Is there a void in your heart waiting to be filled by the fourth season of the much-loved Orange Is The New Black, streaming June 17th on Netflix? Well I have the perfect solution for you! Take that time to catch up on another show found on Netflix with an all-female prison setting, an intelligently-written crime thriller called Wentworth. An Australian series set to return for its fourth season at some point in 2016 is filled with even more twisted drama than the Litchfield Penitentiary.
Just as Orange follows Piper Chapman’s (Taylor Schilling) journey into federal prison for trafficking drug money across borders ten years prior, Wentworth starts with the focus on one main character Bea Smith (Danielle Cormack), who goes to prison on charges of attempted murder. However, the audience soon learns her husband was abusive and Bea was only trying to escape a nightmare.
Though their initial plot lines differ, each show rolls into one complicated mess of drugs, secrets and mind game trickery simply to make it out of the Litchfield and Wentworth Prisons alive. Both Chapman and Smith quickly learn the system of how prison works, no longer allowing the other women to take advantage of them. With a similarly diverse cast, each character’s background story is shown through flashbacks evoking sympathy from viewers.
To lay some parallels out, there is Doreen (Shareena Clanton) who would take the place of Dayanara, the pregnant inmate. Next, there are the emotionally sensitive but potentially-violent comedic roles, Suzanne ”Crazy Eyes” in OITNB, and Sue “Boomer” (Katrina Milosevic) in Wentworth. Maxine (Socratis Otto) takes the place of Sophia, both trans females, while the crooked corrections officers make deals with inmates and perpetuate the vicious cycle of incarcerated substance abuse. Franky (Nicole da Silva) mirrors Nicky (even the names are close), the sexually charged, drug-dealing character who finds a warm place in viewers’ hearts once their pasts are revealed.
Although certain aspects of storylines may align in both stories, each one is unique in its own way. Orange Is The New Black takes on a comical role in portraying life inside, with its moments of drama. Meanwhile Wentworth takes on a much more dramatic and intense representation of prison, only with rare hints of comical relief. Yes, the shipping of Alex and Piper melts our hearts, and the constant unfolding of intertwined events keeps us watching. However, Wentworth will scare anyone who thinks Orange makes prison look like a pie-throwing playground. While Orange Is The New Black brings light to this same subject, Wentworth’s cinematic techniques and cold aura draws the audience in for different, possibly more clever, reasons.
Since Season One of Wentworth was released a month earlier than OITNB in 2013, perhaps it was Jenji Kohan who took notes, and rightly so. Wentworth wins with its original, thematic score, and commonly used slow motion effects to create suspense, though some may come to the Kohan’s defense. The Australian series is a much more realistic depiction of the twisted and corrupt business prisoners not only partake in but also fall victim to.