After last week’s intense episode, where we saw Doreen (Shareena Clanton) and Maxine (Socratis Otto) finally stand up to Bea (Danielle Cormack), things were no doubt about to change. Not to mention Doreen actively left “Team Bea” and sat herself securely with the ranks of Kaz (Tammy Macintosh) and her crew. This week’s episode, titled “Panic Button”, began with Vera (Kate Atkinson) walking tall through the halls of her beloved Wentworth. I’ve got to say Vera’s evolution from Season 1 has been the most intoxicating, and with the new position as Governor, Kate Atkinson is once again dominating. Cut this with Ferguson (Pamela Rabe) sitting alone on her bed, listening to the footsteps, the two come face to face. Her lawyer is here, and before Vera can even get the upper hand Ferguson taunts her, and threatens her, stating that justice will prevail. Her lawyer has an update – Mr. Jespers legal team is calling a surprise witness. Who is it you ask? None other than Bea Smith.
Elsewhere, Bea is being given this news – they want her to testify, in court. She’s conflicted, obviously, as doing this will put her in danger but at the same time could be what is required to finally end the Freak. She reluctantly agrees but on one condition, as soon as the trial starts, The Freak is put back into protection. Deal. As Bea heads back her cell, these two power players cross paths, exchanging a look tinged with disdain and a knowing. Bridget (Libby Tanner) is back this week, first seen discussing the new legal developments in Ferguson’s case with Vera. Vera isn’t concerned, she’s strong in her belief that Ferguson will get what she deserves. Contrastingly, Kaz enters the yard overwhelmed with joy that she’s got news of only getting an 18 month sentence. She notices a despondent Joan sitting alone, and approaches her to see what’s happened. And what Ferguson says, is just as manipulative as ever. She tells Kaz about Jesper and his conspiring with Bea Smith to take her down. Ferguson is convincing, and once again Kaz believes her. Meanwhile, Vera and Jake (Bernard Curry) share an awkward confrontation after the kiss they shared last week. Vera pushes him off, stating how unprofessional it was. Talking about tension, Doreen is still incredibly upset about the Tasha situation and the panic button rules. She wants something to change and with a little push from Ferguson, she finds something deep within herself and takes on Bea. In front of everyone. And it works. Well kind of.
After initially dismissing the challenge from Doreen, and warning her once loyal friend to never again disobey her, the stakes are pushed even higher. When Doreen blatantly disregards everything Bea has just said, she pushes the panic button. Not only that, everyone else throughout the prison pushes theirs. If they wanted to make a statement, they sure succeeded. The guards are annoyed, and we learn that not only does Bea get pressure from the inmates but the guards too. Without Bea enforcing these rules, the guards are left somewhat powerless. This entire situation is enough for Bea to crack, confronting Doreen in a way that would make anyone shake in their boots. Bea isn’t messing around, and as she comes closer and closer to that edge, we know Doreen needs to watch her back. Even Liz (Celia Ireland) has a quiet word to her; a telling piece of advice, that being Top Dog isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, that being in charge is a tough gig. Liz gets it, and Vera does too; both seeing the cracks in Bea’s once unbreakable armour.
The next morning, it is obvious the women aren’t happy, with pressure mounting on Bea to do something. And when someone like Kaz Proctor is constantly spinning bull, no wonder Bea makes the move she does. She proposes a vote – Top Dog or No Top Dog – and it is organised in a way that stays equal and fair. With this, Ferguson looks so proud of herself while Maxine and the guards too, express concern about the possibility of Bea losing. Bea doesn’t seem to mind, in fact she seems pretty cool, calm and collected with the decision. As the dust settles, and the women get to breakfast, Boomer approaches Bea about Maxine – she’s just discovered that her surgery has not been scheduled and wants Bea to make sure everything is on track. This request is enough to snap Bea back to reality. Finding Maxine alone in the common room, Bea first informs her partner in crime that she wants to lose the Top Dog crown, that it would be a weight off her shoulder. Continuing the conversation, she asks Maxine how it’s all going; asking about the operation and showing a genuine interest in her closest friend. Maxine flat out states that she isn’t having the surgery, but what follows is the most poignant, eloquent, soul-shattering monologue Socratis Otto has delivered as Maxine. After living in the wrong body for 32 years of her life, at times wanting to tear it off, she’s finally happy with who she is and “no disease is going to change that”. Socratis delves deep and produces these words through Maxine in such a raw, empowering way that Bea is inconsolable; maybe even a little proud. Proud that the once reserved Maxine has now come to a point where nothing and no one will tear her down. Danielle Cormack nails this scene, once again playing off Socratis so fluidly. This arc has been one never explored on Australian television, and as it continues to progress, the writers, creative team and Socratis are bringing such a truth, justice and reality to it that is unparalleled.
