In this week’s episode of Wentworth, Joan Ferguson continued to pit her former wards and current peers against one another - something I’ve come to expect, really, after devouring three seasons of Orange is the New Black and watching the inmates of Wentworth shove each other’s hands into steam presses and throttle each other with billiard balls for just as long. What I cannot understand, though, is what would possess Ferguson to continue to orchestrate this kind of rampant destruction.
Does she not remember coming this close to being burned alive inside the prison she was supposed to be running? Is her memory so dysfunctional that she cannot remember the pain she went through mere episodes ago because of actions that were so deranged (and damaging) that they landed her in prison? I don’t think any of her own words (or Bea’s echo of them in the previous season’s finale) have sunk in at all. But seriously, Joan, get a grip.
If you rule through chaos, you reap what you sow.
Hopefully this means that Ferguson won’t be sending women off to get raped for much longer.
The so-called Freak does speak some truth in this episode, as loath as I am to admit even that. After approaching Boomer, who is hilariously (and appropriately) flabbergasted by the gall of the former Governor, Joan insists that the prisoners would support ‘someone who shows mercy and compassion’ without question, if they chose to challenge Bea. Would a shift in the collective philosophy of the prisoners hold up for any significant amount of time? One can only hope, because I’m seriously sick of looking at black eyes and split lips on this show.
Still, the hypocrisy of Joan’s words did leave a fetid taste in the back of my throat, almost as horrible as the nauseating feeling I got watching the former Governor bare her teeth in an inimical smile after stopping the woman (girl, really - who are we kidding) she offered up for the sexual gratification of some of the worst predators in the prison from committing suicide.
Thank you for saving Tasha, Joan. But get out. But thank you. But seriously: get out.
One of the aspects of this episode that I loved was how it tapped into the mythology of hair. Bea’s choice of punishment for Tasha - retribution for involving the guards in an incident when everything, always, should be left up to the prisoners to solve - was hacking off her hair (which was, admittedly, pretty glorious).
Samson (of Samson and Delilah) held all his power, bestowed on him by God, in his hair. Once it was hacked off by the woman he loved, he was able to be taken prisoner by Delilah’s people. However, after being captured, he was given one final burst of strength from God, powerful enough to bring down the temple he was tied up in, killing himself along with all his persecutors. Then there’s Medusa, who transformed the strands of her hair into snakes after she was raped by Poseidon. This was another act of retribution, making herself so ugly that anyone who looked at her would immediately be turned to stone and die. Finally, Rapunzel is another character who had her hair forcibly cut off - by her guardian/captor, after she realised that Rapunzel had secretly formed a connection to the world that the older woman had kept her from for so long.
Will Tasha use the abuse she’s experienced at the hand of her fellow prisoners to seek revenge? Will her new ‘ugliness’ (metaphorical, of course, not literal at all) keep her safe from predators? Will she now be cast out into the ‘wilderness’ of the prison - living out her days isolated from the other inmates - like Rapunzel was thrown out into the world to fend for herself? Or will she bring the whole prison down around her, just like Samson crumbled an entire temple? Who knows, but I hope her character continues to be fleshed out by the writers of Wentworth. As much as Bea has been a voice for victims of abuse since the very first episode of the show, it would be wonderful to have a different take on such a complex, piercing experience, as well as another (central) Indigenous character on the show to provide a more nuanced representation of today’s First Australians.
It’s clear how much Bea is struggling with her role in the prison at the moment, and how much danger she’s in, being the one who (currently) holds all the power.
(Is there any real power in being Top Dog if the role is simply a juggling act, satiating all the prisoners who have the ability to seize your title from you? The prisoners who take on the role seem to suffer far more than anyone else around them, but who knows. Maybe it’s the lesser of two evils.)
That said, I cannot believe that she allows the group of prisoners who tried to rape Tasha to be the ones who mete out the young girl’s punishment. Watching Lucy Gambaro literally drag Tasha back to the site of her near-rape and hold her against the wall while Bea stands by, wielding a makeshift razor, is truly horrific. And the far-reaching effects of Bea’s actions are hinted at later on in her confrontation with Maxine - someone Bea probably didn’t even consider in her decision to punish Tasha, aside from the frustration she caused by pardoning the young girl in the first place.
But it’s too easy to forget, until we finally see the infamous Gary sitting across from Maxine later on in the episode, that the reason Maxine is in prison is because her partner took a pair of scissors to her hair - not as an act of retribution, but as an act of denial, destroying Maxine’s sense of self because it would not fit within the life he wanted.
Did Bea contemplate this at all before she decided how she was going to punish Tasha? It isn’t addressed by any of the characters in the show, not even Maxine, but the shadow of the connection is there, weighing down the already tenuous relationship between Bea and her closest friend, stretched by an unstable sense of trust and the unbearable fear and despair that they’re both feeling right now.
Bea is living in a personal prison, and I’m not sure if she’ll be able to escape it. Watching her private hell being invaded by Allie, though, and how that causes a wave of both humiliation and relief to wash over the fragile, volatile leader gives me a sense of unshakable hope. Bea isn’t alone, even if she wants to be, and we can only pray that an offer of love and pure, simple presence from Allie will be enough to convince her that she has the strength - faded red hair or no - to keep going.
The final few shockers of this episode included Doreen’s decision to abandon Bea and side with Kaz Proctor. Who knows what kind of repercussions this will have, but I’m truly frightened by the fact that Ferguson will have Doreen much closer at hand now to manipulate and use to harm others - because that’s just the kind of scum-of-the-earth character that she is.
Then we have the random, dramatic entrance of Sigrid Thornton, tottering across the prison yard in heels and handing off her box of belongings to Liz, muttering about how lucky she was to escape the burden of having children. And then, after driving at us down a completely flat highway at twenty kilometres an hour for the past two episodes, we see Jake plant a kiss on Vera in the elevator (when did Wentworth get an elevator?) like we’re watching a scene from Grey’s Anatomy.
So much angst. So many unanswered questions. So many reasons to come back next week.
Kristen is an aspiring playwright and undeniable fangirl. In her spare time, you might catch her at an Ingrid Michaelson concert or finding her zen on a yoga mat. She’s currently living in Chicago and studying playwriting and screenwriting at Northwestern University.