EPISODE THREE REVIEW
Erica Davidson: Erica's personality traits
continue to shift and coalesce all over the place. She comes across
as a Governor with little experience at times and yet we know from
Episode 2 that she has known Mum and Bea for many years and from a
future episode that she came straight into the Governor role without
having to work her way up the ranks ... therefore, Erica has been at
the job 'for years'. Yet in this episode she makes quite remarkable
decisions about Bea Smith being allowed back with the other women
when, according to the rules, she should have been put straight into
Isolation. Admittedly, it's Vera who pushes for this and given her
knowledge of the rule-books, she really should have known better.
Ultimately, though, it is Erica's decision and her bad choices in
this episode arguably lead to the death of Bill Jackson. Her gross
mismanagement continues well into the episode, though, as when it is
discovered that Meg is being held hostage by Franky and the other
women, her first concern is that this news isn't leaked to the
newspapers ("The newspapers will have a field day!"). Her first
priority, surely, should have been Meg's safety. Clearly, the staff
were incapable of handling this sort of situation and outside help
needed to be called for. But it wasn't and Erica ended up with the
newspapers getting hold of a far more damaging story: "Slaying in
Women's Prison - the paper headline seen in Episode 4).
Mum Brooks: Mum has definitely been let out on parole. A later episode sees her Parole Officer visiting Mum's daughter, so this seems definitely to be the case. The parole officer doesn't make an appearance in this episode, but Mum's solitude and eventual necessity to book herself into the local flea pit that passes for a lodging house makes me wonder about the man's competence. Mum probably didn't tell him the full facts, but she surely must have told him where she was living and why. If not, it seems to me that she would be taking a huge risk. The parole officer, as incompetent as he seems to be, could have chosen to drop in on his OAP charge at any point. If Mum did tell him, on the other hand, then he surely should be shot for allowing Mum to live in such drab and unhealthy lodgings. You would have thought he would have found another place for her to stay or been seen to help in other ways. Mum was fiercely proud, though, so it's hard to know what (if anything) she told her parole officer.
Meg Morris: Okay, you all knew this was coming, right. My episodic rant on the Queen of Good Deeds and I'm delighted not to disappoint. I know some of you feel I may have been a little hard on our Meg and perhaps I have been. But these reviews are literally an exercise on what I see onscreen and I'm just saying what I think on the moment. It's certainly not a reflection on Meg as, in truth, I neither like nor dislike the character. Anyway, back to the plot. Meg makes an effort to try to help Marty this episode and certainly scores points in this regard. Marty, however, makes it plain that he feels left out, a mere afterthought taking very much second place to the women inside. When Meg makes the mistake of calling Mum Brooks 'Mum', he lets rip: "You call her Mum? You know, the way you and dad talk, anyone would think these prisoners were your family!". And he's not far wrong in that respect. In many ways, they ARE family to Meg. Psychologically, at the very least, they represent her mother who, as we know, was in prison when Meg was born. The way Meg stares smilingly at Rosie when she is starting to go into labour hints at this. Meg comforts her and seems lost in her own thoughts. I think she is. I think she sees, in her mind's eye, her own mother in prison, giving birth to a fledgling Meg. It's only my take on the situation and the character, of course, but I really do believe that this is crucially what Meg is all about. She is obsessed because she wants to get close to the mother she never really knew. Later episodes reveal that Meg never really knew her mother but, understandably, she's fixated on the time her mother spent inside. She felt it broke her mother. The system destroyed her and it's for this reason and this reason alone that Meg started to work in the prison system: to make a difference, to help the women in the same way that she would have liked an officer to help her own mother. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, as obsessions go, it's a highly honourable one. But Meg has allowed the obsession to get in the way of her own life. It dominates to the exclusion of all else. She is clearly trying to put all that right in this episode, but it's still a case of 'too little, too late'. The damage done to Marty is already there and this will become clear in later episodes, including when the character is reprised by two separate actors. Just for completion, it's again confirmed that Meg is still having sleepless nights:
Greg: More problems with Meg?
