Oz

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If you're looking for the place with the short, friendly people, wicked witches, and the green city in the middle, please go to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Oz is a long-running, critically-acclaimed one hour drama that follows the daily lives of the inmates and staff of the Oswald State Correctional Facility, nicknamed Oz. Inmates are divided between the main prison (Genpop) and "Em City", a unit with more perks and freedom for the prisoners, but more surveillance.

The main focus of the show is the study of personalities within the prison population, whose out-of-control violence, general anomie, and domination by a series of gangs creates an environment that forces difficult decisions just to survive, much less avoid sexual slavery, drug addiction, or solitary confinement. Characters (who are summarized in the character page) range from former lawyer Tobias Beecher, Aryan leader Verne Schillinger, Iago-figure Ryan O'Reily, senior citizen Bob Rebadow, veteran criminal Simon Adibisi, and many, many more. Wheelchair bound prisoner-for-life Augustus Hill serves as narrator, intermixing the events of each episode with a more general theme (family, nature, politics, even Napoleon).

The Loads and Loads of Characters would influence future shows like Lost and The Wire. There is constant character turnover due to the fact that Anyone Can Die, and that anyone can get released. Newly introduced characters can become central to the story immediately, other main characters can fade away, be killed, or be transferred unexpectedly.

Aside from the character study, the struggles of gangs to control both the prison hierarchy and the lucrative prison trade in "tits" (drugs) creates much of the dramatic background, with cunning gang "leaders" attempting to leverage both their followers and the prison structure in a never-ending battle for dominance.

The staff of the prison, while treated sympathetically, is shown to be divided and isolated from events in the prison. Idealists such as Em City head Tim McManus, Father Ray Mukada, and Psychologist/Nun Sister Peter-Marie attempt to humanize the prisoners, while the more battle hardened Corrections Officers tend to view the prisoners as scum, leaving Warden Leo Glynn to decide between them. Some successes in reaching inmates are balanced by outright failures: A prison boxing tournament in Season 3 designed to increase morale turns into a rigged, gambling infested mess that escalates the already high racial tension at Oz to dangerous levels. Similarly, crackdowns on inmates that get superficial results sometimes lead to bigger problems just beneath the surface.

When first released, the powerful first 15 minutes (featuring Beecher's entry into prison) forever branded Oz as "the show with prison-rape". However, the show is more complex, attempting to tackle questions of the nature and origin of violence and criminality, but continually refusing to provide any easy answers. Every character on the show is essentially morally ambiguous, with the "good" characters of the show sometimes committing despicable deeds while the "monsters" sometimes act rather humanely. The show also examined the issue of prisoner's rights and the effectiveness of the American prison system, which the show depicts as inherently corrupt.


Tropes used in Oz include:
  • Affably Evil: Enrique Morales, leader of El Norte prison gang, especially the scene when he forces The Old Convict Rebadow to murder his predecessor, El Cid. "Who'd suspect a nice old man like you?"
  • All of the Other Reindeer: There's a lot of bullying in this show, and many attempts to graciously help those bullies; however, these attempts tend to backfire. For example, Beecher's attempt to reunite Vern with his son, Hank. Vern ends up getting suspicious and has Hank murder Beecher's son, and Beecher has Hank murdered.
  • And I Must Scream: Reverend Cloutier, who is sealed inside the cafeteria wall by Timmy Kirk and the bikers, remains there forgotten for what must be at least several days, is caught in an enormous gas explosion, survives, sustaining horrifying burns, then as his throat begins to recover so that he can almost produce more than a raspy gurgle, the bikers pick up his charred body and brick him behind another wall to keep him from naming names. As if detaching him from life support wouldn't have been enough. Father Mukada finds his decaying corpse in the final episode, only to seal it back up, figuring he's better off left where he is.
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: Any act of violence witnessed by the inmates is greeted by cheers and jeers, depending on their sympathy (or lack of) for the one being attacked. A notable exception is when feared Nigerian gangster Simon Adebisi is killed, the initial reaction is a shocked gasp of disbelief from both inmates and guards, as Adebisi seemed so Badass he couldn't be killed by anyone.
