Back in the late 1970s a new no holds barred Aussie drama about formidable women inmates called Prisoner began. It ran for 692 episodes over 8 years. It was hard hitting and gained a cult like status not only in Australia but throughout the world. I still remember watching it in my youth and being fascinated by the world of ‘The Freak’ and Bea Smith.
I was therefore a little uncertain when I heard that there was talk about re-inventing a modern take on Prisoner, called Wentworth. I held my breath but am relieved to report that three episodes in I am both reassured and hooked. Some of the original inmates from Prisoner have been reintroduced along with a host of new characters.
The cast is dominated by strong, talented women playing the inmates. Including, but not limited to, Danielle Cormack as Bea Smith (the new girl on the block), the multi-faceted Nicole da Silva who plays the tough but tormented Franky Doyle and the veteran Kris McQuade as Jacs Holt, the ‘top dog’ doing everything possible to stay in power. The inmates are not the entire series however and other standouts so far have been Robbie Magasiva as Corrections Officer Will Jackson who is dealing with a personal tragedy, Georgia Flood as Bea’s distressed daughter and Leeanna Walsman as the ambitious and morally ambivalent Prisoner Advocate Erica Davidson.
The opening episodes have spent time focusing on particular characters and slowly revealing their back story. I have been very impressed by the writing; the depth and complexity given to each character and their storylines. In three episodes we have: lost a character whom I assumed would be a regular, been witness to a web of lies, intimidation, manipulation and a couple of plot twists which have taken me by complete surprise. With seven episodes remaining in season one I am looking forward to the rest of the journey. With such an impressive cast and the gifted Peter McTighe (Neighbours, East Enders, and the up coming mini-series Return to Eden) as head writer my hope is that we will be watching and talking about the women of Wentworth for years to come.