Wentworth - Season 4, Episode 9: 'Afterlife'

Kristen Field

Trust is a fickle, dangerous thing, and on Wentworth it seems to cause far more pain than the solace it might bring. And yet, right now, we’re seeing characters throw it away like it’s week-old takeout and then, in most cases, build an Elsa-style ice castle around themselves when their trust is crushed under the feet of those who didn’t deserve it, or who don’t know how to handle it.

Joan went through this process last season (although, I wouldn’t argue that it isn’t questionable whether she ever really trusted her Deputy) and so did Vera, who’s now treating her former boss as though she’s some sort of cartoon villain.

Isn’t she, though? I honestly have my doubts.

And then, in this episode, Vera refuses to entrust Will with any responsibilities because of the recording he played for Kaz without her permission. She seems to be blaming Will for what went down in the kitchen, but considering what the alternative would have been, I can’t believe that Vera’s so short-sighted (and stubborn) that she cannot manage to see the big picture: that Will is the reason that Bea is still alive.

We also have Kaz, recently awoken to the way her trust has been abused for weeks by Ferguson. In this episode, Kaz looks and sounds like she’s trying to talk through a jaw that’s wired shut, and I can only imagine the potential violence bubbling beneath the surface of this pained expression and the emotions she must feel compelled to push aside (and the horrific consequences that might arise from such denial).

Then there’s Bea, possibly both the person who’s most terrified of opening up to others on the show and the person who’s made herself the most vulnerable by revealing her pain and hope to those around her - at least, those she truly cares about.

And through a series of terrible calamities and misunderstandings (and lies) Bea comes to believe that all the trust she placed in Allie didn’t mean anything to the younger prisoner, except in how it made it possible for Ferguson to attack Bea.

I think at least part of Bea’s shock and devastation stems from the fact that she’s never even considered placing so much trust in another person before, let alone experienced having that trust ripped to shreds. And the sheer emptiness of not knowing what to do with the pain that’s consumed her is written clearly on Bea’s face when she first arrives back at the prison and has to have a conversation with Bridget about her general wellbeing.

The psychologist starts by going over what happened in the kitchen, asking the inmate questions and giving her as much information as she can, but eventually she has to move on to the older scars on Bea’s body: ‘…scarring that suggests that [she’s] been…struggling for some time.’

It’s not coming so close to death that has Bea completely paralysed with despair - it’s having someone strip away any semblance of a shield or perceived dignity from her, exposing her wounds for anyone and everyone to see.

As Bea fails to rid her eyes or her voice of the evidence of tears in the wake of Bridget’s confrontation, all she can manage to utter, not meeting the psychologist’s eyes, is: ‘I can’t remember anything, sorry.’

And when Bridget suggests that talking to someone - anyone - would be more than beneficial for Bea, the inmate responds: ‘There’s no one.’

I don’t think that Bea has ever felt more alone than she does in this moment, believing in every fibre of her being that she made a mistake in trusting Allie - in loving her. And the pain of never having loved someone like that before and being convinced that your love was not reciprocated, even mocked, is palpable throughout the whole episode.

In the midst of this pain, perhaps driven by it, Bea lashes out at everyone who tries to comfort her: first Doreen, and then Kaz, who even goes as far as apologising for not believing Bea when she warned her about Ferguson.

Bea isn’t willing to accept any of this support or remorse, though: ‘You’re nothing but a fucked up little girl who’s trying to save the world,’ she spits at Kaz. ‘And all you’re doing is dragging down the women you say you protect. You’re useless.’

So much of what holds these women together - enables them to keep going and not self-destruct - seems to be their self-image and their belief in the good they can do in the lives of the women around them. Knowing this, I think Bea is using incredible precision when she spouts this vitriol, and I think her words might even be what set Kaz off, convincing her to lie to Bea simply to hurt her in return.

‘You’re right. I am,’ the blonde concedes. ‘And all I can do is say I’m sorry: for believing her, for working against you, and for…and for making Allie prostitute herself to get to you. I’ll never forgive myself for that.’

When Bea wraps her pillow around her head, trying to block out the lies (or what she thinks are lies) being shouted at her by Allie as she’s dragged away from the medical wing, the full extent of how Kaz’s words have destroyed her is captured for us. But it’s hearing Doreen speak on Bea’s behalf earlier that allows us to truly begin to realise just how much damage Bea has suffered.

When Allie asks whether Bea’s alright after a narrowly-avoided altercation with Boomer, Doreen simply sneers at her as she responds: ‘She’s alive. But no, she’s not alright.’ In this world, life does not equate with safety or comfort, and certainly not happiness, and Doreen’s words hint at how easily the scales that balance the joys of life against the pain that inevitably accompanies it can be tipped.

We also become privy to some of Sonia’s past suffering, discovering more about a character who seems to be becoming less and less guarded with every episode. She’s speaking to Liz and Boomer about her friend - the friend she’s been accused of murdering - and how she suffered with depression, but with the action that’s unfolding around her, it’s impossible to not see this revelation of her feelings as a reflection of what Bea is going through, and what she could go through in the future.