    • Also notably averted with the death of Augustus Hill. Burr Redding is overcome with grief, and most of the prisoners are shocked. McManus actually breaks down crying. Mainly this is because more so than anyone else in Em City, Hill had become the most philosophical and accepting of the bad things that he had done.
  • Anyone Can Die: This show routinely killed off well-established characters. In fact, most of the main characters are dead by the end of the series finale.
  • Anything That Moves: Scott Ross. Chris Keller.
  • Artificial Gravity: Adebisi's hat. It's the only way to explain how it stays on his head.
    • In fact, Antonio Nappa hangs a lampshade on it by asking "How the hell does that thing stay on your head?"
    • As does Martin Querns, in the process displaying that Adebisi is quite sensitive about anyone knowing.
  • Asshole Victim: Everyone by default, though subverted in that you can feel sympathy even for neo-Nazi thugs like Robson, given the horrible things that happen to him.
    • Robson in more ways than one.
    • Peter Schibetta. Oh boy. He starts out like this, but gets victimized so much that he ends up almost a Woobie.
  • Ass Shove: Robspoon.
  • As the Good Book Says...: Vern Schillinger to Reverend Cloutier, when warning him not to interfere in the affairs of the Aryan Brotherhood.

"And I will pour out mine indignation upon thee. I will blow against thee in the fire of my wrath, and deliver thee into the hand of brutish men. And skillful to destroy." Ezekiel 21:31

    • Warden Glynn as Smug Snake Timmy Kirk is hauled off to Death Row.

"He who comes in vanity, shall depart in darkness. And his name shall be covered in darkness. He will never see the sun." Ecclesiastes 6:4

  • As You Know: the sometimes awkward retellings of pertinent plot points as they jump from storyline to storyline
  • Ax Crazy: Many a inmate is this. Even Beecher after taking a level in badass and some of the guards show these tendencies.
  • Badass Normal: So many characters have there moments of this several character deserve special mention:
    • Jefferson Keane and Adebisi both get ambushed and outnumbered two to one. Both guys walk away fine. Their attackers don't.
    • Beecher and Kareem. Each one in their respective crazy stage.
    • Cyril, repeatedly taking on bigger guys or outnumbered and winning.
    • Alvarez proves rather adept at fighting of his would be killers. Omar White has his moments. And Arif has a small one when he knocks Schillinger out with one punch.
  • Batman Gambit: Most of Ryan O'Reily's ploys. He fails sometimes, but never completely.
  • Becoming the Mask Undercover cop Desmond Mobay. And an inmate joins the Muslims in order to kill Said, only to convert to Islam for real. He later dies saving Said's life.
  • Berserk Button: Vern keeps on correcting people's pronunciation of his name, and everybody who isn't his friend ignores him and keeps pronouncing it the wrong way (because let's face it, if you knew a bully/Nazi/homophobe/rapist like him, wouldn't you enjoy irritating the living fuck out of him if you could get away with it?). Witness his reactions, particularly the one at the very end of the video.
    • Don't remind Cyril of his childhood, or threaten Ryan near him. Three men have done one of these. Two ended up dead and the other in a coma.
  • Better on DVD: The show is definitely better marathon-style. That is to say: every episode is amazing, but the multiple and complicated interweaving plot-threads and arcs means that the show is easier to follow if you're watching a whole season at once.
    • That's right. Eight hours of Oz in one sitting. With a good supply of snacks, this makes for the best lazy-Saturday ever.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Quite a lot, and in Spanish (Alvarez, etc), Russian (Stanislofsky), Chinese (Kenmin) and probably some more.
  • Black and Gray Morality: Even the most 'innocent' characters- Beecher, Cyril and Rebadow- are killers.
    • With Beecher doing something even worse than that before the end of the series. Although he has a My God, What Have I Done? moment shortly after that and tries to make things right, it's too little, too late.
  • Blatant Lies: Prisoners to each other, prisoners to guards, guards to prisoners, guards to each other...
  • Book Ends: The episodes begin and end and with Augustus Hill narrating on some philosophical topic. This is notably subverted however in the Season 5 finale, where Augustus Hill dies. The final shot of the episode is of his empty chair, symbolizing that the voice of Oz is truly dead.
  • Break the Cutie: Several characters apply but Beecher... Hoo boy, Beecher...
  • Butt Monkey: Tobias Beecher and Peter Schibetta.
