Channel 5 premiered the first episode of the second series of Australian prison drama Wentworth Prison last night, and after such a fantastic first outing many wondered whether it would be able to match up.
Based on the events and characters included in the popular Prisoner Cell Block H series, it takes influence and inspiration from some of the grittiest drama ever to hit the screen and breathes a whole new life into the franchise.
Pamela Rabe joins the cast this series as Joan Ferguson - someone who Prisoner fans will recall as 'The Freak'. She plays the role perfectly. Her need for everything to be in proper order will come at any cost, and after offering her services to new Top Dog Franky Doyle and being rejected, she's on the look out for somebody else to keep her in the loop. Not a lady to be crossed, we won't be getting through this series without Ferguson getting her hands dirty.
Franky was one of the more likeable characters last series as she went up against evil tyrant Jacqueline Holt, but this time round she has a rougher edge. She's lost the Governor she was extremely close to and doesn't want to lose her grip on the control she now has over her fellow inmates. There's a glimmer of hope for Franky, but her love of taking charge could isolate her going forward.
Sedatives are keeping Bea Smith quiet after she was sentenced to 12 years for manslaughter, and she's living in a state of euphoria, seeing her daughter in visions that are cut short when Ferguson decides she should go cold turkey and 'rejoin the land of the living'. Finally giving her drug addiction a kick, she has a new mission - 'kill the f**ker' - referring to Brayden Holt, Jacqueline's son and the boy responsible for her daughter Debbie's death.
Make-up on this show is incredible. It turns the likes of the very beautiful Danielle Cormack and Katrina Milosevic into extremely different people with tremendous effect. It's fascinating to watch and when coupled with the stellar acting, things are taken to a whole new level.
Thankfully this opening episode remains as abrasive and high-drama ever, with some small humour laced throughout to lift the mood slightly whenever needed.
A sparkling and full-on return to form, Wentworth Prison shows no signs of selling out due to success, instead sticking to a formula that worked for it the first time round and driving it even further.
Wentworth Prison continues Wednesdays, 10pm on Channel 5.