‘My greatest fear was that she just finally…gave in,’ Sonia says, her voice quiet but casual. ‘To the darkness.’

A darkness that seems to grow and flourish where Bea’s sense of helplessness and her hopes for the afterlife meet.

During a dreamy reunion scene with Franky, more joy-filled than any other moment in the last few episodes of the show, Bea admits to her friend and past adversary after describing her near-death experience: ‘I’ve got no reason to be here.’ But it’s almost impossible to tell whether the pain of feeling completely useless (and unwanted) or the pull of the vision Bea has in the opening sequence of the episode is more powerful. Does she want to escape the unbearable hollowness that has come to define her life? Or does she want to embrace the possibility that she might actually be able to hold her daughter once more, but not in this life?

There probably isn’t a concrete answer, but Franky’s reassurance that there is more for Bea in the world she’s living in is enough to bring her back from the edge, for now.

Allie is another character who has blindly placed her trust in the people she cares about. Even after witnessing just how wrong her rescuer and mentor was about Ferguson, Allie still unquestioningly gives Kaz the benefit of the doubt when the older woman finally gets out of the slot. But this faith is shattered within minutes.

When Allie becomes almost manic with grief after finding out that Kaz was completely aware of Ferguson’s plan to kill Bea and doesn’t feel any obligation to set Bea straight about how Allie had no part in it, the leader of the Red Right Hand responds to her distress with a cold: ‘Why the fuck do you care so much?’

And Allie’s reaction, sadly, achingly, is to apologise to this woman who for some reason seems disgusted by the fact that Allie is in a relationship with Bea (but I have a feeling that Kaz’s disappointment and anger have more to do with the fact that Allie is in love with someone and less to do with the fact that she’s in love with Bea, specifically).

This rejection might just be the most gut-wrenching betrayal of trust that Wentworth has given us, and I’m sorry to say it only gets worse.

But the silver lining in this episode are the performances that the narrative allowed to shine. Kate Jenkinson, in particular, was able to flesh out her character and take her portrayal to new dimensions with the material she was given in this episode, and it was fascinating to see Tammy Macintosh explore how Kaz would react to the humiliation of being manipulated for so long and the sorrow of failing her girls.

Despite this brilliance, though, I have to wonder why the show felt the need to overlay the conversation between Liz and Sonia at the end of the episode with an actual horror movie soundtrack. Honestly, without that outlandish music turning the exchange into a soap-opera, it would have actually been an incredibly nuanced scene. Anyway, I just hope they aren’t going to turn Sonia into the kind of unsympathetic character that they’ve painted Ferguson as.

I also have to wonder why Jake can’t just be an honest to goodness decent human being. Vera’s actually falling for him, I think, and opened up to him in this episode about something that she sees as a personal blemish with piercingly subtle fear. With how we’ve seen exchanges of trust blow up thus far on the show, I really don’t think anything good can come from Vera making herself vulnerable in front of this man. Let’s hope she comes to her senses soon.

Finally, at the end of the episode, we get a beautiful exchange tinged with despair between Maxine and Bea when the redhead finally comes to visit her friend in the medical wing.

‘How are you?’ she asks Maxine, and the still-recovering woman’s response is a hidden gem of a line.

 ‘Still here,’ she sighs. ‘Still me.’

 No matter how much trauma or sadness these women have to endure, or how many pieces of themselves get chipped off or cut away, Maxine, at least, is determined to hold on to the idea that no amount of suffering can eradicate who they are. Her response to Bea’s unfounded optimism makes it pretty clear that she doesn’t really believe that the treatment is going to work, get rid of her cancer, but I’m so glad that Maxine still has the strength to hold on to something, and to show Bea that she does, too.

That said, this episode serves up yet another moment of total devastation before the credits roll. Maxine’s objectivity and sincerity convince Bea to go looking for Allie, despite (or perhaps because of) the hatred she’s thrown at the younger woman since she returned from the hospital.

But Kaz doesn’t know where Allie is.

‘Why don’t you tell me?’ she snipes at Bea. ‘’Cause she’s all yours now.’

Bea looks completely baffled when she hears this, and I can’t say I blame her. Now that Kaz has broken Allie, does she not want responsibility for the fallout? Does she see the woman she once saved as damaged goods now? I am lost, not least because of Kaz’s change of heart (make up your mind about what you want, honestly).

But after seeing the pure devastation on Allie’s face once she realises that Bea truly believes she tried to hurt her, watching her be called a ‘lying, junkie street whore’ by the woman she loves, and seeing Kaz, a woman she almost worships, drill into her brain that no one - no one - cares about her but her, it’s really no surprise that the final shots of the episode are of Allie snorting multiple lines of what I assume is heroin. And not only that: she’s sobbing at the same time.

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.