Any loyal Wentworth fan will tell you that Bea Smith is a force to be reckoned with. Over the show’s four season run, she’s proven herself to be a great leader who is both sensitive to the world around her and unrelenting in her quest for justice. She’s smart, loyal, and operates without fear. She’s someone who can both be a pillar of strength and fall prey to her own vulnerability.
Nothing stops Bea from pushing her own narrative forward. From the outset of her time as a prisoner at Wentworth, she’s the underdog we all want to root for. She’s a wife, a mother, a survivor of domestic abuse. She’s fresh blood surrounded by a pack of wolves waiting for their opportunity to pounce; and we wince each time she’s steered in the wrong direction. But she never lets the stark realities of prison life drive her completely off course.
In many ways, Bea is like all of us: an ordinary person tasked with overcoming extraordinary challenges. And in working through those challenges, she lets the world know that she’s a total badass. Here’s why:
1. She’s a fearless, natural-born leader who refuses to stand down
Even at the beginning of Bea’s journey, when she’s still learning how to navigate prison life, it’s clear there’s a fire within her that refuses to be snuffed out. It’s this fire that propels her into murderous action against her abusive husband Harry and prompts her to defy resident Top Dog Jacs Holt. Right from the start, Bea shows us and everyone around her that she won’t take anything lying down.
2. At her core, she’s a courageous champion of women
One of Bea’s overarching goals is to make sure she’s always doing right by the women around her. Not only does she encourage their reform, but she fights for them to have everything they need to achieve it. Once she claims her rightful place as Top Dog, she makes it her personal mission to be a (mostly) positive advocate for her fellow Wentworth inmates.
3. As Top Dog, Bea always puts the needs of others before her own
Bea will do just about anything for those closest to her, even if it means putting a target on her own back. Time and time again, Bea sticks her neck out for everyone she’s vowed to protect. She does it for Allie, Maxine, Franky, Doreen, and countless others. And it’s this quality that makes her the perfect candidate to take command over the prison.
4. She’s not afraid to question herself or confront her own weaknesses
Rare is the occasion when Bea allows her power to come before her conscience. And in those moments when she does, she struggles to accept that part of herself. In spite of all the terrible things Bea does to survive in prison, what ultimately humanizes her is her ability to question her own actions and motivations. Every step of the way, she’s asking herself whether she’s making the right decisions and doing what’s best for herself and everyone around her.
5. Through her own personal pain and tragedy, she fights to feel empowered
Bea never lets the fact that she’s in prison stop her from having power over her own experiences. Instead, she keeps her wits about her and finds empowerment in bringing everyone who’s crossed her to justice. Whether she’s going toe-to-toe with Jacs Holt, tracking down and killing Brayden Holt, or dismantling the formidable Joan Ferguson, Bea always finds a way to dole out the perfect punishment.
6. Bea uses her time in prison as a conduit for self-discovery
Almost as soon as we meet Bea Smith, we understand that she isn’t just a battered housewife, or a worrisome mother, or a good woman gone bad. No, in fact, she’s a woman of razor sharp intelligence with an inner strength that she’s only just beginning to uncover. And rather than sitting idly in her prison cell, she works tirelessly to shape herself into the strong-willed and courageous person she was always destined to be.
7. Above all else, Bea is a survivor.
Bea has faced some of the most devastating things any one person can imagine: domestic abuse, the death of a child, a lifetime prison sentence, the loss of her first true love. But no matter how dire the circumstance, Bea is always willing to face her own demons and take on even the most daunting of challenges. What keeps so many fans watching is that we know Bea is going to overcome. And she always does with a strength and fortitude we covet and admire.
American audiences can catch Wentworth on Netflix. For information about where to watch Wentworth in your part of the world, check your local listings.
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Tara Martinez is a New York-based writer with a passion for pop culture and a penchant for analysis. She frequently covers film, television, and representations of women in the media.