    • The Mafia group also counts, as far as being constantly portrayed as being at the bottom of the ladder gang-wise.
      • Actually, the Christian gang would be at the bottom of the ladder gang-wise. The Mafia gangsters are more of a mid-tier gang, with their status and power fluctuating at different points. The Christians on the other hand, are always portrayed as weak, as they are the only gang who accepts sex offenders, the bottom rung of prison hierarchy.
    • Omar White. He is genuinely trying to improve his behavior, but being somewhat naive and hyperactive at the same time he gets into trouble constantly.
  • Cast Herd
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: This is one of Ryan O'Reily's specialties.
    • Specialty? Hell, he's got the PATENT out on it.
    • Played with in Season 4 with his rivalry with Stanislofsky. One episodes plot sees the two approach various different groups and attempt to get them to kill the other, all while maintaining a very visible friendship.
  • Conveniently Cellmates: Ryan and Cyril O'Reily, although the lengths Ryan had to go through to arrange this diminishes the 'convenient' aspect.
  • Cycle of Revenge: One runs between Schillinger and Beecher for the whole show. Lampshaded by Said to Beecher: "You killed Schillinger's son, he killed yours, now you're going to kill his other son. When does it end?" Beecher replies it will end when Schillinger is dead. It does in fact end in the series finale, when Beecher kills Schillinger and Keller kills the rest of the Ayrans.
  • Deconstructed Trope: Kareem Said, mostly in Seasons 1 and 2, is arguably a deconstruction of the social leader archetype prevalent in the 1990's,particularly after the L.A. Riots. He is a brilliant and wise man who fights for a noble cause (equality in the justice system). His arguments that the judicial system and society are not fair to minorities are not without cause, but he is completely unwilling to take responsibility for his actions, such as the deaths caused in the riot, and he frequently comes off as petty and vindictive to those outside his group. He polarizes race relations into a two-sided issue and often appears oblivious to the fact that every prisoner in Oz is guilty.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Chris Keller, you ARE this trope.
  • Did Not Do the Research: Eating ground up glass won't really kill you - either you notice it in your mouth, or it's ground so fine it does nothing. Even if prison food is so bad that you don't notice hard sharp things, the first sign is black stools, which is plenty noticeable and gives you time to see a doctor.
    • Augustus Hill's monologues. Goldfish memory, Napoleon's height, Aztecs...
    • At one point Atheism is mixed up with Agnosticism.
    • Brain-dead from an "overdose" of LSD? An overdose would take thousands of doses. Not exactly a cost effective poison.
      • Although those thousands of doses still only equates to a few drops of pure liquid. And it's arguable that just 'a lot of LSD' could either lead to an allergic reaction (and so end up brain dead from oxygen deprivation) or be unstable enough that it made you freak out hard enough to put you into a permanent catatonic state and so be functionally brain dead.
        • No such cases were ever reported. Only know deaths due to LSD poisoning occurred due to hypothermic shock or cardiac arrest.
    • Beecher's knowledge of the law seems to be rather shaky at times, even considering his lack of criminal experience.
    • Connelly claiming that if he's sent back to England "he'll hang", despite the death penalty no longer being in effect in the UK.
      • But a lot of IRA type guys just vanished or were maimed and tortured after being picked up by the security services, so his fear of terrible things happening to him certainly has a basis in reality.
  • Double Standard Rape (Male on Male): Averted. Not a single rape scene is ever played off or received as "funny".
  • Driven to Suicide: Beecher's wife. Or was it?
    • Although he made it look like Beecher killed him, Keller's dive at the end may have been as well.
  • Dub Name Change: In the Italian dub, the Italians gang was renamed Sicilians. Probably done to avoid one unfortunate implication, yet allowing another one.
    • Kind of justified, as they are often, though not exclusively, called 'the Sicilians' in the English version.
  • Dysfunction Junction: It's a show about a prison. But interestingly, the staff aren't above this trope.
  • Electrified Bathtub: Prison guard Claire Howell murders inmate Nikolai Stanislofsky this way, after first giving him some hand relief.
