Wentworth (S4E09): "Afterlife"

Review:
If you aren’t watching Wentworth, you should be. If you’re searching for a television show that is so much more than just that, you should be watching Wentworth. If you want a 45 minute block of mind-boggling twists and turns, psychological exploration, characters that mirror us, inspire us and floor us, then you should be watching Wentworth. If you’re wanting to witness creative genius at work; cinematography so fluid and on point that you feel a part of the moment, you should be watching Wentworth. So if you haven’t got the point yet, Wentworth is a must see. A piece of Australian dramatic art, whose fourth season has inadvertently changed the game, opened a dialogue into social issues reaching a depth never met before, and executed storytelling the way it should be. Honest. Visceral. Poignant.
On the back of last week’s “finale-esque” episode, the audience was anxiously waiting to find out Bea’s fate. Would she survive? This week’s episode, “Afterlife”, opened on a serene image of water, bubbling. And then we see her; it’s Bea (Danielle Cormack). She’s lying face down, eyes open, floating and then she emerges from the water. The writers and creative team continue to beautifully bring ones insular experience of humanity and mortality into the forefront, with an example right here. As Bea treads water, searching for any form of an escape or refuge, a familiar voice is heard, and a figure appears on a close by beach. It’s Debbie. Danielle Cormack, from the moment Bea experienced the unimaginable loss of her daughter, has delivered such incredible moments of grief, joy and guilt. This moment? Joy and relief. But it doesn’t last; because as soon as she sees her she’s gone, and she starts to drown again and then we cut back to the kitchen where Will (Robbie Magsiva) has successfully performed CPR and bought her back to life.
We learn, soon after this sequence, that the episode is picking up one week after the events in the kitchen. Ferguson (Pamela Rabe) remains in the burn unit and Bea is soon to return to Wentworth. Meanwhile, Vera – looking as furious as ever – is interrogating the members of the Red Right Hand, attempting to piece together what really happened. Unfortunately, Kaz (Tammy Macintosh) has rallied her troops and both she and Allie (Kate Jenkinson) deny knowing about the attack on Bea, consequently protecting Ferguson in the process. Thing is, Vera (Kate Atkinson) is smarter than they think; she knows Ferguson orchestrated it and she spends the rest of the episode trying to prove it. Bridget (Libby Tanner) this week, also takes on an important role as she tries to forge a supportive rapport between her and Bea following the traumatic events of her attack. Bea returns to the medical wing, where Bridget meets her to see if she remembers anything. She doesn’t; or she does, but isn’t ready to relive or share the truth with anyone. Bridget informs Bea that while she was in hospital they discovered the scarring on the inside of her leg. Danielle Cormack knows this character inside and out, gut-wrenchingly bringing to light the shame and embarrassment Bea feels, now that people know how much she is struggling. Bridget asks if she has anyone she can talk to, Bea answers “No”.
 
Bridget takes this information and catches Will and Vera up to speed, it is safe to say they are both floored to discover just how deep Bea’s pain has become. How closed off she’s become, to be suffering in silence like she has. Kate Atkinson and Robbie Magasiva play each of their respective characters response uniquely; Vera is shocked with remnants of empathy, while Will is undeniably pained to hear of someone he considers a friend, hurting as Bea is. So much so, he requests Vera give him permission to question Proctor. She denies this request, obviously. Bridget goes as far to say that Bea may in fact be suffering depression, and she should be watched carefully. Speaking of Bea, Doreen (Shareena Clanton) has arrived to check in as her peer mentor, but is met with disdain after recently becoming a member of Kaz’s crew. The tension is understandable, and when Doreen continues to offer support Bea cracks and tells her the real nature of what happened – I was unconscious, the “RRR” along with Ferguson orchestrated it, they were trying to kill me. This admission is enough to hit Doreen right in the heart, as she immediately assembles “Team Bea” and confronts Allie in the bathroom. Boomer (Katrina Milosevic) wastes no time holding Allie up against the wall demanding the truth. Allie is as unknowing as anyone, and as she tries to keep from being strangled to death, Liz (Celia Ireland) eventually calls Boomer off.
 
