The Australian TV series Wentworth season 4 is now available on Netflix US. I recommend binging it as soon as possible! I want to review the season, but not in the usual way that covers everything. I intend to look at the entire season as Bea’s journey. Beware: spoilers ahead!
There are many characters in Wentworth, with many interwoven stories. I apologize for slighting those stories. But because of the way season 4 ends, I think it’s more interesting to look at the season through the journey of Wentworth’s lead character Bea Smith (Danielle Cormack).
Season 4 begins with the some of the inmates who were displaced by the fire at the end of season 3 riding in a bus on their way to the new prison. Bea stares out the window at a cemetery. Consider this the first ominous foreshadowing experience for Bea in season 4.
Vera Bennett (Kate Atkinson) is now Governor. Bea enters the prison as top dog. She’s greeted by the inmates who are already there with offerings of support. This includes the big and scary Lucy/Juice (Sally-Anne Upton) with her crew of big and scary “boys,” as well as Kaz Proctor (Tammy Macintosh).
Kaz pretends to be welcoming, but she says bad things about Bea in private to her crew. She’s convinced Bea is sleeping with the guard Will Jackson (Robbie Magasiva).
Queen Bea wanted to be top dog because she wanted to get rid of The Freak, former governor Joan Ferguson (Pamela Rabe). Ferguson is still at Wentworth. She’s no longer the governor. Now she’s a prisoner. She’s isolated in the protection unit, but the women know she’s there.
A man from season 3 Niles Jesper (Tony Nikolakopoulos) is important in season 4, although we only see him once. He will testify against Joan Ferguson in her murder, arson, attempted murder and whatever-else-anyone-thinks-of trial. Much of Ferguson’s manipulations in season 4 are aimed at getting rid of him, since “dead men tell no tales.” Her first step is to get herself out of isolation.
Kaz gives Bea plenty of opposition through the season, but Joan Ferguson is the real evil in the story. Ferguson is the antagonist the hero must conquer. Bea worked hard at it last season, but Ferguson lived to orchestrate more disasters.
This season is part love story, part battle between good and evil. New inmate Allie Novak (Kate Jenkinson) is dispatched by Kaz to call Bea to a meeting. It isn’t exactly a meet-cute from a romantic comedy, but Bea and Allie do exchange the first of many long looks.
We find out in the first episode, “First Blood,” that Bea is haunted and troubled. She has two deaths on her conscience. She cuts her thigh to find relief.
When Ferguson enters the general population she goes into Kaz’s unit. Maxine (Socratis Otto) urges Bea to take advantage of the fact that Allie appears attracted to Bea to find out what Kaz is doing. Bea cautiously befriends Allie.
All the inmates hate Ferguson. Lucy and her crew gang rape her with a broom handle. She’s a bloody mess. Rape is Kaz’s hot button. She feels sorry for Ferguson and promises to protect her. Kaz and Allie take care of Ferguson, who blames Will Jackson for the rape. Allie is less influenced by Ferguson than Kaz, who gets completely caught up in Ferguson’s campaign of misdirection and manipulation.
Kaz gets her crew to attack Jackson. Allie tells Bea about it. Bea warns him. The women want her punished for warning him, so she attacks Jackson herself, but less harmfully. That way she must be sent to the slot (isolation).
Drugs were planted in Allie’s cell, so she gets sent to the slot. Convenient that, with Bea already there. They talk for hours through a vent: tell each other life stories, make up silly rap songs and learn to like each other.
In episode 5, a new officer Jake Steward (Bernard Curry) comes on board. He’s fascinated by Ferguson, starts a successful campaign to get in Vera’s pants, befriends Jackson in hopes of getting money from him, and brings in drugs for Tina (Charli Tjoe) to distribute.
Ferguson turns Doreen (Shareena Clanton) and Boomer (Katrina Milosevic) against Bea, along with anyone else she can get close enough to talk to. Amazing the damage Ferguson can do with just a few words.
Bea is besieged by complaints about her performance as top dog. She must push back constantly. It’s an exhausting responsibility. Bea cuts again, just as Allie comes in and sees it. Bea’s had to be so tough since entering Wentworth. She’s never let anyone see her being vulnerable. But she lets Allie see her cry, lets Allie hold her hand. It’s a tender moment that bonds the relationship they began through the air vent.
Bea is asked to testify against Ferguson at her trial in support of the testimony by Niles Jesper. She agrees on the condition that the women get conjugal visits, which they have been clamoring for. Bea also wants Ferguson put back in isolation, which doesn’t happen.
Bea and Allie grow closer. Allie brings Bea vitamin E for her scars, gives her extra food in the cafeteria line. They smile and grin a lot, even though Bea insists to Allie that she’s not gay.
Ferguson stirs up so much discontent with Bea that a loud argument in the cafeteria leads to the idea that there should be a vote on whether or not to continue to have a top dog. The prison officers want a top dog to help control the women. Vera rigs the vote so Bea stays on.
