Last week’s episode of Wentworth was by turns particularly joyful and particularly painful to watch. The opening sequence captured Allie lost in a drugged haze and seemingly oblivious to both her own demeanour and everything around her. It was totally cringe-worthy and left a sour taste in my mouth (I don’t think anyone will ever be the same after hearing Kate Jenkinson utter the words: ‘You wanna eat my pussy mama?’) but at the same time, there were moments of such pure pain in this scene that I felt myself getting whiplash just watching it.
There was the fleeting look of anguished awareness on Allie’s face, caught from a distance after we hear Boomer muse on the young woman’s mental and emotional state.
And then there was the moment after Bea and Kaz both came to Allie’s rescue. Bea relinquished any responsibility for Allie after Kaz forced her to make a choice: step up or walk away. But the emptiness and devastation on Danielle Cormack’s face as Bea decides to put her fears ahead of her desires - and her love for Allie - are enough to squeeze the air from your lungs.
We then get a lovely snapshot of misogyny - and the distressing ways it can twist the minds of both men and women - when Will calls Kaz a ‘man-hating bitch’ in front of Jake, lamenting the dire situation he’s in now that the crazed inmate has video evidence of him failing miserably at his job.
Will’s mindset has nothing, though, on the insanity and pure sadism we’re beginning to see in Jake Stewart. First off, his greeting for Will is a declaration of ‘the great pleasures of working with a bunch of randy women’ delivered with a smirk. We can’t know for sure, but I have a hunch that he’s talking about Allie lifting up her shirt while on the brink of self-destruction and it honest to goodness makes me want to hurl.
Joan offers us a moment of meta-ness when she warns Jake: ‘Don’t be too sure of anything anyone tells you.’ If only any of these characters (*cough* VERA *cough*) could take these words to heart. But Jake goes right on to play into the villainous role he’s been cast in, suggesting to Joan: ’Perhaps you could advise me…might be fun.’ The evil glint in his eyes is nothing less than gut-churning, and yet Vera quite happily allows this man to blindfold her and pleasure her in what looks like a utility room, not to mention the fact that she’s trusting him to watch over a known murderer and psychopath in the prison.
But Vera’s only concerned about how Joan is ruining her reputation her by calling her ‘va-nil-la’ (excellent delivery by Kate Atkinson, though - she’s eating up this nuance that the writers are dishing out for Vera).
Finally, we see Jake first offer drugs to Allie, and then to Will - someone we’ve seen struggle with addiction since the first season of Wentworth.
I honestly cannot tell whether Jake is actually bi and asked Will out for drinks because he’s interested in him, or whether he’s just trying to play (or destroy) every single person around him. But I certainly believe that enabling two addicts is undeniably horrendous behaviour, and I’m equally thrilled that I was right about Jake from the beginning and terrified about the pain he might cause before he’s finally thwarted.
Meanwhile, Doreen completely freaks out when she discovers just how fully Miranda, Nash’s ex-girlfriend, has bonded with her son.
I can totally understand the pain of suddenly realising - or believing - that your child doesn’t see you as their mother any more, or doesn’t even recognise you. But at the same time, a woman who is a complete stranger to Doreen has been looking after the inmate’s son as if he were her own, and that is no small feat. As happy as Miranda looks to be providing Josh with love, I think Doreen probably owed her more than suspicion and hostility. And in the end, Doreen’s jealousy - and Kaz’s unrelenting fervour for ‘justice’ - puts her in a far more painful situation than before.
Doreen’s unease eventually leads to an altercation with Bridget, which wouldn’t be noteworthy at all if not for the way the scene is presented to us. ‘You just don’t get it, do ya?’ Doreen spits at the psychologist. ‘You’re not a mother.’ And simply because of my faith in these writers, I cannot believe they threw in a comment about past sexual abuse in Bridget’s life at the start of this season and intended it to go nowhere. So: does Bridget really have a child? If so, are we going to meet her child this season? This show just gets more and more insane, and honestly, I have no idea how to begin to approach any of it.
When Liz goes back to speak to the detective investigating the disappearance of Sonia’s friend, he delivers a disturbingly familiar line in response to Liz’s confusion over the fact that they’ve never bothered to explore the role that mental illness might have played in this case. ‘The depression’s bullshit, Liz,’ he says, supercilious and dismissive. And it’s shocking how aptly that self-assurance reflects the attitude so many people who struggle under the weight of unbearable thoughts or voices have to face on a daily basis.
But as infuriating as this detective’s attitude is, I’m really starting to tire of Liz’s performances, too. She’s almost painfully transparent in her attempts to manipulate Sonia, and really, I’d be mad at her just for being so embarrassingly obvious if I were in Sonia’s shoes. And feeling this frustration, I’m even more torn about the mixed messages the show is sending us about Sonia’s character. Is her heartwarming kindness towards Maxine a facade? Is she telling the truth when she informs Liz that she’s not a murderer, either? And is the shot of Sonia watching Liz sleep through the window on her cell door meant to be creepy or touching?
