Fans of Wentworth (who had not seen the original series) were shocked when Season 5 revealed that Bea Smith (Danielle Cormack) did indeed die at the end of Season 4. Many, like myself, believed that the Season 4 cliffhanger would result in a miraculous recovery in the first episode of Season 5. This, of course, did not happen.
Bea Smith has felt like the central character of Wentworth since Season 1. This may be in part to the fact that Netflix and IMDB bill the show as: “Bea Smith is locked up while awaiting trial for the alleged attempted murder of her husband and must learn how life works in prison.” This summary is true for Season 1; however, many characters become pivotal during Season 1+. It did feel like Bea’s character was being wrapped up toward the end of Season 4 – particularly giving up as top dog and having an uncharacteristic lesbian relationship. Her death at the hands of Ferguson was a fitting soliloquy that mimicked Bea’s killing of Jacks (Kris McQuade).
Season 5’s major star is Franky Doyle (Nicole da Silva). The intelligent Franky continues to find herself in the midst of poor choices and the idea that only she can find the truth. That aside, it is interesting to see the juxtaposition of the person Franky was as a free person, to transitioning back into Wentworth. Her issues of control and criminal craftiness have taken a toll on the relationships she cultivated when released. Franky’s story has always been a part of the major themes of Wentworth, and one wonders whether or not the focus of the show is indeed on her.
Peripheral characters such as Doreen (Shareena Clanton), Liz Birdsworth (Celia Ireland), and Kaz Proctor (Tammy Macintosh) have become less involved in the major plot – with the exception of Liz’s dealings with Sonia Stevens (Sigrid Thornton) – which is less interesting than expected. The development of Ferguson’s (Pamela Rabe) character, or moreover the lack of, has also left viewers disappointed. The points of interest around Ferguson revolve around her forming her own crew. One hopes, that the season finale will bring together a stronger storyline for Season 6 (if one happens).
Season 5 of Wentworth has felt somewhat empty with the loss of Bea Smith. This void left the opportunity for additional characters to take up this space. Intrigue surrounding Vera’s (Kate Atkinson) newest in-house love interest Jake Stewart (Bernard Curry), is simply more “who’s bringing in the drugs” nonsense that has already been dealt with several times in the series. Even the tension between Jake and Will Jackson (Robbie Magasiva) seems like a rehash of the relationship between Will and Fletch (Aaron Jeffery). Does the end of Bea Smith signify the end of Wentworth?