Wentworth: variety in prison

 Wentworth is the prison we’re taken in following Bea Smith’s arrest after she tries to kill her abusive husband.

 Bea is a beautiful redhead. She’s a strong yet broken woman, over the seasons she will have to fight harder and harder to survive in prison and later to maintain her position as Top Dog. For her it all starts with a desperate attempt to put an end to the abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband. Her marriage broke her spirit and her daughter is her only reason for happiness and hope when she ends up in prison for not revealing her husband’s domestic abuse. Prison will break her even more and grief will haunt her through the seasons of this show, only to come to a wonderful evolution in season 4 when she will finally find someone to love, something to do, something to look forward to.

 Franky is a raging lesbian, a fighter with a sharp tongue, she’s full of witty remarks and anger from an unhappy childhood. She’s in prison for throwing hot oil on the host of a cooking TV show after he verbally abused her on camera. She’s a tough character and will go back being Top Dog after season 1. She has anger issues and a fragile edge to her tough persona that we will see come out as the seasons go on and she falls for the prison’s psychiatrist, Bridget Westfall.

 Boomer is not someone to mess with, she is in prison with the charge of “intentionally causing serious injury”, she’s a close friend of Franky and will protect our favourite prison’s Top Dogs all through the seasons. She’s witty and funny, has a great sense of humour that earns her a great deal of love from the fandom. Her character will develop beautifully in the last seasons.

 Liz is the mother hen in our favourite unit, she got eleven years after getting drunk and accidentally killing her mother-in-law. She has already served several years as we meet her when Bea goes to prison and she takes the new inmate under her wing. She proves herself to be a great friend, but it is also evident how she still struggles a lot when alcohol is involved, which will cause her many troubles in season 3 when she will have an important but difficult reunion.

 Doreen is a sweet woman who ended up in prison for “Reckless Endangerment” after her unborn child dies in a car accident caused by her wasted state when she was driving. She longs to have another chance at being a mother and she will finally have it when in season 3 she gives birth to Joshua. She’s very close to Liz and initially part of Franky’s crew.

 Vera is the Deputy Governor in Wentworth prison who, since the very first season, aims to become Governor. Her job is everything, her life limited and asocial because of her mother who requires her attention at all times and berates her at every chance she gets. She always tries to do the right thing and almost always means well, but she will find that good and evil are more alike than she thought, that innocence is a relative thing and abuse can pull the worst out of someone.

 Will is the good guy if you ask me, he’s a screw as well, he stumbles in his grief for the death of his wife during the first season and will take that pain with him in season 2. He’s friendly with Bea and they have a relationship of mutual respect, he’s probably the most understanding of the guards in the prison, maybe even of the inmates, he tries his best to help her and their relationship, although complicated, is something of a beautifully silent friendship.

 New characters are introduced every season, but I will only mention four of them, as quickly as I can.

 Joan is the governor in season 2 and she will soon manifest her psychotic and manipulative side, only showing it fully near the end of the season. Everyone will start to call her The Freak after some brutal abuse she puts some inmates through. As horrible as she is, as much as the fans can hate her, she’s a very strong, very well written character. Her personality is complex, her past playing an important part in it, and it will slowly unravel through season 4.

 Maxine is a male-to-female beautiful woman with a heart of gold. She’s my second favourite character (only because Allie walked in with her bright eyes and disarming smile and took the first position away) and I love her with all my heart. She’s in prison for stabbing her boyfriend with scissors after he broke her heart rejecting her after the gender reassignment surgery, she’s not easily accepted in prison and is targeted with discrimination even from a pretty close-minded screw, but she bonds with Bea during the season and she comes to care very deeply for the redhead Top Dog.

 Kaz is a sort of violent vigilante who hates men, she makes her first appearance in season 3 and becomes an inmate at the beginning of season 4, she antagonises Bea immediately, even though she admired her and fought in her name in season 3. She’s had a hard childhood with sexual abuse from her father, she deeply cares for her women, although she’s not good in showing it positively. She will be easily manipulated by Joan into aiding her to achieve her goal to take back her power.

 Allie is the light in the darkness. She’s part of Kaz’s crew but will soon develop feelings for Bea that will bring her to wanting to change side. Kaz is much of a motherly figure to her and she will feel deeply betrayed as the woman crosses the line in her fight against Bea. Allie is a beautiful young woman who will finally bring light in Bea’s life, she’s patient and caring, always ready to simply be there for the people she loves, she has a bright personality that collides with her difficult past of drugs and abuse. She’s strong, forever flirty and smart, she has all my love since the moment she introduces herself to Bea and the crew in episode 1 of season 4.

 This Australian show is full of amazing variety and wonderful representation that make it seem more realistic. Many shows forget about the variety in life, forget about how we’re not all straight, we’re not all white, we don’t all fall in love with the kind of person we expected to have feelings for, we’re not all strong, we’re not all able to overcome our weaknesses. In Wentworth there are LGBT characters, both positive and negative – Joan was in love with a woman and yet her character is not exactly positive. I think it’s important to have negative LGBT characters as well, it shows even more equality as it confirms that LGBT people are exactly like straight people: they can be good, they can be bad.

 Liz struggles with alcohol, she doesn’t easily overcome her weakness, she succumbs to it more than once, her strength is in understanding her limit, not heroically besting it. Doreen tries to redeem herself, but doesn’t cease to make mistakes along the way, Kaz fights for what she believes in, women’s right not to be abused by men, but crosses the line in her violence. Kaz is a good example of how even feelings that we can associate to “feminism” – which is a term we’re used to often hear in a positive meaning – can degenerate in the same violence they’re trying to fight. Where does the good stand, where does the bad start? Is there such a thing as bad and good? In Wentworth we can empathize with all of them, but who do we consider bad and who do we still consider good even if they crossed the line? To which extent do intentions matter? Is Kaz justified for beating those men just because they, or most of them, had abused women? We understand the feeling, the need for justice, but can we forgive taking justice in her own hands? As long as it’s self defence, we haven’t got much of a problem answering that question, but what Kaz and her crew did was not self defence, it was vengeance. Can we excuse Franky, who was pushed just a little too much and snapped? Or Liz, who was pushed and pushed until she got drunk and accidentally killed someone?

 Wentworth can get a bit brutal over the seasons, although it doesn’t really come close to the brutality we witnessed in this last season of Orange Is The New Black, but it shows human dynamics in hard situations, it shows how prison can push people to display the worst of them. It is a show worth watching, even if season 4 will probably break your heart after blessing you with its breathtaking beauty. The cast only gets better and better, some amazing actors giving us their best performance – Socratis Otto playing a wonderful Maxine, Danielle Cormack rocking her role as Bea Smith, Kate Jenkinson stealing a lot of hearts with Allie’s blue eyes, Pamela Rabe offering one of the best performances in the show as Joan – .

 It’s a show I highly advise you to watch, it took me a while to actually watch it after I heard about it and I surely don’t regret binge-watching 3 seasons to catch up with season 4 before the finale. It also made me fall in love even more with Australian accent, I don’t even know why I find it so sexy.

 Now, enough of reading this article, go watch the show and come back to comment!


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