  • Enemy Mine: Happens all the time as the different factions struggle for power or revenge, forming temporary alliances to gain the advantage over their enemy of the moment.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: A major theme of the show. Special mention must go to Malcolm Coyle. He boasts that he slaughtered a family for fun, prompting Hill to turn him in. Kareem Said enlists the help of the Latinos, Italians, and Aryans to protect Hill by reminding the leaders that they are family men, and Coyle is despicable even by their standards. Schillinger especially agrees once he learns the family had a war Veteran in it.
    • Given an interesting twist in the season two finale: Vern and the neo-Nazi's are appalled at the actions of a pedophile priest and even the guards detest him. But the priest is shown as both genuinely remorseful and completely downtrodden about his actions, finding himself unable to survive after his release. And since the show has portrayed both Vern and the guards doing terrible things and the scene of his torture is very much played for terror, it comes across more on the priest's side.
  • Every One Remembers the Stripper: The way people talk about the show you'd think the whole series was just a looping 30 minute clip of a man getting raped in the showers after dropping his soap.
  • Eye Scream: Alvarez gouging out the eyes of a prison guard. Or Schillinger getting some glass shards thrown onto his eye courtesy of drugged up Beecher.
    • Don't forget how Schibetta's "evil eye" was finally stopped...
  • Failure Is the Only Option: McManus and Said in their attempts to reform the inmates -- every time it looks like they've succeeded, circumstances or the inmates' own internal demons make it all for naught.
  • Fan Service: Mainly enjoyed by female viewers for obvious reasons (which is somewhat refreshing) and homosexual viewers for the profusion of Ho Yay.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Happens to Miguel Alvarez at the end of Season 2.
  • Finger in the Mail: African-American inmate Johnny Post kills Italian inmate Dino Ortolani on the orders of Homeboys leader Jefferson Keane. In retaliation, the Italians dismember Post and send Keane his penis in a box.
  • Flat What: Robson in response to Cutler telling him to bend over. It makes sense (and a lot more pain) in context.
  • Freudian Excuse: The O'Reilys.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Some instances during the shower scenes.
    • And any point during the show really. The Hole in particular is full of this.
    • Pretty sure I saw almost every main prisoner's penis at least once. Keller and Hoyt in particular spent a lot of time in the buff and proud.
  • Gallows Humor: An awful lot of it. No matter how brutal or horrific a situation, someone is going to make a joke about it.

Warden Glynn: The M.E. has ruled McCullum's death as suicide. He bit into his skin, chewing off chunks of muscle over the course of a week or so, causing himself to bleed out.
Sister Pete: Sweet Jesus!
Officer Murphy: Like a cannibal!
Tim McManus: A cannibal eats somebody else's flesh.
Murphy: So what do you call a guy who eats his own flesh?
Tim McManus: Inventive.

  • Great Escape: Agamemnon Busmalis, three unsuccessful attempts to dig out from prison to freedom. Got out once, but got caught.
  • Had to Come to Prison to Be a Crook: Tobias Beecher, imprisoned for vehicular homicide, is a murderer several times over by the end of the series.
  • Handsome Lech: McManus. Though this backfires on him when Claire Howell arrives on the scene.
  • Heel Face Revolving Door: Keller spends an awful lot of the series spinning around in here.
  • He Really Can Act: Most of the cast,most notably Chris Meloni and J.K. Simmons.
  • Heroic Sociopath: Chris Keller and Ryan O'Reily.
  • Ho Yay: Lots and lots of it.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Governor Devlin: Despite Oz experiencing a riot, the above average murder rate, two inmates escaping, two different incidents involving an inmate having a gun, and a freaking bomb scare not to mention a gas explosion that followed, Devlin seems completely content with sending numerous high profile criminals such as Kareem Said, Jackson Vahue, and even his close friend Mayor Wilson Loewen to Oz (though in this case you could argue he set Loewen up deliberately). Another case would be allowing a TV crew to film a documentary on prison life in Oz when there are other prisons without a history of cluster-fucks. It ends with the Host getting the crap beat out of him. And finally, amidst tension and in the wake of several murders, two separate times has Devlin has ordered Glynn to end a much needed lock-down so he can save face and portray a sense of control to the public. Though that last one is probably more of him not caring than being stupid. The only way to justify much if it is to claim that he deliberately wants people to think of prison as brutal, to exemplify his "tough on crime" stance.