With the news that Bea is back at Wentworth, Allie attempts to sneak into medical to try and explain her case; she gets far enough to yell to Bea but isn’t successful whatsoever. What follows is a masterclass in emotional vulnerability thanks to Kate Jenkinson and Tammy Macintosh. Going right to the source, Allie questions Kaz about the rumour regarding the attempt on Bea’s life and unfortunately Kaz can’t lie to her loyal comrade. Allie is shocked, hurt and disappointed ensuring Kaz that Bea is not their enemy. Tammy Macintosh communicates Kaz’s struggle in such a humanising way, that we forget how controlling and manipulative she can be. As Allie continues to plead Bea’s case, it all starts to make sense and when Kaz realises just what’s happening – Allie has fallen for Bea – it’s a whole level of betrayal felt in one swift hit. After dismissing Allie, Kaz immediately pays Bea a visit. On high alert as Kaz enters her cell, Bea jumps to attention ready for any indication of an attack but Kaz assures her not to worry. Talk about a heated, layered confrontation between adversaries; Bea unleashes insult after insult on an already broken Kaz, who stands, motionless seemingly taking what she deserves. And when she goes to apologise, as genuinely as we’ve ever seen her speak to Bea, the audience believes her. We feel her remorse; that is, until she continues her sentence and actually apologises for “making Allie prostitute herself to get to you”. Um, excuse me? Did anyone yell at the television screen at this moment, or was it just me? Oh Tammy Macintosh, you delivered that line so well. I was right there championing Kaz, and then with a couple of words, she again proves to be just as conniving as Ferguson.
 
Speaking of Ferguson, when she returns from the burn unit, Vera has her placed in 24/7 medical hold to ensure no more funny business occurs. Not only that, she asks for a guard to volunteer to watch over her. Guess who volunteers? None other than Vera’s new admirer, Jake (Bernard Curry). Bernard Curry is illustrating Jake so coyly, the audience can’t help but suspect him. Not to mention when Jake and Ferguson start to connect and chat, it seems we could have the start of a new alliance. Ferguson does her best to plant ideas and doubt in his mind; mentioning Vera’s Hepatitis C status and how she used that to get Governor. Interestingly though, he takes this information and accusation straight to Vera. She doesn’t respond in one way or another, but insists that anymore information like that from Ferguson be forwarded to her. Kate Atkinson is brilliant in portraying Vera’s sudden moments of fear and pain, continually reminding us that she’s nothing like The Freak. Too bad she isn’t, because it seems, as the episode closes, that Jake and Ferguson have some sort of mutual communication line open, while he continues to pursue Vera. Vera really needs to stop dating guys from work.
Back to the prisoners, Bea has been released into general population again but not before Bridget and Vera take her back through the kitchen. They are hoping to jog her memory and it does, the flashbacks are as confronting as the reality, but Bea continues to avoid even speaking about it. She returns to the yard; warm welcomes from her crew, and a sweet, look of relief from Allie. However, this look isn’t reciprocated, Bea seemingly still hurt from the possibility that Allie was involved. Allie is persistent though, coming straight to Bea’s cell block to talk about it. Boomer is protective and close to giving “blondie” a little hit right in the boobs, but Bea emerges from her cell. In the first exchange since their last moments in the equipment closet, the light and happiness is no longer there. Instead, there is tension, and pain, and guilt, and questioning. Allie swears she had nothing to do with it, Bea tells her that isn’t what Kaz says. Bea is angry and feeling deeply betrayed, felt so much more when she exclaims that Allie is nothing but a “lying junkie street whore”. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt more effected by a storyline than with Allie and Bea, it may be due to the chemistry between Kate and Danielle, or the relationship itself, in that their love is new, and real, and somewhat instantaneous, but also in ways forbidden, and difficult.
 
Allie returns to her cell block and again comes face to face with Kaz, demanding to know what she said to Bea. And again, we’re given a highly emotional, soul-crushing, physical altercation when Kaz admits to implicating Allie to Bea. Allie is broken, more so because Kaz knew exactly what this would do to her. It’s such a toxic exchange, but sheds a new light on the dependency both women feel on the other. Could Kaz feel threatened by Allie’s new love and commitment to someone other than her? Is Allie finally starting to walk to the beat of her own drum? These could in fact be the reasons which drove Kaz to hurt Allie in the way she did. Tammy Macintosh and Kate Jenkinson commit to this scene with every fibre; so physical the pain is unquestionable. As Allie retreats, we are given two differing shots – one of a broken, distraught Allie and the other, a blank, faced, soul-crushed Bea.
 
