(This recap was originally published on June 30, 2016)
Writing about an episode like this is a little like being a sculptor staring down a perfect block of marble. I hesitate to make the first chip, to search for a shape hidden in the stone, because it is not possible to improve upon something already so well made.
So let’s start with the most obvious and straightforward observation, which is that the eighth episode of the fourth season of Wentworth is one of the best episodes of television any of us will ever see. But as I try to defend that statement, I reach the outer limits of my abilities as a critic, since my feelings about it are based not so much on a logical, critical framework, but the way this episode made me feel. And for the record, the way it made me feel was that I was having two distinct styles of a heart attack: one of pleasure, and one of terror.
So we begin again with Bea and Allie. My feelings about this couple seem to be a bottomless well; I can pour out page after page about the way it makes me feel to see them together, and I still find new facets to marvel at. And oh lord, this episode gives us so much of them, which in itself is bewildering, since we are used to subsisting for weeks at a time on subtext, meaningful glances, and the occasional chaste kiss. There is none of that here, though, and that is because Bea Smith is so fully and completely transported by this stunning new thing happening in her chest. She is doing that thing where she is like, “I can’t stop smiling. Why can’t I stop smiling? It’s actually hurting my face at this point, and yet I just honestly cannot get this grin off my face.” Even her surroundings are changed. The limp, soggy broccoli in the cafeteria glows with light reflected off Allie’s face.
Bea is also experiencing the second adolescence that comes with registering your attraction to a woman for the first time, and which manifests as extreme awkwardness and a desire to do anything at all to be kissing her. So, at a designated time she follows Allie into the equipment room of the kitchen and allowing this new part of herself to take its first, tentative steps.
As steps go, they are indeed very tentative, because Bea has to unlearn all the fear and sorrow she had associated with sex ever since Harry. Even without that history of abuse, Bea’s hormones are flooding her at that level at which joy is nearly indistinguishable from terror. So even boob stuff is off-limits at first. And while Allie is commendably patient with her, she is clearly wrestling down a volcanic desire, with all the eagerness of everyone who has ever been another woman’s first woman. She just cannot wait to show Bea how good it could be. But wait she does, even as Joan Ferguson stands outside their little closet, realizing that, at last, she has found the weak point that will destroy Bea.