Bea's parting gift: The Freak's in the frame

Pamela Rabe stars as Joan Ferguson in a scene from season five of the TV series Wentworth.
Pamela Rabe stars as Joan Ferguson in a scene from season five of the TV series Wentworth. Contributed

REVENGE is sweet, but it's not always easy to come by in Wentworth.

Foxtel's award-winning drama, which is a contemporary reimagining of the iconic 80s series Prisoner, returns for an explosive fifth season on Tuesday.

The season premiere resumes in the days following Bea Smith's tragic death at the hands of Joan "The Freak" Ferguson, Wentworth's former Governor who suffered a spectacular fall from grace last season.

Emotional, psychological and professional shock waves pound Wentworth Correctional Centre's staff and inmates, who set up a memorial for Bea.

Pamela Rabe, who plays Joan, says the reverberations of Bea's death, for which she has seemingly successfully framed Joan, will be felt throughout the entire season.

"That's a big change to the culture for the prison of Wentworth and for the storylines that have been dominated by Bea's trajectory for the past four seasons," she tells The Guide.

"It helps you realise the world of this drama is a prison where life is precarious and the struggles are monumental, epic; they are life and death. Part of the reality of this narrative is some people are going to disappear."

Pamela Rabe in a scene from the season five premiere of the TV series Wentworth.
Pamela Rabe in a scene from the season five premiere of the TV series Wentworth. Contributed

In the wake of a stabbing death at her prison, Governor Vera Bennett is under fire from Corrective Services and, with Will on suspension, she is relying more on her deputy Jake, not realising he is Ferguson's puppet.

But even with Will in her pocket, Joan will struggle to clear her name.

"At the end of the previous season Joan was set to be free and, as she puts it, out of everybody's hair. As far as she's concerned she was framed," Pamela says.

"It's a great challenge for Joan to wrench control back into her court. Usually she's been the one manipulating truth to her own ends and suddenly she's having to try to dredge the truth up and show it to people to exonerate herself, which is tricky because nobody wants to believe her."

New top dog Kaz has a challenge to restore order among the traumatised inmates, but that won't be easy with so many women calling for Joan's blood.

"You don't put her in a corner... God knows Joan's a survivor," she says.

"She's got a life force and death force in her which is I think monstrous and wonderful, really. Quiet menace is her usual tactic but when push comes to shove, literally, she'll flex some muscles.

"She's a fabulous character. Look at me; I'm 57 years old and I'm out in the middle (of the yard as Joan) and ready to take on all comers. It's very entertaining writing and a great privilege to play."

When Wentworth returns, viewers will also see Boomer support Maxine as she continues her battle with breast cancer. And, on the outside, it falls to Franky to break the devastating news about Bea to Allie.

Season five of Wentworth premieres on Tuesday at 8.30pm on Showcase.

Topics:  foxtel television

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