“My name is Joan Ferguson, but you can call me Governor.”
Officious hair bun, tight suit, purposeful eye glint, leather gloves and evil psychotic mannerisms all intact, ‘The Freak’ made her debut in Channel 5’s successful Australian prison drama Wentworth Prison last night, and the inmates had better watch out.
Jacs Holt may be burning in the pits of Hell below with ink and blood spewing out of her neck sinew, but there’s a new bad girl in town, and there is no messing with Joan Ferguson. Those who are old enough to remember the original Prisoner Cell Block H will recall that ‘The Freak’ was so called for a very good reason; and it looks like she is going to be no different here.
In the opening scenes of the episode, Joan Ferguson, played menacingly well by actress Pamela Rabe, made her mark on the prison, for inmates and officers alike, promising that things were going to change. Meanwhile, on edge since the departure of previous governor Erica, current top dog Franky Doyle grappled to reign over the unit.
When some drug smuggling went wrong, Franky orchestrated a punishment scrap (affectionately known as a ‘scrag fight,’ which is officially the most dangerous thing to walk near to) between the two prisoners she held responsible. Franky wanted to rule with an iron fist, but the vulnerabilities that made her endearing to viewers in the first series remain painfully clear, and it is impossible not to like Franky, nor actress Nicole de Silva’s trademark cheeky grin. Nicole brings layers to a character that could very easily have been one dimensional and beneath the tough exterior, Franky is really a pussycat that just needs a good hug (or more from her on/off lover Kim Chang!) Even when she was giving poor Bea a dunking in a filled sink, it was impossible to feel any dislike for Franky.
Speaking of Bea, she spent the first half of the episode sedated to the eyeballs and living in a fantasy land with her deceased daughter Debbie. Despite well meaning officer Will advising to the contrary, Joan ordered Bea to be taken off of her meds and returned to the wing, although this had less to do with Bea’s welfare and more to do with her mind games against Franky. Coming off of the pills cold turkey gave actress Danielle Cormack another chance to showcase just what a versatile and heart wrenching actress she is, as her agony over the loss of her daughter remained, in scenes reminiscent of her best performances to date which were in Series One in the aftermath of Debbie’s death.
It wasn’t just the prisoners that Joan was toying with. Her officers are like pawns in her twisted game of chess as she spent significant time putting them in situations out of their comfort and coldly monitoring them from CCTV. Fletch seemed a particular victim and he may live to regret pulling Joan to pieces behind her back. Nothing is secret in ‘The Freak’s’ prison.
Vera appears to have gained her favour however and is already on the road to promotion whilst the Freak also has a soft spot for inmate Doreen. Personally, I don’t know what is scarier; being on her bad side or being on her good list.
As always, the hour sped by with some superb ensemble performances as a power struggle reigned at Wentworth. Women are all vying for the top but only one can reign supreme. But who is your money on?
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Written By Our Man In The North