Bill: No, though she's still not sleeping well.
Bea Smith: Bea has some of the best 'entrances' in Prisoner, in my opinion, but the one she makes in this episode - her first - goes down for me as one of her best. Vera has taken Franky outside to greet the paddy wagon. Franky has just taken over as Top Dog and is royally chuffed with herself. Nothing can possibly spoil her triumph. Or can it. The paddy wagon pulls up, the door is opened and Bea begins to step out (to the accompaniment of some splendid music that, as usual, is a complete mystery to me). Franky's face melts and the little girl that resides deep within emerges, a damaged child out of her depth. This is the worst thing that could happen to Franky and it shows in every facet of Carol Burns' splendid performance. For Bea's part, the disdainful smile that crosses her face is truly excellent fare for a long-term Bea fan like myself. The victorious Queen has returned to take her crown and the look on her face shows clearly that she is enjoying every moment. The great facial acting continues for both actresses. Franky and Bea confront each other for the merest of seconds in the Rec Room:
Franky: You're in my chair!
Bea: You've just been keeping it warm for me.
But it's when the bell rings for the women to leave the dining room that it all kicks off. The looks exchanged between Bea and Franky tell it all. The question of who is to be Top Dog is going to be handled here and now, nothing and no one is going to stand in the way. Interestingly, the women choose sides and it's fairly equal. Having been Top Dog for years (and especially with Franky being a consummate bully), I would have thought that Franky would have elicited very few followers. But you can't have much of a riot if one side is by themselves, I guess, so clearly the decision was taken to have both contenders to the throne command roughly equal support. The riot, when it comes, is over in a matter of seconds. Bea shows her Top Dog credentials by flattening Franky in a heartbeat and it's hard not to have at least a little sympathy for Franky when she is heaped up on the floor, her dreams of being a 'someone' disintegrated along with her pride and dignity. Bea, of course, is delightfully victorious: "All right, who's next?"
Does anyone else think it odd that the women would be allowed to have scissors in the laundry and that this wouldn't be kept track of? I mean, scissors (as later proved) could make a very effective weapon. At the very least, you'd think there would be an officer monitoring the women as they left the area, searching them to make sure they're not smuggling anything potentially sharp and dangerous out like, er, scissors for example. Again, if the security was better, perhaps Bill Jackson wouldn't have been stabbed to death?
Facts, Figures and other Episode Three Related Trivia
Chrissie Latham has worked in the kitchen, garden, laundry and the workshop. She is more interested in working with Bill, though.
Bill Jackson is rumoured to be having an affair with one of the women.
Marilyn Mason begins her affair with Eddie Cook.
Lyn Warner begins an hunger strike in a bid to prove her innocence.
Cliffhanger: Bill being stabbed by a mysterious assailant during a prison riot.
As a final observation, it occurs to me that Prisoner up to this point has all been about 'obsession'. A lot of the characters - main and satellite - seem preoccupied with a single purpose, usually to the exclusion of everything else. Bea, for example, has been obsessed with getting out of prison and executing her husband. It's the one thought that has dominated her thoughts for at least two years and it is clearly to the exclusion of everything else, as she's more than prepared to serve another life sentence. She is ONLY getting out to do the job and is more than prepared to come back to prison after the deed is done. Lyn is obsessed with proving her innocence (understandably so). Meg and Bill are obsessed with their work. Mrs. Bentley is clearly obsessed with making her husband love her, even burying their own son in a bid to do just that. Chrissie is obsessed with 'getting a man' as much of her dialogue indicates in this episode: "It's all right for you, ain't it? You've got a man to go home to!". She's so obsessed, in fact, that she brutally stabs to death the man who rejected her: Bill Jackson. She is even seen to have a cold half-smile on her face in the following episode when it's discovered that Bill has passed on. A pretty big obsession this one (although, to be fair, Chrissie does later tell Meg in a later episode that: "It was supposed to be you!". Lastly, Marilyn and Eddie begin a mutual obsession, continuing with their illicit affair even after it's been discovered by the authorities.