Last week, Danielle Cormack and Kate Jenkinson transported the audience back to memories of their first love, and this week they reminded us just how life-altering our first broken heart can be. The contrast between the two moments in one’s life were crafted beautifully; with the reality and depth of Bea’s pain realised when reunited with a familiar face. Bridget, the intuitive psychologist she is, informs Bea she has a visitor – no challenges are allowed. And luckily she didn’t, because when she enters the visitor room who does she see? Wentworth’s own beloved, Franky Doyle (Nicole Da Silva). The cheers are heard all throughout the world, as the two share a warm, loving embrace. In that moment, Bea realises she isn’t alone. They start to catch up – Bridget has obviously filled Franky in on everything – but Bea admits to having felt like she died. More so, she goes as far to say how good it felt, how peaceful it was. And then, for the first time all episode, Bea lets that wall down. She tells Franky about Allie, and between the “I knew it” and looks of pride from Franky, Bea seems to unload a little of that weight. Franky’s diagnosis is simple yet profound; Bea is heartbroken. For the first time ever, she has had her heart broken in the most crushing of ways. And can’t we all relate? I sure can. I’ve got to give major, major props to Danielle Cormack and Kate Jenkinson again, for delivering such transformative work. My first heart-break and all the feelings that came along with it began flooding back the moment Bridget met with Bea. But as the episode progressed, and the layers were folded back, the deep-seeded feeling of your heart being ripped out were accurately and brutally portrayed. That type of storytelling is what makes television great. That’s what sets the cast and creative team of Wentworth apart.
 
As the episode begins to close, Franky reminds Bea how strong she is, and that the women need her; they need their Queen. Meanwhile, Maxine (Socratis Otto) has returned from the hospital, and is recovering well. So well, that her experience has given her some time to think on things. When she and Boomer are alone, she wonders if Boomer remembers an offer she made. In all Boomer’s innocence it takes her a minute to realise just what’s happening; a baby. Maxine has reconsidered the offer and wants to have a baby. With Boomer. Oh the reaction is nothing short of joyous, with Socratis Otto and Katrina Milosevic heralding the beginning of another important storyline. It’s safe to say the bond these two characters share is wholeheartedly due to the dynamic of Socratis and Katrina, every week giving the audience moments of such pure, unadulterated happiness.
 
Elsewhere, Ferguson has arranged a meeting with a visitor – remember Shane Butler? The son of Giana, the prisoner Ferguson had an affair with years before. Well, somehow she’s tracked him down and arranged a visit. Pamela Rabe is such a fluid, intelligent actor, effortlessly transitioning for cold-hearted, to warm-hearted in the blink of an eye. Her ability to inhabit and deliver such emotions continually floors me. The guards are obviously concerned, there is always an ulterior motive with The Freak, right? Back with Maxine, Bea has finally got around to visiting her dear friend. What’s interesting here, is that both are going through such individual traumas, each attempting to shield the other from more burden. It’s such a deep and admirable characteristic of their relationship. Maxine has heard about Bea’s attack, and when Bea fills in the blanks, Maxine discovers Bea really did fall for Allie. Bea goes on to say that Allie was just playing her but before Bea can continue, Maxine assures her that she wasn’t playing anyone. She saw them together, and trust her Bea, Allie wasn’t playing you.
 
It dawns on Bea that Maxine may be right. That the connection between her and Allie may have in fact been real. She leaves and goes straight to her unit but upon arrival learns that Allie is missing. Kaz doesn’t hold back, and lets Bea know that Allie is now her problem. As the camera leaves them, it moves slowly through the kitchen to the equipment closet. Allie is snorting drugs. Inconsolable and completely broken, she’s only just beginning the downward spiral. I can’t stress enough, and put into words, the ceiling’s Wentworth has smashed this season. The ensemble, each and every member, continue to portray these characters with a level of nuance and commitment unparalleled. Never have we seen such a rich, layered and unapologetically honest form of television in Australia. The creative team behind the scenes deliver such artwork we are continuously blown away and when television transports you back to a moment in your life, and you’re able to view that moment with more clarity and understanding, that my friends is the wonder of Wentworth. Bringing to the forefront the humanity of these women, and the reality that although they may be floored, although they’ve made mistakes, they still feel, the still grieve, and their hearts still break.
 
Other Key Notes:

  • Bea has enlisted Franky to help with tracking down any known contacts of Shane Butler that could be working for Ferguson to take out Neil Jespers
  • Vera and Jake are now a thing
  • Kaz tied up and threatened Will
  • Sonia is becoming increasingly suspect of Liz – she asks a lot of questions