It’s a risky move for a television show with such a staunch world wide fan base to kill off one of its main characters in an attempt to shake things up and introduce fresh blood and fresh stories yet oddly enough, despite the hark from fans claiming they’ll never watch again, the bold move usually works. Homeland, House of Cards, Grey’s Anatomy, M*A*S*H and 24 are just some of success stories where killing off main cast have worked in their favor.
Wentworth, is the most recent entry into this world with the murder of main player Bea Smith (Danielle Cormack) at the end of the shows fourth season and questions quickly began to flit about how this show could survive without the driving force that Wentworth sprouted itself from.
The tour de force that was Bea Smith and the story around her propelled the show from a generic Prisoner remake into a modern day drama-come-love-story with an incredibly dedicated fan base, devastated their “Queen Bea” had been mercilessly slaughtered at the hands of series villain Joan “The Freak” Ferguson (Pamela Rabe) leaving her girlfriend Allie Novak (Kate Jenkinson) to pick up the pieces and exact her revenge.
This death, so surprising and utterly shocking, risked putting Wentworth fans off-side with the belief the show was supposed to be a telling of Bea’s entrance into prison and her rise to ‘top dog’ status and while, in point, we did get that tale, the killing off of a main character is still none the less a gusty move for any show.
What we didn’t notice however was the growing importance and build-up of the other characters within the show, each getting story lines that played quietly along the Bea Smith/Joan Ferguson/Allie Novak main story arc, all ready to take effect when the time was needed.
These stories involving Vera’s (Kate Atkinson) battle to maintain control of her governor position, Franky Doyle (Nicole da Silva) struggling to develop a healthy life outside of the Wentworth with girlfriend Bridget Westfall (Libby Tanner), the buddy buddy snitch snitch relationship between Sonia Stevens (Sigrid Thornton) and Liz Birdsworth (Celia Ireland) and current top dog Kaz Proctor (Tammy MacIntosh) feeling her grip loosen on her top dog status were all slowly bubbling along and came to flourish and hit the ground with both guns blazing when the time was right.
This move not only forced us to move on after Bea’s death but implemented a newer relationship with these characters on the back of strong writing and even stronger acting from the cast, allowing the show to thrive in a time of viewer devastation. The fact that this death wasn’t used as a way to end an ugly love triangle or to move on a story arc that just wan’t working is even more testament to the writing on the show.
Bea’s death was personal but it was also a propeller, not just for the show but for each an every character within the world of Wentworth. Killing off a Queen Bea can be dangerous but when done right, breathes new life into an already fascinating and intense show.
Wentworth continues Tuesday nights on Showcase and will see production begin this month on season six.