Given what may - or may not - have occurred in last week’s season finale, this review is going to take a slightly different form, just in case the tragedy of the episode in question is just as horrific as it seemed.
With conflicting statements being thrown around left, right, and centre, it’s impossible to know whether the final moments of the episode were a ploy to get bums on seats when the first episode of season five airs next year, or whether any comments urging viewers to ‘just keep watching’ and ‘hang in there’ are feeble attempts to placate distraught (and, quite frankly, traumatised) fans.
It’s difficult for me to even comprehend my own feelings about the finale and what it might mean for the show, Bea’s character, and the mental state of fans, especially fans who are part of the LGBT community.
There’s been an uprising building online throughout the year, made up mostly, I can only assume, of queer female fans.
These fans are calling the seemingly endless collection of queer female characters being killed off on television an act of violence being aimed directly at them. Experiencing these storylines as a form of oppression and bigotry and reacting in a way - creating petitions, sending aggressive messages to writers on Twitter, and boycotting shows altogether - that truly does make these fictional narratives seem like actual targeted attacks.
I’ve been torn about the whole thing, because, to be honest, I’ve been more shattered by the deaths of characters who aren’t even overtly queer: Lillian DePaul from Masters of Sex, who suffered immeasurable pain because of a cancer she was working to find a cure for that happened to be destroying her from the inside, and because of the loneliness she’d felt throughout her whole life; Misty Day from American Horror Story: Coven, who was forced into a role she didn’t even want and lost her life because of it; and Andrea Harrison from The Walking Dead, who despite some pretty questionable decisions died because of her determination to make sure no one, no matter their motives or intentions, got hurt in a senseless battle.
And then there are characters like Rachel Posner from House of Cards and Denise Cloyd from The Walking Dead (I’m sorry, it’s my latest obsession) - both explicitly queer, and both dealt such unfair blows in the midst of the tangled narratives of their respective fictional worlds that their deaths make me want to literally reach through my laptop screen and punch whoever came up with each of their demises in the face, no matter how ineffectual any physical attack from me would undoubtedly be.
In the end, though, what matters most is the spirit in which a story is written - both the complexity and truth encompassed in the narrative, and the overarching objectives of the writers with the paths they send their characters down.
And as much as it left a dark, hollow feeling in my chest to see Bea Smith run right into a screwdriver again and again and again, and then be completely decimated by Ferguson with that same weapon, her death (if she truly is dead) had such a poetic completeness to it that I cannot argue in good faith that it was a mistake for the show to execute it.
That said, I will bow down in thanks if Bea actually manages to survive that excruciating attack and actually has, if only temporarily, a real life with Allie. Tell me which God I need to make a sacrifice to and I will do it. Just say the word.
In the first episode of this latest season, Bea insists in her first confrontation with Kaz: ‘I’m no victim.’ But that’s exactly what the people around her have forced her to be, from the moment she fell pregnant with Harry Smith’s child - a child she grew to love, despite the horrific nature of the relationship her existence sprang from - and possibly even from her earliest years (we know next to nothing about Bea’s parents or her childhood, but I suppose we can still hope that at least that part of her life wasn’t sheathed in pain and devastation).
And in using Allie as a means of causing Bea yet more pain, Ferguson takes even more power from this woman who has spent her life merely reacting, bending to the image others conjured of her and never having the capacity to make her own decisions.
Watching Ferguson smile with pure mirth while Allie is carted away on a stretcher, listening to Bea’s anguished screams, I honestly cannot comprehend the way this woman operates in the world. Who the hell has that much damage? Who wants to inflict that much damage on someone who’s done nothing to harm them?
But being forced to ask myself those questions might have been useful, at least as an analytical exercise. In diving down this rabbit hole of a mind, it occurred to me that Ferguson might - justified or not - feel as though Bea has robbed her of the same control that she herself has lost.
From the minute she arrived at Wentworth in order to take over the role of Governor, Bea truly has been, at least on the surface, at the helm of the movement painting Ferguson as a monster - not just a cruel person, but a freak of nature.
And while we still, frustratingly, infuriatingly, know almost nothing about Ferguson’s childhood, I don’t think it’s a wild jump to assume that her parents - or her father, at least - placed similar constraints on her as a child by imposing a ready-made image onto her, before she ever had a chance to come to terms with any illness she might be suffering from or could explore any possibility she might once have had to forge her own identity.
Put this stifling family life on top of more-than-likely torture enacted by her peers at school, and it isn’t difficult to imagine Joan snapping at the idea that, once more, someone has locked her in an invisible cage, preventing her from connecting in any way, shape, or form with the people around her or starting anew on her own terms.
Speaking of starting anew: I, personally, thought the words that Sonia offered to Maxine in this seemingly hopeless point in her life were more than comforting - or, at least, they would have been, if it hadn’t been for the creepy music underscoring the scene.
But Liz wasn’t hearing that music along with Sonia’s expression of compassion, so I cannot fathom why she changed her her mind at the drop of a hat - or the buzz of a razor, as it were - and gave in to the despicable excuse for a lawyer who seems to think sexual harassment is sexy as hell.
So, Liz has lost her mind, Nurse Radcliffe is still channeling her inner Regina George (‘I’ve got a job to do?’) and Jake is now without a doubt the lowest scum of the earth known to man. Oh, also - it looks like Doreen might be transferred to Perth to be closer to Josh (and Nash). If that’s the case, I really hope they bring Tasha back from whatever black hole she’s fallen into. Otherwise, the only (lead) people of colour on the show (in the prison - I’m definitely happy about the nuance and heart they’ve given to Shane’s character) will be the Asian crew who’ve been painted as such black-and-white villains that I don’t think there’s any way they can be counted as decent representation.
