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10. Cindy “Black Cindy” Hayes (Adrienne C. Moore)
Season 2’s best backstory was about the brassy TSA agent turned kleptomaniac. Her selfishness and outspokenness are thoroughly intimidating, and her strong sense of identity is unmatched.
This season: Unsurprisingly, Cindy’s the first to bounce back to her regular self in the wake of Vee’s death.
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9. Norma Romano (Annie Golden)
Don’t underestimate silent Norma, who stood her ground against Red last season and forced her into guilt. Norma’s independence is powerful—especially if she can declare it without saying a word.
This season: Norma’s popularity at Litchfield rises, even if her volume doesn’t.
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8. Sister Jane Ingalls (Beth Fowler)
How many incarcerated ex-nuns can successfully conduct a hunger strike against a federal facility? Ingalls managed to channel her piety into prison-change power.
This season: The good sister will have a hand in helping one prisoner fake her faith.
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7. Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley)
Poussey can’t be bought. Last season, she remained the lone wolf who rejected villainous Vee’s buying power and constant threats. Smart.
This season: Poussey forges new friendships behind bars as she begins to explore her spiritual side.
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6. Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren (Uzo Aduba)
Emotionally unstable Suzanne’s subdued strength lies partly in her poetic muscle, but her true power comes from her unpredictability. Is she being genuinely nice—or is she going to piss on your floor?
This Season: Don’t expect a quick recovery for Suzanne after she learns of Vee’s death.
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5. Carrie “Big Boo” Black (Lea DeLaria)
The loud, self-confident Boo refuses to apologize for her brash, bold approach to life. She knows who she is—someone who is not to be messed with—and is her own best wingwoman.
This season: We’ll glimpse a flashback into Boo’s ladykillin’ life outside Litchfield.
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4. Gloria Mendoza (Selenis Leyva)
The head of the Spanish Harlem dorm deftly stepped into Red’s shoes as top cook last season, obtaining loyalty and respect from all. She’s the Russian’s equal match, complete with her own loyal pack of girls and that same bulletproof exterior that makes crossing her an unforgivable crime.
This season: “You’re going to see a softer side [of Gloria]—and maybe an unraveling,” Leyva teases.
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3. Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling)
She started off weak, but Piper has frequently used her wits to change things for the better (the track! the newsletter!) at Litchfield. Plus, she fights with a scary rage almost as unpredictable as Crazy Eyes.
This season: Ex-girlfriend Alex Vause (Laura Prepon) is back—though who’s in control of their relationship fluctuates.
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2. Sophia Burset (Laverne Cox)
Despite her struggles in a prison that stiffs her hormone treatments, the hairdresser’s constant diplomacy makes her everyone’s friend. With every breath and step, Sophia exudes an unmatched unity of body, mind, and spirit.
This season: Cox says a “potential standoff between Sophia and Gloria” may create drama.
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1. Galina “Red” Reznikov (Kate Mulgrew)
It’s not just that her erstwhile position as Litchfield’s kitchen chief earned her respect—it’s that she kept it after she descended. Red’s reign of power took a beating last season, both literally and figuratively. But in the end, the superpower had risen again. The solution was simple: She apologized. Her authority is obvious yet nuanced, thanks to a combination of maternal instinct, business acumen, and interpersonal savvy (particularly with rival matriarch Gloria and corrections officer Healy) that prove you don’t have to run the joint to be running the joint.
This season: The ex-chef may cook up a romance with a character we’ve already met.