Piper: I've read some reviews that speak to Piper's lack of development this season and how she hasn't grown as a character. I disagree, I found her much more relatable this season, except for her turning on Red. I also think her kickball effort was a nice parallel to Season 1's newsletter effort but that she was more honest in her interactions this time around. Her salon talk with Taystee was typically obnoxious but this is - and always has been - her character; observationally aware of others but not of her own privilege. I liked her ending though and I think it will be an interesting S7 as she adjusts to life on the outside and inevitably writes her memoir.
Taystee: Give this woman an Emmy already! Danielle Brooks is the real heart of this show and her character story was by far, the most emotional. I've read how many people were upset about her character's guilty murder charge but honestly, I think the writer's decisions with Taystee were on point. Practically ignored for the first few episodes, her (much stronger) story played secondary to a comparatively weak gang-war thread and as she says, "there ain't no justice". I'm sure this was a deliberate take on the BLM movement and political climate and however unfair, rang true. Her flashback episode was again, brilliant and Brooks' depleted performance this season was incredible.
Alex: The whole "where is Alex?" mystery was a bit of a let down, but once she returned it was good to see her back. Prepon is her usual strong self. A bit like S5, she wasn't given a lot to do until she intercepts Badison and joins Carol's crew, all in the name of love. Wedding was cool and it was nice to see Pipex unified for a whole season.
Suzanne: I thought it was a smart decision to open S6 the way they did - through Suzanne's warped viewpoint. It was nice that the character had a bit of a break this season and functioned more as a narration during the episodes. Uzo Aduba is, as always, fantastic, though I'm not as enamoured of her character as S1 and 2. The Freida pairing was average. Her pairing with Pennsatucky was unexpectedly great.
Red: Kate Mulgrew is one of the strongest actresses on the show and Red is one of the best characters but she seemed underused here. Some great moments between Nicky throughout and an interesting choice which leads her being locked up in the SHU. I hope in S7 she's back to ruling the roost.
Cindy: Always one of my favourites and one of the more obviously comic characters, this season gave Adrienne C Moore a lot more dramatic material to work with and she steps up, for sure. I felt like her and Suzanne being the only 2 to witness the Piscatella murder cover up would give Cindy a much more exciting arc, thinking she would help to bring the shooters down from inside but reflecting, I understand why the writers chose the route they did - an incarcerated black woman would never be able to bring down white men in uniform - and while it makes sense, I felt robbed by how she had to betray Taystee to survive. Liked the pairing with Flaca.
Nicky: Natasha Lyonne was amazing this season. I love that they gave her character so much to do without subjecting her to relapse or drug issues. Her flashback episode was strong and I love her wily way of keeping Lorna out of trouble. Wedding officiating was legit.
Gloria: Another one of my favourites and I love that she had so much material this season. Her takedown of Maria? Yes. Her made up BS of a fake religious holiday just to pass coded messages to Blanca? Hell yes. A more vulnerable and hip-shaking Mendoza? Yes, yes. "Outing" the guards' game. HELL YES. And a strong final scene of the season, in SHU, shooting daggers through Luschek and then breaking and bonding with Red. Hope Gloria gets out by the end of S7.
Daya: I've never been a Daya fan. Yes, she's sweet but the Baby Bennett thing dragged on for seasons and kinda bored me. I loved the part she played in the events leading to the riot but they ran out of ideas for her midway through S5. To me, this was her strongest season as a character and Dasha Polanco (who, to me, often seemed a bit out-acted by her peers) nailed her work here.
Lorna: After building her character in S1-3, I feel like they lost their way with this character back in S4, making her more stupid than daffy-but-loveable. It was welcome relief in S5 amidst the chaos of the riot but this season she was almost intolerable for me. Gang affiliation? Lorna?! One of the more dramatic season ends for her though and S7 will be interesting for her.
Flores: Honestly, one of the most devastating scenes in this whole series and at least for me, completely unexpected. Despite being used as comic relief a lot (them eyebrows though), it's often forgotten that it was Blanca's strength and FTP attitude that spear-headed the cafeteria protest that incited the riot. Then she played a much bigger role in S5 as a foil to Red which was an odd couple that I quite liked. Interesting to note that Laura Gomez was upgraded to regular cast from recurring cast this season, only to end the season out of the prison (and likely out of the show for good). And all this, from the weird ass woman Piper thought was crazy in S1 but was actually smuggling a contraband phone. Blanca didn't have a lot to do this season (I'm glad she got an episode in S4) but she's always been solid and her reaction upon leaving the prison is damn near heart-breaking.
Sophia: Another character released in the finale was Sophia, one of OITNB's most publicised characters when the show first aired. And despite only ever having recurring status, she was given her own episode before any other character except Piper and Red. Unfortunately in S3 you could tell they didn't really know what to do with her anymore and after a late S4 arc and barely-there S5 appearance, she is again relegated to only 3 episodes this year. I will say, I'm glad her character got a happy ending and a goodbye speech with Freida standing in for what would surely have been her first choice, Sister Ingalls.
...................And as for the rest....
Solo Flaca = YES. "You can always have a Southwest Chicken Salad, Cindy."
Caputo = really liked his arc this season. Him and Cindy have got work to do in S7.
Fig = the bar scene with her and Caputo was genuinely great. Human, even.
Freida = yeah. I preferred her in S5.
Pennsatucky = I like this character. Her journey with Coates was OK. She's much more interesting in prison.
Maria = the God interlude was rushed but I quite liked this for Maria. I didn't love how quickly she jumped back into gang life.
Aleida = S5 showed she had great comedic timing and she did one better by showing some quiet depth in S6.
Carol and Barb = so underwhelmed by these two. Their characters might have been better served with no flashback, OR an episode dedicated to the rumours heard by inmates over the years, with no confirmation. Their flashback was weak and for me, made their entire prison personas limp A F.
Madison = yeah. Nah.
Daddy = not-as-memorable yeah, nah but with better character motivations
Adeola = it took until the finale before anyone even used her name, FFS. Some amazing lines from this lady. More please.
Luschek = I'm done with this dude
McCullough = strong performance. Good arc this season.
All other COs = what the hell? Sadistic freaks where the writers took turns drawing quirks from a hat and randomly assigning them out, in order to make them appear more human