Wentworth Review: A Gritty Prison Drama From Down Under

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There’s no denying that Netflix has some fantastic original content, House of Cards and Orange is the New Black definitely come to mind. But they’ve also picked up some great shows that you might just be missing as they aren’t advertised that well or only show up in your interest lists if you watch the “right” content. Our Wentworth review takes a quick spoiler-free look at arguably one of the best shows you can binge on Netflix right now.

Danielle Cormack as Bea Smith, an abused woman awaiting trial for attempting to murder her husband.

Wentworth isn’t a new show, it debuted back in 2013 and is a remake of the show Prisoner: Cell Block H which ran from 1979-1986. Wentworth is now three seasons in and fortunately you can catch all three seasons on Netflix, with the fourth season airing starting in April on Foxtel’s SoHo channel in Australia. Unfortunately, there is no word when the fourth season will be making its way to Netflix. The show stars Danielle Cormack as Bea Smith, a woman who has had enough of her abusive relationship and as a result attempts to murder her husband. A first time offender, she is sent to Wentworth women’s prison while awaiting trial, and she quickly learns just how life works in prison.

Upon her arrival, she meets Franky Doyle (played by Nicole da Silva) and a host of other prisoners. Doyle is the current “top dog” in the prison and is embroiled in a power struggle with fellow inmate Jacs (played by Kris McQuade), and Smith must quickly fall in line under one of them or face the consequences. Over the three seasons, events both inside and outside the prison shape Smith into quite a different person from what she starts out as at the beginning of the first season. The show does an excellent job of setting up believable events through the various relationships between prisoners, guards, the guards and the prisoners, and the prisoner’s families.

Wentworth doesn’t sugar coat anything. Prison life can be harsh, and with prisoners connecting with guards and other people outside the prison, what you do as an inmate can — and does — have life changing consequences for those you love outside of prison, like family.

With characters including the lesbian alpha dog, a sadistic Governor — Australia’s version of a Warden, the imprisoned wife of a mob boss, the meek Deputy Governor, and of course Bea Smith as the abused woman who had enough, the dynamics are set up for twists and turns galore. Just when you think you have something figured out, another character throws something in the mix, or the story takes a turn for the better or worse. And the women are there for a variety of reasons, from violent assault to drunk driving causing death and everything in between — this is definitely not your group of white collar criminals.

Inmate Franky Doyle, played by Nicole da Silva, is Wentworth‘s “top dog.”

This is a prison show, but the focus isn’t solely on the prisoners and the prison guards get their fair share of screen time and story as well. The aforementioned Governor Joan Ferguson (played by Pamela Rabe) is tough, sadistic, and very complex — and it takes the better part of a season (if not more) to figure her out. Performances by Kate Atkinson as the meek Deputy Governor as she evolves, Robbie Magasiva as prison guard Will Jackson, and Aaron Jeffery as Matthew Fletcher are just as riveting and gripping as those by the cast of Cormack, Doyle, McQuade, and others cast as Wentworth’s inmates.

Unlike other shows that play it safe, the writers and producers aren’t afraid to introduce someone only to kill them off shortly after, or even kill off characters who have made it through an entire season. With a group of badass women vying for control of the prison — from the prisoners trying to take over or keep the top dog spot to the Governor trying to retain control over how the prison runs, whatever the current situation or confrontation in the show, you’ll be on the edge of your seat waiting for the current conflict to resolve itself one way or another.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my Orange is the New Black, but if you’re looking for a riveting, grittier, more realistic drama about prison life then Wentworth is by far the better series. Outstanding writing, acting, and delivery make this one of the best series — if not the best — you can binge watch on Netflix today. Trust me, we crushed all three seasons in a few short weeks and were left wanting more…


Have you been watching Wentworth on Netflix? Let us know what you think about it in the comments below, or on Google+, Twitter, or Facebook.

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Last Updated on March 16, 2016.


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