This episode had no qualms about going straight for the heart, in both dramatically overt and much more subtle ways.
Right off the bat, we get to watch Bea and Allie making their way down the line in the cafeteria, shooting furtive glances at one another and trying - and failing - to contain their absolute elation at having found one another.
And the shot that quickly follows, capturing Bea leaning against the wall of the prison yard and tilting her face up towards the sun with her eyes closed, capitalises on the ardent chemistry between Kate Jenkinson and Danielle Cormack, exemplifying every bit of hope that Allie has offered to Bea without Jenkinson even being in the scene.
We then get a dose of comedic relief from Boomer, and as tired as I am of her being made the butt of every joke because of her perceived lack of understanding (I think that Sue is a lot more sensitive than she’s given credit for) it’s still an incredibly welcome moment of hilarity.
Listening to Boomer remark on Doreen’s seemingly dismal attitude (she isn’t having a lot of contact with Bea’s crew these days) Maxine points out: ‘Well, I hear Kaz makes twenty minute speeches. Every day.’
‘What about?’ Boomer asks.
‘Power and oppression,’ Maxine says, with a completely straight face and serious tone, and I have to marvel at how Socratis Otto is able to instil this fleeting moment before the punchline with some true pathos and irony, alluding to everything Maxine has had to go through in her life - what many people have to go through, whether they’re part of an objective minority or not - and how words and proclamations can fall so short of actually granting comfort or showing understanding to those who have suffered because of their lack of autonomy, or because of their perceived difference.
But the moment is over as soon as Boomer comes out with: ‘You reckon Dors has got post-natal oppression or something?’ And, of course, Liz and Maxine double over with laughter.
When she recovers, Liz assures Boomer that Doreen is fine. But the expression on her face is far from unworried, and with how intuitive Liz can be about these things, I’m pretty concerned about Doreen’s mindset.
We’re then thrown into the world of latent lesbianism - or first crushes, or absolute terror of (or disbelief at) having someone actually care about you, enough to disregard their own wellbeing in order to simply be with you. There is no concrete truth to what is happening between Bea and Allie, no matter how much the audience (or Bea) might wish that there were. It’s as rife with conflict and cringe-worthy moments as any relationship in our world might be, and what I think Bea might come to realise before the end of the episode is that any connection fuelled by feelings as intense and multifaceted as the ones she has for Allie can never truly be understood or put into a box. It can only be experienced, and I just hope that Bea still has the chance to do that.
Heinous attempted murders aside, watching Bea and Allie interact (in a closet, of all places) is more heart-lifting than watching a hundred clips of kittens and ducklings becoming friends on YouTube. Every time Allie’s hand wanders up to Bea’s chest, the older woman giggles uncontrollably, and after a minute she finally pulls away and admits sheepishly: ‘I don’t know what to do.’ Something about this line and its delivery gives me some serious second-hand embarrassment, but I feel like that might have more to do with the sheer reality of the moment than the writers buying into old tropes.
It’s easy to forget that Bea has almost no sexual experience, and none with a partner who actually respects and cares about her. But more than that, I think that the simple, overpowering feeling of not being good enough for the person you want to be with would have anyone uttering words as cliched as Bea’s, unable to keep from laughing and looking as though they just downed a shot of tequila and sucked on the wedge of lemon for just a little too long.
What really kills me is how easily the trust that seemed to just suddenly grow overnight between Bea and Allie crumbles to the ground. One mention of how little Allie’s looking forward to telling Kaz and the rest of her crew that she’s hooking up with the woman they think turned them into the police and Bea has her hackles up again. ‘You don’t believe me,’ she says, without a hint of a question in her voice, and her eyes are momentarily filled with despair until she closes herself off again, unwilling to lose any more control over herself or her life.
Conversely, the faith that Kaz has placed in Joan and refuses to take back (until the end of this episode, that is) caused me just as much distress this week. Doing her best to dissuade the quietly rabid Ferguson from taking measures as extreme as ending Bea’s life, Kaz explains to her: ‘The Red Right Hand have never actually killed someone. It’s not what we do.’ But apparently those rules can be bent for women who use dire enough tones when they speak and give off a semblance of humanity.
And I’m very confused by the fact that the Red Right Hand haven’t changed their name. Red was meant to be an homage to Bea, right? I can’t imagine that Kaz still wants to honour her, even if she doesn’t want to go as far as murdering her. And these women certainly aren’t Bea’s helpers now, if they ever were.
In other news, Jake is still continuing to be an ass - no disrespect, of course - and Sigrid Thornton is still impressing me greatly with her portrayal of a wealthy alleged serial-killer.