Speaking of representation/overcoming stereotypes and biases in a significant and guileless way, Boomer’s unbridled affection for Maxine - especially considering her initial reaction to the prisoner, shouting at her across the yard: ‘What are you?!’ - does wonders for the show’s depth and intricacy. It’s impossible not to feel your chest tighten watching Boomer’s subtly broken expression - impossibly subtle, considering how extreme most of her actions and reactions are - when Maxine says it’s time to shave her hair off.
And seeing tears stream down Boomer’s face as she puts Maxine’s emotional wellbeing before her own heartbreak at losing this chance to have a child is truly moving - coming close to the scene in which she confessed her true feelings to Franky, more than a season ago, which is really saying something.
This episode also gave us a stunning snapshot of Franky trying to be a hero - and succeeding, at least in part, in spectacular fashion.
That said, having to watch her have a gun pointed at her - by the brilliant Hunter Page-Lochard - for a good sixty seconds caused me far more stress than I ever wanted to experience watching this show. I don’t know what we’ve gotten ourselves into, but I have a feeling that it won’t be easy to get out.
But Franky uses her unbelievable supply of empathy to get Shane to back down, and we get to glimpse one more moment of pure joy between her and Bea before everything comes crashing down around the prisoner stuck in Wentworth for life.
Franky implores the woman sitting across from her, who she’s grown to love and respect so much: ‘Don’t give up on her, ’kay?’
All Bea can manage in response is a simple: ‘No…no.’ And the second no - so much softer than the first, and almost suggesting the opposite of what it should mean on the surface - could almost be seen as a portent for what’s to come. Bea won’t give up on Allie, but if that blind hope is shattered into pieces sharp enough to cut through her very soul, she’s going to end that pain before it destroys her.
Because Allie is more than Bea ever wished for, and more than she ever wants to live without from this point forward. Trying to convey the weight of this love - this revelation - to Franky, Bea explains: ‘She’s…ah, she’s…’ And then her eyes go wide, and she’s momentarily breathless. ‘I’ve never felt like this before. It’s nice.’
Bea realises there are no words that can encapsulate Allie, or the way she feels about her. And Franky’s radiant smile at just how much joy Bea has found in life, even knowing she’s never going to leave the gates of Wentworth again, is nothing short of a miracle salve for every sharp pain we’re going to feel in the final moments of the episode.
We have to take in Bea’s broken face when Maxine has to admit to her that there’s nothing the doctors can do for Allie, that she’s never going to wake up again. Danielle Cormack’s performance is harrowing and impassioned and everything you could possibly want from an actress portraying this character, but all of that just makes me more distraught at the possibility that we might never get to see her in this role again.
And despite the fact that she’s been stripped of every ounce of hope she had just moments before, like a bandage stuck over your entire calf that’s suddenly ripped off, Bea still she assures this woman who has taught her what it is to love and be loved: It’s going to be okay.
You just fly. You be free. You go and find Debbie and you look after her. And you wait for me. You wait.
This is the first hint we get that Bea always intended for her ‘attack’ on Ferguson to be an act of self-sacrifice.
It’s almost a joy we see on Bea’s face, after she hangs up the phone in utter despair and has to consider what her next move will be - what her next move can be, when she believes that there is nothing left in this world for her.
But this belief is what makes Bea’s actions so devastating, so heartbreaking that it’s almost impossible to watch. Because the real final moments of the episode are Allie coming back to the world of the living, only seconds - possibly - after Bea has succumbed to the weight she has felt on her shoulders and in her heart for most of her life.
I have no idea why Bea chooses to lie to Kaz, because there’s no way - if Allie really was dead - that the new Top Dog wouldn’t find out the truth eventually. Perhaps it’s simply to spare Kaz the pain of reality for just a little while longer, but I can’t imagine Bea ever being so indulgent.
But maybe she can see just how deep Kaz’s love for Allie goes, and perhaps that mutual understanding softens both her and Kaz.
Because Kaz clearly does love Allie, no matter what the intricacies and downfalls of that love might be. Even if you don’t believe her own admission, the look on Kaz’s face when she hears that Allie’s going to make it is painted with so much unbridled relief and joy that there’s no way anyone who saw it could deny her feelings for the young woman.
This is the only source of comfort I was able to take from these last few scenes, realising that, if Bea really is gone, at least Allie has someone who will be willing and determined to take care of her, no matter how badly she takes the loss.
It is, without a doubt, Bea’s decision to take Ferguson down by ending her own life, finally seizing the autonomy and self-determination that has always been kept at arms length from her.
And this newfound power, the fact that Bea asks her tormentor if she’s afraid of dying, knowing that she harbours no fear herself anymore, is a light amidst this loud, heavy, clamouring death that feels as though it takes as much from us as it does from the world of the show.
I win. This is what Bea gasps as she sees herself leaving the world that has dragged her to a place of such darkness, escaping clutches that could have held her forever.
It isn't her decision to run, charging into Ferguson, that finally loosen these clutches on her soul, her heart - it was Allie’s love, without a doubt: the fact that the younger woman gave herself over to Bea, along with her trust and her acceptance, and gave her the courage to finally do the same.
I don’t know what we’re going to be greeted with next season. But Bea’s final words, as she looks at two clouds in the shape of seahorses moving closer and closer together in the sky, give me reason to believe that we should wait. That we have to wait. For Bea.
It’s going to be okay.
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.