz.
    • Diane.
    • Also Father Mukada, sent to Oz because he questioned the conservative views of his powerful church patron, is clearly out of his depth in the madness and brutality of a maximum security prison.
    • Omar White could count as well, considering the fact that McManus decides to stop giving him chances very soon after he actually begins earnestly heading in the right direction, and sends him back to solitary begging for forgiveness.
    • Eugene Dobbins. All he did while in Oz was play his cello and entertain everyone, and he became close friends with Augustus. But after his cello is destroyed simply because Vahue was angry, Eugene distances himself from everyone (including Hill) and just watches TV. And during the riot in Season 1, he's stabbed multiple times for no reason and ends up bleeding to death, despite Hill's desperate attempts to save him.
    • Guillaume Tarrant, while only appearing in the season four premiere, could be considered one of the most tragic characters: Sent to a maximum security prison because of a minor crime (destroying a statue at a museum), he is instantly targeted by the stronger inmates (particularly Wangler). Then, he is manipulated by Adebisi into killing his tormentors (and a CO), and commits suicide immediately afterwards.
    • Of the Correctional Officers, Eugene Rivera and his wife, Tina. Rivera's eyes are gouged out by Alvarez in mere days after starting in his new job due to a dispute between him and the current leader of El Norte, Raoul "El Cid" Hernandez, and is forced to live the rest of his life blind and being taken care of by Tina which further complicates their economical issues. Eugene even suffers from suicidal thoughts, contemplating on ending his life so that his wife could live a normal life again and is torn by the fact that he can't see the person dearest to him anymore. The couple gets at least some kind of closure eventually after Eugene accepts the guide dog given to them by Alvarez himself.

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