‘Wentworth Prison’ is an Australian prison drama following the women inside, a loose remake of the TV classic ‘Prisoner: Cell Block H’. I have been re-watching the show on Amazon Prime (mainly to dodge university essays like the plague) and ashamedly I had forgotten how good it is.
Despite my glowing recommendation, there are huge trigger warnings for violence, rape, substance abuse, self-harm and murder/death. If you anticipate being affected by any of these themes then I deeply encourage you not to watch this show.
Before we go any further, there is no way I can comment on which is “better” out of this and ‘Orange Is the New Black’ so I won’t. Being released at the same time, the comparison is inherent in the discussion of these shows, but I love both dearly for very different reasons which can’t be compared. So if that is the piping hot tea you have come to this article for, I can only apologise.
‘Wentworth’ is so unbelievably raw and gripping it’s impossible to not get invested. Primarily following Bea Smith (Danielle Cormack), a new inmate charged with the attempted murder of her husband, the show looks into the corruption, camaraderie, and carnage of a women’s prison. The events of the show and characters make for an engaging plot with so many twists and turns, and the shocking moments the show provides are unmatched.
The characters are the best part of the show, without a doubt. Each character is so perfectly fleshed out and multi-dimensional, with the tough inmate exterior not being held up for long. The toughest women show vulnerability and everyone has their weaknesses, with all of these things ultimately reminding us they are human, which is endearing for such a heavy show.
One thing I have noticed more watching this time round is the conflicting sense of whose side I’m on as a viewer. The events of the first season centres around the battle to be ‘top dog’ between Franky Doyle (Nicole da Silva) and Jacqueline ‘Jacs’ Holt (Kris McQuade), and although Bea, as our focus, is a friend of Franky’s, both sides and women at the top do horrendous things that make it difficult to root for either.
I’m also understanding the mind-games being played in the prison more than I did before. The politics of prison life makes so much more sense, and I am regularly taken aback by the moves made by these women. I realise now this is probably because I first watched the show a little too young to truly understand the gravity of what was going on, but it’s all just so smart.
Despite my earlier comments about ‘Orange Is the New Black’, it has to be said that Wentworth is much darker than ‘Orange’. ‘Wentworth’ does not offer the same comedic release, and coupled with the more graphic depictions of violence and a turf war, it gives the show a completely different feel.
The diversity, however, is not the best, and it would not hold up well now. There is only one BAME character, and Season Two introduces a trans woman inmate portrayed by a cisgender, male-identifying actor, which needless to say is questionable. At the time this somewhat flew under the radar with the trans representation being only commended, but I do not believe it would be without controversy now. Outside of this though, the LGBTQ+ representation is strong and at the forefront of many storylines.
To summarise, it’s an incredible show that is often overlooked. Get yourself on Amazon Prime and happy binging.