    • Leo Glynn: Though most of the time his hands are tied by above mentioned Devlin, Leo has allowed many programs and trial to take place in Oz and they almost always end badly. Magazine Photo-shoot, inmate gets electrocuted, printing press, fire, production of Macbeth, inmate is killed on stage in front of everyone.
    • Tim McManus: Three programs he's allowed in Em City, and three have ended in disaster: Boxing tournament, basketball tournament, and a Seeing Eye Dog program. The respective results: an inmate is left brain-dead, a C.O. gets his tendon cut and is crippled for life, and finally an inmate trains his dog to attack a C.O.
    • Both McManus and Glynn have a habit of putting their faith in prisoners when they're obviously up to something (Morales worrying about the mental well-being of Hernandez? Come on.), while any genuine plea for protection, help or justice is usually met with a "Now, why would I trust you? The answer is NO."
    • The C.O.'s: Apart from corruption the C.O.'s are doing a pretty lousy job. For instance, there is ONE spot in all of emerald city where almost all of the drugs is used and sold (under the stairs). In several instances, you see the C.O.'s just mulling about, while there is an entire user-convention under the stairs. Also, you'd think that when an entire gang moves up purposefully to someone in the gym or the library, they'd find that suspicious, yet they're always surprised when the shanks start flying.
      • Then again this could be Fridge Brilliance. A lot of the C.O.'s are corrupt to some degree (open to bribery etc) meaning that they likely ignore the drug trade because they know they have contributed to it one some level. Those that aren't corrupt know that the guards can very easily become targets of horrific violence at almost no provocation (like having their tendons slashed because they might beat the cons at basketball) and have no wish to make themselves targets. Alternatively, they may subscribe more to Querns' philosophy that free access to drugs leads to the cons being laid back and easier to handle and so standing in the way of that makes their lives harder than they need to be. And there is of course the realpolitik interpretation that drug dealing will happen no matter what and letting it happen in plain sight at least means that they can keep an eye on who's selling and who's using.
    • Robert Sippel: After serving time for molesting a fourteen year old boy, Sippel cannot find a place to stay, let alone a job. He convinces Sister Pete to let him sleep in his old cell, and not in protective custody. He only lasts hours before C.O. Metzger brings him into the gym so the Aryans can crucify him.
    • McManus deserves another special mention with Lemuel Idzik. When Idzik killed Kareem Said, McManus knew that Omar White (having kicked his addiction to heroin thanks to Said) intended to seek vengeance. In true McManus fashion, his ideals overshadowed common sense when he made the two cellmates. Omar didn't kill Idzik however, Idzik killed Omar. Nice going McManus.
  • If I Had a Nickel: "If I had a nickel for every time I didn't understand, you'd be talking to an empty chair."
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Donald Groves.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence:There's the Keller/Beecher relationship, conjugal visits in the first season, and transvestites strutting their stuff. Not to mention all the sexual slavery that goes on.
    • Jefferson Keane's execution also counts, what with the actual execution part interlaced with scenes of McManus and Wittlesey getting it on in the prison.
  • Jerkass: Many of the guards, especially Lopresti.
  • Ironic Echo: "Sieg Heil baby. Sieg-fuckin-Heil."
  • Karma Houdini: Ryan O'Reily commits numerous heinous acts and in the end faces minimal punishment for his crimes, mainly because he's able to manipulate others to do the dirty work for him; and then arrange their deaths as well.
  • Kick the Dog: The writers to what seems like the entire cast, constantly - Guard shows enough talent to be recruited by a pro basketball team? Inmate slashes his tendons. Alvarez has a son, and reconnects with his grandfather? The kid dies of a birth defect, and Grandpa gets Alzheimer's. Beecher, after living through sheer hell, makes his parole and finally begins to repair his life? Guess what, it was All Just a Dream and he's still in Oz! Then of course it happens for real until Keller tricks him into breaking his parole. And of course the beginning of Season 5, when an entire bus full of inmates' family members is hit by a truck. You could set a watch by how regularly people are shat on in this show.
  • Kill With a Borrowed Knife: Favorite tactic of Ryan O'Reily.