As the vote is being tallied, all the inmates wait for the result while the guards (specifically Vera) are watching on closely. And when the results are in, resoundingly keeping Bea in the position of “Top Dog” it seems pretty obvious that Vera had a hand in it. Doreen is understandably pissed, while Kaz and Ferguson are equally so. So much that Ferguson states she needs to be taken down, all within earshot of Ali. Kaz however isn’t having a bar of it, she doesn’t want to do anything to jeopardise her sentence. Bea, after hearing the results remains stoic in front of everyone but behind the closed door of her cell, is able to let her guard down. So much so, the insular pain that has been bubbling away all season continues to manifest itself in her physicality; a skill Danielle Cormack has, that sets her apart. We can tell she’s grappling with the urge to cut, but when Ali interrupts, Bea is snapped back to reality. This girl has some weird timing, but nonetheless the two continue their flirtation so innocently you can’t help but champion them. Checking in with Bea, Ali ensures the ever-battling “Top Dog” that she has plenty of people that care about her. She offers her assistance in applying the vitamin E cream and Bea, in the most innocent of ways abruptly states that she’s “not gay” and Ali simply responds “I don’t care what you are.”
Elsewhere, Boomer is on a mission to get Maxine’s surgery scheduled when Nurse Blondie informs her that at the end of the day, it is Maxine’s decision. This is when it dawns on Boomer. And what follows is a confrontation so raw and so heart-wrenching. Boomer is angry, played brilliantly by Katrina Milosevic with moments of pure innocence so true to Boomer’s personality. She doesn’t understand, all she sees is someone she loves deciding to die, being selfish. Following up the previous conversation with Bea in which we learnt her reasons for not having the surgery, Maxine is steadfast in her stance not to give who she is up. She’ll change and she wants to end her life on her own terms. Boomer isn’t having it, and within seconds loses her temper; she’s screaming, yelling, crying and unbelievably emotional. Socratis and Katrina are heart-stopping in this exchange; physically emotive and incredibly committed to delivering the true nature of such a traumatic situation. The bad news seems to be a theme this week, with Kaz returning from her hearing not having received the sentence she expected. In fact, she was sentenced to 12 years. What Wentworth continues to do this season is offer each member of the ensemble moments of sheer brokenness; and when Kaz returns to her cell, she simply loses it. Turning her cell upside down in utter despair. Tammy Macintosh is outstanding, and incredibly striking in this scene.
The darkness of this episode is given light through Ali’s continued dedication to Bea; so much so that she’s made the decision to leave Kaz’s crew. I don’t think that’s such a good idea, and neither does Bea. Contrastingly, the camera then cuts to a broken, grieving Maxine looking into the mirror, topless. And again, the Wentworth team do a depth-defying job at communicating the reality that has inspired this storyline for Maxine. Socratis has inhabited this role with conviction, delivering moments like these with such soul-crushing emotion, often leaving the audiences speechless, inspired and moved. Following this up, she joins Boomer in her cell and they share the most adorable make-up yet – Boomer expresses her love and care for Maxine, so innocently yet so deeply profound and Maxine assures her that she knows. And what’s why she’s changed her mind. She is going to get the surgery. Meanwhile, Kaz has met with Bridget after hearing the news of her sentence and takes this moment, away from the eyes of everyone, to break down. Tammy Macintosh continues to be a force, indomitable.
As the episode closes, Bea is seen in her cell drawing – something we have not witnessed for a while – and as she smiles, like cheekily-smitten smile, the camera reveals a drawing of Ali. This moment of happiness is cut short when she sees the drawing of Debbie; something clicks and she leaves. Meanwhile, Doreen finally gives in to the fact that she misses Joshua and admits to truly hating it in prison. Back with Bea, we discover she was in such rush because she needed to stop Ali from leaving Kaz. She’s successful, and when she meets with Ali soon after, alone, in the kitchen, we learn why she’s so against Ali changing sides. Stating she doesn’t want Ali getting caught in the cross fires, Danielle Cormack is playing Bea and the myriad of emotions this woman experiences, effortlessly. Continuing on, without really thinking, to say that “everyone I care about ends up dead”, the truth is finally revealed. And of course Ali is the first to notice. This is enough for Ali to make her move; it’s tender, and vulnerable and all those things that come with the “first kiss”. And Bea, surprisingly, doesn’t pull away. In fact, she seems pleasantly surprised. Shocked. Tingly. All those feelings one gets when someone they like kisses them for the first time. Note, Ferguson witnessed all of this. She is then seen talking/comforting Kaz, encouraging the downtrodden leader to stand up. Lead the women. Not only that, they somewhat make a deal – If Kaz gets rid of Mr. Jespers, Ferguson will kill Bea Smith. This season continues to go from strength to strength, accurately hitting social issues on the head, while delivering them with such beauty and care that the audience can’t seem to get enough.
Other key mentions:
- Vera so has the hots for Jake. And Miss Miles is completely jealous.