Bea finds herself drawing Allie’s portrait and finally faces the fact that she’s thinking about Allie all the time, that she has feelings for her. Everyone else has noticed how distracted she is. She’s ignored the needs and requests of the women, shirked her top dog duties.
Allie wants to leave Kaz’s crew. Bea says not to – everyone she cares about ends up dead. After that admission, Allie kisses Bea. That’s the good news. The bad news is Ferguson is listening to this sweet first kiss.
Ferguson tells Kaz Niles Jesper is a serial rapist. She want the Red Right Hand people on the outside to kill him. If Kaz does this for her, she will kill Bea Smith and all their problems will be over.
It’s episode 8, “Plan Bea,” and Bea and Allie have advanced to making out in the kitchen storage closet. Allie doesn’t rush Bea, doesn’t push. Allie is kind and patient with Bea’s slow progress in opening her heart and mind to the idea of having feelings for a woman.
When Ferguson learns they are meeting in the closet every afternoon, she implements a plan to kill Bea.
Ferguson roofies Bea just before Bea is meant to meet Allie in the kitchen. Kaz creates a distraction and makes Allie go with her, leaving Bea waiting. Ferguson puts the drugged and inert Bea head first into the kitchen sink. At the same time, Mr. Jackson plays Kaz a recording of Ferguson turning her in to the police as the head of Red Right Hand, an action that led to her recent 12 year sentence. Kaz leaps up and runs to the kitchen, Allie right behind her. Kaz attacks Ferguson and puts her hand in the deep fat fryer. Allie pulls Bea from the water and starts CPR. Mr. Jackson takes over CPR and Bea goes to the hospital. Not dead.
The Lover’s Quarrel
When Bea wakes up, she thinks Allie set her up, lulled her into meeting in the kitchen storage closet so Ferguson could get to her. Of course, neither Bea nor Kaz or anyone else will tell the guards what really happened, although they can guess.
Because of Ferguson’s severe burns, she’s put in medical isolation. That’s the good news. The bad news is Steward is in charge of watching her and he needs $90,000 because of his drug dealings. Ferguson has lots of money, by the way.
Bridget Westfall (Libby Tanner), the prison counselor, sees Bea’s depression and knows Bea has a broken heart. Bridget enlists her girlfriend and former top dog Franky Doyle (Nicole Da Silva) to visit the prison and have some girl talk with Bea. It’s episode 9. We haven’t seen Franky since episode 2, but she’s going to be crucial later.
There’s a foreshadowing conversation with Franky in which Bea explains how peaceful she felt when she was drowning, how she heard her daughter Debbie calling to her. Franky makes light of everything, and wants to know what base Bea and Allie got to.
Allie is so upset over Bea being angry with her she starts using drugs again. She is wrecked. A real mess. Bea won’t take care of her, she leaves her to Kaz.
Since Ferguson’s plan to kill Bea didn’t work, she’s manipulating Shayne Butler (Hunter Page-Lochard), the 17 year old son of Jiana – the inmate she went cuckoo over. If Red Right Hand won’t kill Jesper, Shayne may.
Guess who Shayne’s paralegal is on the outside? Franky Doyle. Franky’s good at her job, too. For a while it’s a battle between the cool and tatted Franky Doyle and his Auntie Joan, AKA “Cruella de Vil,” inside Shayne’s head.
Even doped out of her mind, Allie keeps insisting to Bea that she didn’t have anything to do with the murder attempt. She tells Bea she loves her.
Mr. Jackson confirms that Allie was there helping when he arrived. Bea accepts this truth and forgives Allie. She gets Allie moved to her unit and stays with her through detox. The struggle Allie goes through prompts Liz (Celia Ireland) to comment that it sounds like “The Exorcist” in the cell.
When Allie is finally cleaned out and sleeping peacefully, Bea climbs into bed next to her and cuddles her as she sleeps.
No more closet for Bea. She lays claim to Allie in public ways. She puts her arm around Allie’s neck in the hallways. They lie in the grass in the yard and see seahorses in the clouds. They draw hearts around their names on a wall. It’s sweet, young love.
All around them, hell swirls. Bea told Vera where Tina’s drugs were hidden, which means Steward isn’t getting the money he needs to pay his suppliers.
Because Bea ratted on Tina, she cannot be top dog any longer. She says “I’m done.” She’s relieved to be finished with it.
By now it’s the end of episode 11, “Eleventh Hour.” One episode left. Bea and Allie have full-blown, naked sex for the first time. Bea is a bit astonished by how powerful it is for her. For Allie, it’s about the pleasure it gives her to make Bea feel loved.
Allie wakes first in the morning and goes to the showers alone.