Sonia doesn’t seem like the kind of person to fake emotions (not like Ferguson) and this makes me optimistic that she hasn’t pulled the story about her husband running away after he was diagnosed with cancer out of thin air. It would be nice not to have two sociopaths on the show, you know?
But regardless of any specific backstory the writers may have crafted for her, Sonia is, at the very least, an incredibly compelling character. Speaking to Liz about the uncertainties that have plagued her over the years since her husband disappeared, the possibility that he might have made up a story just to get away from her, Sonia admits: ‘You know, in my worst moments I think: Was it even true?’ And the guilt that Sonia goes on to mention, always accompanying those moments of self-doubt, is written clearly on Thornton’s face, etched with pain and possibly fear, as she casually makes a cup of tea.
It’s a stunning performance, and so wonderful to know that we have more of this endearing, fascinating, sincere-yet-guarded character to see on the show.
Briefly, we’re actually offered a glimpse into the internal struggle Bea’s been experiencing when she asks Bridget, after extensive prompting, whether she’s ever had relationships with men, and how she’s chosen to label her sexuality. ‘Well, it doesn’t matter what I call myself,’ the psychologist offers, clearly catching on to Bea’s hope that she’ll be able to find the right answer to her struggles if she can get some insight into Bridget’s past.
But this perceptiveness terrifies Bea, and before Bridget can get her talking about anything of real weight, she’s standing up from her chair, ready to run for the door. Luckily, Bridget jumps back in, using her own experiences to help Bea feel less exposed and convince the inmate to stay, if only for another minute, and find just a tiny piece of acceptance and freedom for herself in the process.
In the end, Maxine gets taken to the hospital for her surgery without Boomer (after giving Bea an adorable push to follow her heart) and this creates the perfect opportunity for a prison sit-down/distraction: an inmate has been sent to have a double-mastectomy with no support whatsoever, and Kaz doesn’t think anyone should tolerate that.
It leaves a bit of a sour taste in my mouth watching Kaz defend Maxine when only weeks ago she was declaring that she’d never want such an abomination - a man - running the prison. But in her defence, she does look kind of horrified as she watches Bea down a glass of cordial laced with roofies, and Sonia’s sparkling assessment of her character made me laugh in earnest and gave me a little confidence about where Kaz might go from here: ‘Seems completely deranged to me. Perhaps in private she’s more engaging.’
It makes me happy, too, that Liz somehow manages to see behind the front of ‘social justice’ to the machinations in play. And Allie seems to be waking up to the painful compromises that underpin Kaz’s plans and ideologies, too, because not knowing that Ferguson was lying in wait in the kitchen for Bea, the dismayed look on Allie’s face as she’s stuck being a pawn in Kaz’s power play can’t solely be from concern for the woman she loves.
Thank goodness Will Jackson stepped in to set everyone straight about just who has been playing the villain in these convoluted manoeuvrings.
As Joan drags Bea from the supply closet to the kitchen sink, she makes reference to Bea’s ‘tension and anxiety’ and claims that if Bea just chooses to give up, she will ‘begin to feel a magnificent calm.’ And of all the horrific things we’ve heard this woman say in the past, this might very well be the most despicable.
Does Joan honestly believe that she knows what every single person around her wants, that she knows what’s best for them? That having nothing will be preferable, for all of them, to feeling the pain of being alive?
I don’t think so.
With the dexterity we’ve seen Joan exhibit when it comes to twisting the emotions of others and evading any emotions herself, I think she knows exactly how much pain her words can cause. And I think that pain thrills her.
Drilling more and more insecurities into Bea’s head as she literally cradles it in her arms, Ferguson outlines all the possible devastating futures that Bea could have. Everyone will leave, she explains. ‘You’ll become a tiresome obligation to them. Or a painful memory. Or nothing at all.’
Nothing at all. And if that doesn’t tell you something about just how much destruction Joan wants to wreak on every single spirit around her, nothing will.
Ferguson also says she hopes Bea sees this - a complete evisceration of her sense of self-worth - as a victory. And the way Joan adjusts Bea’s hair as it’s floating in the sink that she’s drowning in, it truly does seem that Joan is so ravenous for control that she wants to be able to shape how every single person around her thinks and feels. She wants to be the ultimate puppet-master.
I’m just relieved that Kaz and her crew come storming into the kitchen in the knick of time (I’m sure - anything else would be crazy) and that the show gave us such a glorious moment of retribution (I’m not usually one for violence or gore, but I won’t lie, I was ecstatic to see Ferguson’s hand go into that deep fryer). And finally, almost lost in the chaos of the scene, we hear Allie scream out as she kneels helplessly next to an unconscious Bea: ‘I don’t know what to do!’
Everyone is lost, either a little bit or a lot. But trying to go it alone is clearly not the answer.
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.