You’ve heard of Orange is the New Black. But have you heard of Wentworth? Like its American counterpart, Wentworth delves into the hardships of life in a women’s correctional facility. It’s a dark and gritty drama that, with each episode, makes you question what you would (and wouldn’t) do to maintain your humanity under the extreme duress of prison life.
A re-imagining of the 1980’s Aussie TV show Prisoner, Wentworth is one of Australia’s most critically acclaimed programs. To date, it’s been viewed in over 90 countries and continues to gain momentum through distribution channels like Netflix.
If you haven’t yet jumped into the thought-provoking world of Wentworth, here are seven great reasons why you should:
1. It’s full of all the mystery and danger you’d expect in prison
Wentworth may be fiction, but it certainly doesn’t sugarcoat the realities of prison life. You won’t find any hint of comedy lurking in the shadows of Wentworth Correctional Centre. Instead, what you’ll find is danger, drugs, sex, manipulation, and betrayal. The characters play each other like chess pieces and it’s anyone’s guess where the game will take them.
2. The women are complex, real, and not always good
There’s this idea in film and television that women need to be good. Or soft. Or sensitive. Well, not on Wentworth. A large majority of Wentworth’s characters are women–and hardly any of them could be described as ‘good.’ They’re as real as women get. And we get to watch them navigate the complexities of prison with as much strength and resolve as their pre-prison lives have afforded them…which, in most cases, isn’t much.
3. LGBTQ issues are handled with care
Lesbian relationships are par for the course on Wentworth. And the show’s writers are exceptionally skilled at presenting these relationships with intelligence, depth, and emotional resonance. The show also features one of the first transgender characters to ever appear on Australian television, Maxine Conway (Socratis Otto), who steals hearts from the moment she steps into the prison.
4. It’s binge-watch material
Wentworth never assumes its audience is stupid which makes it one of the most expertly crafted shows available today. In exploring the emotional and psychological traumas that result from prison life, the show weaves a dizzyingly complex web. By the end of each episode, you’ll be on the edge of your seat trying to figure out what happens next.
5. The acting is top-notch
If you’re a film buff or TV enthusiast, it’s easy to think you’ve seen the best actors the world has to offer. Wentworth challenges that notion. The actors on this show, whether part of the main cast or simply making guest appearances, deliver high-caliber performances episode after episode. The show’s leads, Danielle Cormack and Pamela Rabe, are especially compelling.
6. The friendships are remarkably moving
Alliances play a crucial role on Wentworth. When the characters aren’t looking for personal gain, they’re investing their time in something we can all relate to: friendship. The ensemble of characters on Wentworth form a touching yet dysfunctional unit that make you think more deeply about what it means to call someone ‘family.’
7. The characters and storylines ignite passionate emotions
There’s no shortage of characters to love and hate on Wentworth, and the writers do an excellent job of keeping your eyes on the screen. One moment you’re rooting for a character, and the next you’re throwing your hands in the air and shouting expletives. It’s that intense.
American audiences can catch Wentworth on Netflix. For information about where to watch Wentworth in your part of the world, check your local listings.
GIF credit: wentworthwhipped.tumblr.com
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.