Ferguson should be locked in medical. But she isn’t because she bribed the guard Miles (Jacqueline Brennan). She catches Allie alone in the shower and administers a massive shot of heroin.
Bea wakes alone and heads to the shower. She finds Allie posed as if she’d deliberately taken an overdose. Bea presses the panic button (a continuing symbol in season 4). Allie is taken to the hospital.
Bea thinks Kaz hurt Allie and attacks her. Kaz convinces her she loves Allie, too. They both go to medical after the fight. Bea has to stay overnight because of a concussion.
It’s the day of Ferguson’s trial, the day the entire season built toward. Ferguson passes Bea in medical as she is leaving for her trial. Ferguson comments that Allie was “collateral damage.” Bea realizes Ferguson gave Allie the hot shot and that she has something planned to happen on the outside.
Many things happen very fast now. Bea borrows a phone from Jackson which she uses to send Franky after Shayne before he kills Jesper. Shayne almost kills Jesper – almost kills Franky, too – but ultimately Franky’s straight talk and her coolness factor win him over.
But Shayne wasn’t Ferguson’s only play. Steward, who is suddenly $90,000 better off because of a deal with Ferguson, puts on a ski mask, stops the van with Jesper in it, and shoots him. Then he burns up the van.
Maxine is a regular at the hospital this season because she has breast cancer. During these climactic moments, Maxine is beside Allie in the hospital. Maxine gets Bea on the phone.
Maxine tells Bea that Allie can’t breathe on her own and the doctors can’t do anything more for her. Maxine holds the phone to Allie’s ear. Bea says to her, “You just fly, you’ll be free. You go find Debbie and you wait for me.” Bea thinks Allie is gone.
Ferguson comes back from her trip to court with the charges dropped for lack of witnesses. She’s not doing a good job of containing her evil smugness.
Bea makes a deal with Vera to get a murder confession about Allie from Ferguson. She tells Vera she’ll record it. She’s walking to that assignation and passes the cafeteria, where a celebration of Kaz as new top dog is underway. Bea says, “Don’t let ’em down.” Kaz promises.
Bea takes a long look at Liz, Doreen, Boomer, and even the new member of her unit Sonia (Sigrid Thornton) as if saying goodbye.
The Fatal Choice
Ferguson steps outside thinking she’s been released from prison. She is surprised to find herself alone with Bea. Bea brandishes, not a recording device, but a screwdriver. Bea rushes Ferguson, who quickly grabs the screwdriver away. Bea stares at Ferguson. We see the thoughts behind Bea’s eyes – 40 more years in this place without Allie vs. finally bringing down the evil. In my head I hear Lucinda Williams singing, “Open up the doors of heaven, let me in.” Bea runs toward Ferguson and rams the screwdriver in Ferguson’s hand into her own gut.
Ferguson says, “You want it?” and stabs her several more times in a frenzy that looks sexual. Bea says, “I win,” and falls to the ground.
Vera and Jackson and others rush out. They flutter around Bea, grab Ferguson. But Bea looks up at the sky, at clouds shaped like seahorses. Her heart stops just as Allie is revived by a defibrillator. Allie’s eyes open as Bea’s extinguish.
This is Wentworth’s strongest season yet. Brilliant in ways I haven’t even touched upon.
The heroine’s journey in this tale is one of love and sacrifice, played out on an epic stage where the battle to defeat evil becomes ever more dangerous until the love story reaches a tragic end.
Another damn tragic ending. The hero does not return from her trials and adventures to bring good to those she saved. Love does not conquer all. The heroine dies with a gesture that both defeats evil and destroys her own chance for happiness. Chalk up one more death in the long line of kill-the-lesbian tropes. One night of happiness is all you’re allowed.
Yes, Bea is really dead, according to the producers. Articles here, here, and here confirmed it. Unless they pull an Orphan Black and bring Bea in as a surprise in season 5, her story is over. Danielle Cormack herself posted on Instagram about it, referring to Bea’s nickname Red.
Are the producers of Wentworth aware of all the uproar over lesbian deaths in popular media in the last few months? If they are, it seems to me they should have had Bea fall in love with a man – not a woman. On the other hand, doing it this way sets up Kaz and Allie for season 5. With Franky not around as much, someone has to step up as the lead character we all root for. I’m not sure Kaz can be that person – she’s too easily manipulated. But Allie could.
Farewell, Bea. 26.7.16. Danielle Cormack, you are awesome. Sorry you had to sacrifice yourself on the altar of love. What a bum deal.
My fervent hope is that Ferguson finally gets what’s coming to her. If she does, who will fill the role of antagonist in season 5? Pamela Rabe has been superb as Ferguson. Can someone else equal that depth of evil? Is a heroine building who will lead another hero’s journey inside the walls of Wentworth Prison? Can there ever be another heroine as strong, courageous and selfless as Bea Smith?
Wentworth images ©Foxtel/Wentworth.