Yes, you read that correctly. This guy is hooked on Wentworth, the Australian women’s prison TV series on Netflix. Admittedly, this was something that started out as something Mrs. Buckler watched while I played video games, read a book, etc. Even though I was otherwise occupied, I couldn’t help but hear what was going on in the show. Full disclosure, I was hooked within a few episodes of Wentworth, season one. Well, five years later, I binge watched Wentworth, season six right alongside Mrs. Buckler. So, what exactly got me hooked on this TV series that typically appeals to women? In short, everything!
Before I get into why I like this Netflix series, let me tell you about it. Wentworth is a women’s prison drama that’ set and filmed in Australia. It’s first season was initially broadcast May 1, 2013 on SoHo, an Australian cable and satellite channel. It’s a modern-day re-imagining of Prisoner, an Australian soap opera set in a women’s prison. That show ran from 1979-1986. And, just to get this out of the way, I don’t watch Wentworth for the typical reasons that some men might be interested in women’s prison stories! With that out of the way, let’s take a closer look at this engaging Australian TV series.
Here’s a trailer for Wentworth’s season six, which Mrs. Buckler and I just binge watched:
Wentworth is Many Great Stories in One
There’s not one, overarching reason why I got hooked on Wentworth. I was drawn to this show for a variety of reasons, and all of them had to do with the elements of what makes a good TV series. The first season started out on a trope many viewers might find familiar: a middle-class woman suddenly finds herself in the brutal world of a women’s prison. She’s a fish out of water who’s desperately trying to fend off the sharks who descend upon her. Sounds a lot like Orange is the New Black, right? Perhaps, but the similarities end there.
In Wentworth, that fish is Bea Smith (Danielle Cormack). It didn’t take long for me to develop sympathy for Bea and the situation she was in. A woman in an abusive marriage, Bea is arrested and sent to prison for the attempted murder of her abusive husband, Harry. I went from wondering if poor Bea was going to survive her brutal environment to cheering her on as she fought her way up the prison hierarchy to became Wentworth’s “top dog.”
While Bea’s story is compelling, she’s not the only interesting person in the Wentworth universe. Each character – prisoners and guards – has their own demons to contend with. Their pains and problems are more a prison to each of them than the cinder block walls and iron bars of Wentworth. Because it’s a TV series, each character’s arc has enough time to play out and develop. It’s hard to become engrossed into everyone’s story, and it’s rather easy for viewers to pick their favorites among these tortured souls.
Here are six more reasons why I fell in love with Wentworth:
Since this an Australian TV series, I don’t recognize any of the actors and actresses in it. This allowed me (and other American viewers) to enjoy the work of these actors without prejudging them from previous roles. It should give a fresh viewing for most American audiences.
Wentworth does a great job of illustrating how similar the prison staff is to the women they guard and monitor each day. Sometimes, the only difference between the two groups is the fact that the guards haven’t been caught for the crimes they’ve committed. This unstable situation goes a long way to explain why things at Wentworth are as bad as they are.
Unlike Orange is the New Black, this is NOT a comedy. It’s not a soap opera either. Wentworth is a serious drama that deals in life and death stakes. Slight spoiler: Be prepared to see some of beloved Wentworth characters meet a horrible and tragic demise. For a TV series, it doesn’t get more real than that, and that’s what I like about it.
This series isn’t completely predictable. Yes, there are some surprises, and that’s what makes it interesting. If you’ve watched a lot of TV series like I have, you’ll appreciate this aspect of Wentworth. Nothing is more frustrating than watching a plot unfold only to know exactly where it’s going, how the character(s) will respond, and how it ends. Don’t worry, all the twists and surprises are believable within the context of the series.
Much of the prison scenes are shot through a filter that puts a slight grayish-blue cast to the scene. This does a good job of visually conveying the sense of despair that pervades every square inch of that horrible prison. This is contrasted by the brightness of the outside world, which is usually experienced by characters who are fortunate enough to get out of Wentworth and stay away from it.
In addition to all these reasons, Wentworth is just one of those series that pulls you into its world. Although it’s scary, deadly, and filled with enemies, it can also feel almost comfortable at times. You know the characters and what they struggle with, and you want to see them succeed. (Some of them, anyway.) There’s no better way to explain it than that.
Wentworth’s Villains Will Drive You Nuts
I mentioned that nearly every character in Wentworth has his or her demons. Well, some of the characters are demons… or the closest thing to it in human skins, anyway. These are Wentworth’s villains, and they are played well by the actors and actresses who portray these characters. Seeing a movie villain succeed is one thing that drives me up a wall, and the series offers plenty of this. It’s a show set in a prison, after all.
Like Netflix’s Ozark, Wentworth offers a cornucopia of villainous characters. Each has his/her own agenda and intended victims. Whether it’s a leader of a prison gang, a lone manipulative psychopath, or a sadistic and cruel warden, the bad guys and gals of Wentworth often have successful runs. They also leave plenty of carnage in their wakes. These are the characters you love to hate, and there are plenty of them in Wentworth. As much as they drive me crazy, they do help make this series worth watching.
Who Should Watch Wentworth?
Anyone who’s looking for an engaging TV series, that’s who! This means men as well as women. If you’re thinking about checking it out, you’ll have six seasons to catch up on. It shouldn’t take you long, thanks to the magic of bingewatching. You might sit down to “watch one episode,” but that quickly turns into “just one more.” It’s hard to stop watching after those cliffhanger endings! If you start watching Wentworth, you’ll quickly find yourself sucked into this pattern until you come to the end of season six. Wentworth is one of many Netflix original series waiting for you to watch them. If you’re looking for something new to bingewatch, this could be it!