  • Kiss of Death: Chucky Pancamo to Peter Schibetta.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: After six years of monstrous and sadistic acts, Schillinger looks like he is about to end the series unscathed. He is even about to kill old enemy Beecher during a play. Then he realizes that Keller switched it so Beecher has the real knife. Particularly nice in that he realized he had been duped just before dying. The prison audience rejoiced.
  • Last-Minute Reprieve: Part of Bob Rebadow's backstory; a power failure saved him from the electric chair. Cyril in Season 6. But it's only temporary...
  • Lemony Narrator: Augustus Hill.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: During any given season, there's at least twenty recurring characters that are playing a pivotal role in at least one arc.
    • If you got a line somewhere in the first two seasons, chances are you got a name, multiple character arcs, and a tragic death scene by the end of the show.
  • Lockdown!
  • Love Hurts: And the pain aspect being intentional doesn't help much.
  • Luxury Prison Suite: Adebisi outfits his pod this way after Querns makes him trustee of Em City
  • Male Frontal Nudity: If penises scare you, don't watch the show.
  • Madness Mantra: Beecher's nursery rhymes in Season 2.
  • Manipulative Bastard/Magnificent Bastard: Ryan O'Reily. "I'm the Lord of the ****ing Dance. I got moves" Adebisi and Chris Keller as well.
    • Jia Kenmin can also count. He even outsmarted O'Reily and got Curil sent to Death Row, bribing Glen Schupe to lie about the event. In a beautiful moment of Laser-Guided Karma, O'Reily gets Schupe's arm cut off and gets Kenmin beaten to death by the guards.
  • Meaningful Name/Bilingual Bonus
    • The evil neo-Nazi guard is called Karl Metzger; "metzger" means butcher in German. In fact, almost all the American white supremacists on the show (James Robson being the exception) have at least one German or German-sounding name.
    • Ray/Rei is Japanese for spirit, a fitting name for a priest, though in a sardonic twist it can also mean zero (i.e. nothingness).
      • Also, possibly going out on a limb here, Ray probably equals Raymond, and the other important clergy in the show is sister Peter Marie Reimondo = Rey mundo (King and world in Spanish). God truly is the ruler of the world?
    • Schillinger wants to make Adam Guenzel his prag. As mentioned in the page on The Maltese Falcon, in old-timey prison slang the word "gunsel" was the equivalent of "bitch", "punk", etc.
  • Mind Rape: This is essentially Schillinger's revenge plan for Beecher during the second season. It works flawlessly.
  • Morality Pet: Ryan O'Reily and his brain-damaged brother -- though this is horribly subverted on several occasions due to Ryan's utter willingness to manipulate his brother for his schemes.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Beecher, since he's a pretty big Woobie and becomes tougher with a "take no shit" attitude. There's also Chris Keller, Ryan O'Reily, etc.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Ryan O'Reily does this to Dr. Nathan's husband.
    • And Chris Keller does this to every single one of Beecher's former lovers.
  • Musical Episode: Series 5 Episode 3 "Variety" is a semi-example with various characters singing during the narrator segments instead of Hill talking.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Beecher experiences this after his plan of getting Schillinger to kill his own son works
  • Naive Newcomer: Beecher in Season 1.
  • Nice Hat: Adebisi's perpetually tilted knitted hat. Nobody is quite sure how he gets it to stay there.
  • Nietzsche Wannabe: Lemuel Idzik.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: On many occasions, the most brutal of them all (Keller to Beecher) being surprisingly systematic in nature.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted, the use of toilets is a semi-regular occurrence. In Season 4, there is a complete shot of Chris Keller urinating into a bucket.
    • Not to mention how Beecher finishes his epic beat-down of Vern Schillinger at the end of Season 1.
  • Not-So-Fake Prop Weapon: The prop knife in the prison production of Macbeth was switched for a real one.
  • Not Quite Forever: One measure of the show's gradual decline from a gritty prison drama to a prison-based soap opera is the number of times Alavarez is sent to Solitary permanently, only to be let out a couple of weeks later.
  • Not So Above It All: Most of the prison staff; McManus is secret pot smoker, Diane murdered an inmate in order to keep him from incriminating her in a scheme to get her to smuggle cigarettes into the prison, Sean Murphy helped cut Morales' Achilles tendons as payback for him having another guard's tendon cut, and reoccurring straight-arrow prison guard Armstrong took money to let a man destroy the Muslims' printing press equipment.
