Every time I watch an episode of Wentworth Prison I think that it has reached the highest quality possible and I sit back and think ‘they’ll never top that!’ I am almost always invariably wrong. What an hour of drama last night’s visit to the hellish Correctional Facility was!
Focusing predominantly on television’s most fascinating character of all time, namely Joan ‘The Freak’ Ferguson, we got an insight into her past which gave us an idea as to what has twisted her into the warped control freak that is today. Pamela Rabe plays her beautifully; I never thought there could be another Joan Ferguson but I will happily eat my words on this one: Pamela is sensational. Last night she played malice, sorrow, evil, pain and even a little dark humour into a collective performance that had me loving and loathing the character in equal measures. And that is when you know a television villain is a success; when a viewer can despise everything they do and yet still absolutely adore the character and even root for her to get away with it.
The first five minutes of the episode saw her don her infamous black, leather gloves to give Doreen a good smacking upon discovering that she is with child. After a tense showdown, poor Dor was dragged screaming away to be tested, where the Governor’s suspicions were confirmed. The episode’s high octane levels were only just beginning with these shocking scenes.
It turns out that the reason Ferguson has had a bit of a soft spot for Doreen up until now is because she reminds her of a prisoner under her care from a previous job some years ago. History appears to be repeating itself and it is leaving Ferguson distinctly uncomfortable. Some flashbacks which, as well as giving a dark insight into Ferguson’s black soul, also introduced us to her in an ever so kinky uniform and sporting a fantastic retro hairstyle, showed us that Ferguson had a very close relationship with this prisoner. When this prisoner fell pregnant, social workers took her baby from her which led her to commit suicide. We know Joan Ferguson as calm, collected and always in control; to see her wailing in horror upon discovering the body shook the very foundations of our perception of ‘The Freak’ and made us do the unthinkable: feel sorry for Ferguson. It was a grim and haunting scene and moving to the extreme.
But the plot thickened. Ferguson was pulling her usual puppet strings and toying with Doreen, attempting to persuade her into framing Mr Jackson for her pregnancy. This, she explained to her mini-me Vera, would give her the ideal ammunition she would need to dispatch Mr Jackson from service; her reasons for which did not become clear until the episode’s ending twist which was that Mr Jackson was the social worker who took the baby all of those years ago. Doreen was almost tempted to give in to this blackmail in order to protect Nash but a pep talk from Wentworth’s moral beacon Liz lead to her bravely standing up to Ferguson. This may be something she lives to regret however, as she was left with a dead bird on her hands that she and Nash had cared for and the ominous threat that there was more than one way to lose a baby. Sinister, but gripping developments indeed. I can’t help but be constantly amazed by how evil Joan Ferguson gets; she is a deliciously wicked character.
Elsewhere, the rivalry between Bea and Franky continued to escalate, with Maxine pulled reluctantly into the fray when she ran out of hormone medication. Bea allowed Maxine to ask Franky for help, which meant Maxine owed Franky a favour. This favour inevitably meant that Maxine would have to beat up Bea, something which she did through a huge amount of personal agony. It turned out that this is how Bea planned for things to go; now that Maxine has Franky’s trust, Bea has someone who can feed back warnings of when her rival will strike; keeping her one step ahead. We had some more powerful performances from Socratis Otto as Maxine here as the conflicted character was forced to take dreadful actions to avoid even more dreadful circumstances but the friendship between Maxine and Bea is a genuinely touching one.
What makes Wentworth Prison so successful is that there is not a single weak link. From writing to acting performances, soundtrack to lighting (which really made this episode atmospheric), Wentworth is that rare ensemble piece where every single aspect is spot on.
If you enjoy all things Wentworth, take a look at our exclusive interview with Socratis Otto. We have further Wentworth interviews coming up as we head towards the blistering climax of the series so stay tuned and keep your thoughts on the series coming in the comments box below. In the meantime, you should follow me on Twitter. *slides on black gloves* Or else… https://twitter.com/Our_manPLA
Written By Our Man In The North