Who knows, but I certainly have to agree with Boomer when she says: ‘I swear, this place does my frickin’ head in sometimes.’
Speaking of Boomer, it was devastating to see her sent to the slot after trying to steal a syringe that she needed in order to fulfil her dream of having a child, only moments before Maxine returned from the Visitors’ Centre with her sperm.
That said, it’s really so much more excruciating to see what Maxine has to go through when she discovers that there’s such an imposing obstacle in their path. This is literally her last chance at having a biological child - the last of her sperm is melting inside of her - and while Boomer would have a second chance if everything went pear-shaped, Maxine’s dreams of being a biological parent would be over. And right now, Maxine seems to be plagued with the fear that, should she die, there won’t be anything else of value that she could leave behind in the world.
We know better, but there’s probably nothing like a potentially fatal illness to make you question what you mean to the people around you.
Also, I have to question why Nurse Radcliffe is suddenly acting like an actual nurse now that she’s looking after Joan. It’s only making me doubt her skills and motives even more, and the fact that she reverts back to being a mean schoolgirl as soon as Boomer walks into her office is truly despicable. Seriously, I dare you to watch her sneer as she calls for Officer Miles to retrieve whatever Boomer’s stolen and tell me with a straight face that you’d be happy for her to treat you.
In any case, everything works out splendidly, because Sonia has a seemingly endless supply of cash, even in prison, and syringes apparently fit inside hotdogs perfectly. So, perhaps there’s another baby in Wentworth’s future? And Sonia’s smile after Boomer hugs her for orchestrating her possible pregnancy is so sincere that I’m loathe to even consider that she actually murdered her friend. Is that the face of someone who cold-heartedly lies to everyone around her about the deaths of people she cares about? I think not.
We also get a heartening insight into Franky’s new life in this episode, witnessing her succeed at her new job, if a little unorthodoxly. But her initial attempts to bend the rules go completely unimpeded by her boss, which makes me wonder whether Franky actually has a superpower in her ability to charm people.
Is no one immune to her smile? I honestly wouldn’t be surprised.
However, I can’t help but note (in a probably unnecessary attempt to stand up for this character) that Franky’s ‘manipulation’ - banding together with Bea and taking Shane Butler under her wing in order to derail any plans that Ferguson’s made or wants to make - actually involves helping a young Indigenous man (boy, really) and doing everything she can to keep him out of prison.
Compared to the way some of the other characters on this show insinuate themselves into the lives of others in order to get what they want, or even simply to cause pain, Franky looks like an actual saint (or a magical rainbow bird, like her new tattoo). And what’s more, she seems genuinely sorry about breaking the chain of command to keep Shane out of Ferguson’s clutches when her boss confronts her.
I’m just praying that her boss’s words aren’t supposed to be portentous, foreshadowing some terrible tragedy that’s throttling towards Franky. ‘It’s been a rough road for you to get here,’ the older woman says. ‘Don’t screw it up for the sake of one kid.’
But my hope for Franky’s future was partly dashed in the final moments of the episode, having her show up at Shane’s ‘new digs’ and completely blanch, as if she’s seen a ghost, when she realises who used to haunt the hallway she’s just sauntered through - that Ferguson once infused the kitchen she’s standing in with more hatred, coldness, pain, and suffering than one human should ever have to bear.
Finally, after some intense suffering of their own, we get to see Bea and Allie come together, with Bea finally coming to terms with her love for the younger woman.
This beautiful development doesn’t come without some serious heartbreak first, with Bea having to deal with Kaz’s accusation that Allie ‘was fine until [she] came along’ and the guilt that consequently washes over her after hearing those words.
We have to watch Allie brokenly confess her love out loud to Bea, cuts and bruises scattered across her face and body, and witness Bea simply respond with a malice that seems to go against every fibre of her being: ‘That’s a shame.’
But the truth eventually comes out, and after Allie declares frantically to the woman who’s caused her so much pain that she ‘never gave up’ on her, not even when she was dead, Bea finds the strength and courage she needs to embrace what she feels for Allie, and the vulnerability those feelings inevitably impose on her.
Maybe Bea finally sees that she’s made Allie stronger, not weaker. Or maybe she comes to believe that any pain their love for each other might cause is nothing compared to the bliss that is right in front of them.
But no matter what thoughts lead her to take that terrifying step into the unknown, into opening herself up to the hurt others can cause her, Bea pulls Allie back into the comfort of knowing that she means something to someone - that she matters.
Bea doesn’t care that ‘it’s not gonna be pretty’: she knows that having Allie in her life - alive - is worth it, and watching her literally hold Allie as she struggles through withdrawal makes it seem like anything is possible in this universe.
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.