    • In addition, Glynn makes no effort to hide his disdain for prisoners or his bullying of Alvarez.
  • The Old Convict: Rebadow. To a lesser extent, Busmalis as well.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Subverted in the case of Eli Zabitz. Keller wants to kill him out or revenge, Robson wants to kill him so he can't blackmail the Aryans anymore. While they argue over who can kill him, Zabitz has a heart attack. Keller and Robson look at each other, shrug, and leave.
  • Only Sane Man: Augustus Hill. Also: Sean Murphy. Of the rounded officer characters he seems to have the most common sense.
  • Pay Evil Unto Evil: Beecher's murder of the loathsome guard Metzger.
    • The homophobic rapist Guenzel becoming the Aryans' newest prag.
  • Percussive Prevention: In the long feud between Beecher and Schillinger, Schillinger gets his son to kidnap Beecher's children and kill one of them. In retaliation, Beecher arranges to have Schillinger's son killed, but feels remorseful afterwards. So remorseful, in fact, that when Schillinger is about to find out that Beecher was responsible Beecher decides to own up to it. Keller wants to confess to the crime instead so that Beecher won't become a target. Beecher tells him no. Keller knocks Beecher out so that Beecher can't stop him from taking credit for the murder and then runs off to do so.
  • Posthumous Narration: Augustus does his usual narrations in Season 6 despite being killed in the Season 5 finale. He's joined by other dead characters such as Jefferson Keane, Dino Ortolani, Antonio Nappa and even the Schillinger brothers (who never appeared together onscreen while alive).
  • Power Tattoo: The "Ox" tat that we see getting done in the intro? Was actually done. On the arm of Tom Fontana, the series' creator.
  • Put on a Bus: Dianne Wittlesey, after Edie Falco landed a role on The Sopranos.
  • Prison Rape: Frequently.
  • Prison Riot: "A Game of Checkers".
  • Rape as Drama
  • Rape Is Ok When It Is Female On Male: Averted. Claire Howell going after the reluctant inmates is disturbing. Not quite as disturbing as the male on male rapes, though.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Wilson Loewn cuts down Vern Schillinger.
    • Beecher and Schillinger get at least two a season.
    • Hill gives a big one to Burr Redding: "Bullshit! The fact of the matter is, I wouldn't be in Oz, I wouldn't be in this chair, if you had only let me have the fucking paper route!"
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: How Father Mukada ended up in Oz.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: One of the inmates was sent to prison after brandishing a gun at school which went off, killing a schoolgirl on the floor above.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Commonly done. Most notably Jefferson Keane in Season 1, Andy Schillinger in Season 3, and Omar White in Season 6.
  • Seinfeldian Conversation: Occurs several times when the prisoners are watching Miss Sally's Schoolyard.
    • Funnily enough, SNL did a parody in which Jerry Seinfeld, after having been sent to prison in the last episode of Seinfeld, gets sent to Oz. What follows is a helluva lot of Seinfeldian dialogue.
  • Scars Are Forever: Subverted. Both Alvarez and Schillinger receive prominent facial scars during the first season, and both scars are totally badass and reflect on their character. Nonetheless, both heal over, which in Vern's case is actually pretty hard to believe. Although Alvarez's scar occasionally reappears as the plot demands.
  • Scary Black Man: Adebisi. Said often uses this stereotype to his advantage, too.
  • Scenery Censor: Noticeably averted. There's quite a lot of full frontal male nudity. Hell, by Season 4, they made at least one of those shots (I think of Ryan) part of the opening titles.
  • The Scottish Trope: In the final season the prisoners put on a performance of Macbeth. Every prisoner who volunteers for the title role gets murdered, with the last death taking place on stage during performance night.
  • Serial Killer: Quite a few, with Keller eventually admitting to have been one.
  • Shout-Out: When Clayton Hughes shoots Governer Devlin, his hair is cut into a mohawk and he wears a green army jacket. Now where have I seen that before?
  • Shower of Angst: Considering the amount of traumatic experiences the prison inmates go through, it's expected.
  • Shower Scene: There are a few notable beat-downs in the shower, but probably the worst is in Season 5, when Supreme Allah kicks the shit out of Augustus Hill--who is in a wheelchair, and NAKED.
    • Oh my god, not NAKED! And in the SHOWER too!
  • Slasher Smile: Schillinger, Ryan, Adebisi, Chris, even Beecher.
    • Done (as a probably unintentional visual pun) in a Season 3 episode when Nikolai Stanislofsky (the Russian Jew) kills an inmate in the shower with a razor he had concealed in his mouth.
  • Sleazy Politician: Governor Devlin.
  • The Smurfette Principle: There is but ONE female inmate depicted in the whole series: Shirley Bellinger. She is also a very believable Distaff Counterpart to the male inmates in her amoral ways.
    • Justified as well as Truth in Television in her case because it's a men's prison and Shirley was only there because she was on Death Row -- the women's prison didn't have the facilities or experience. (Since the USA reinstated capital punishment in 1976 only 12 women have been put to death, which is just 0.9% of executed prisoners. She's supposed to be an unusual occurrence.) The show makes up for it by including female prison guards, medical and administrative employees, and recurring family members.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Evil: The prisoners range from entirely benevolent characters (Ralph Galino, Hamid Khan, Father Meehan) and harmless characters with a few exceptions (Busmalis, Augustus Hill, Said) to Complete Monsters like Schillinger, Adebisi and Hernandez. Your Mileage May Vary on where the rest of the cast lies.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Ryan O'Reily's obsession with Dr. Nathan.
    • Keller's obsession with wanting to remain in Beecher's life, even though Beecher rejects him.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Chris Keller for Scott Ross; both are depraved bisexuals with ties to Schillinger.
    • Jahfree Neema, a charismatic African American community leader of some local renown, comes into Oz almost immediately after Kareem Said, a charismatic African American community leader of some local renown is shot by Lemuel Idzik. Not that much really comes of the similarities, but the archetype void is filled.
  • Talkative Loon: Omar White. Oh SO much, Omar.
  • Thanatos Gambit: Most obviously Keller's death.
  • Took a Level In Badass: Tobias Beecher, starts out as a helpless rich lawyer in first season by the end he's a cynical grizzled con with a beard to prove it. Eventually becoming tough enough to kill a hard as nails white supremacist guard with nothing but his sharpened fingernails. Actually, that's only the third season. He sorta goes back to how he started by the end of things but now he swears more.
  • Tunnel King: Agamemnon 'The Mole' Busmalis.
  • The Unfair Sex: Averted with characters like Shirley Bellinger and Claire Howell.
  • The Vamp: Shirley Bellinger.
  • Villainous Crossdresser: While not notably more villainous than any other major character, Alonzo Torquemada (Bobby Cannavale) is a tall, sexually aggressive transvestite with a penchant for hallucinogens and a thing for Alvarez. In the last episode, Torquemada and Alvarez end up together, though it's left vague as to whether or not Torquemada was BSing Alvarez when he told him he wouldn't fuck him, as far as him telling Alvarez that while gay, he was celibate.
    • Actually he's one of the only gays on the show to not cross-dress. He just looks like something out of a Lady Gaga video is all. Franklin Winthrop as the Aryans' prag qualifies however, as does Robson during his brief "feminine" period and Nathalie/Nathaniel in Season 3.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Adibesi.
    • And every shower scene.
  • Welcome Episode: Tobias Beecher being admitted into Oz in the first episode.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The finale infamously left the Governor Devlin plotline unresolved, let alone McManus's fate (essentially being told that in a month's time, if Devlin doesn't get arrested for his crimes, new warden Querns will have no choice but to fire him in order to appease Devlin).
  • Where Da White Women At?: Despite his Afro-Centric political and religious views, Kareem Said is only attracted to white women, much to the horror of his fellow Muslim followers, and even his own (Christian) sister.
  • Yandere: Chris Keller. He murders all of the guys that Beecher has sex with, acts aggressive with Beecher, has him unknowingly kill Schillinger when he can't convince Beecher to do it willingly, and later kills the Aryans so that they don't pose a threat to him and Beecher. On two various occasions knocks Beecher out with a punch to the head when he refuses to comply with his wishes, and later handcuffs him to a chair, away from everyone, where he threatens him and then forcibly kisses him.
    • As well as Ryan over Dr. Nathan.
  • Yaoi Guys: Beecher and Keller.