Was killing off Bea Smith a smart thing to do?
Hi everyone. As a bona-fide Franky fan, I naturally wish to respond to Tad’s email… especially since Tad isn’t the only one who has shared these concerns about Franky this season. Firstly, all of Tad's points are valid. I don’t deny any of his accusations about Franky’s actions. They represent understandable feelings and perspectives on this character. However, he is missing vital pieces of the puzzle: Franky’s psychology and history, and seasons 3. Most of the horrible things Tad points to are from seasons 1, 2, and 5 which is problematic to understanding her as a complete character. And it doesn’t allow for her internal journey and evolution, as seen through her many and varied relationships. Those relationships weren’t perfect, but it’s within the cracks we saw the truth. It’s true that when we first met Franky, she was a thug and a drug dealer. She was hard to like because of the things she did. Yet, her personality was, to some, attractive and even lovable. She used people, she manipulated people and situations, she was selfish. No question. However, there was her relationship with Erica in the first season, giving us another side to her: flirty, sassy, savvy, and most importantly, a person eager to improve herself. She may have been doing the work in part to impress Erica, but she was also genuine in her response to the attention, and to her legal studies. This part of her early story was the key to understanding her in seasons to come. She’s been a fan favorite not because of her actions, but because of who she is inside. She’s a very appealing character – charming, funny, intelligent, sexy, and underneath the bravado and selfishness, she cares. She has a big heart. We have empathy for her, because we can see behind her tough girl mask to a scared little girl just trying to protect herself. And in protecting herself, she’s surrounded by her “family”, her crew: Boomer, Liz, and Doreen (and later Bea and Maxine). Their collective bond has lasted 5 seasons, and not without serious difficulty. They’ve all had their share of blow outs, but they always end up forgiving one another. Like most families (blood or chosen), they love and support each other unconditionally. By season 3, she was no longer Top Dog, she finally cut her ties to the drugs, she had her law studies, and she had Bridget. This combination of things led to her redemption, and her release… all of which were presented in a logical, believable, meaningful way. To ignore this, and pass it off as Bridget’s horny manipulations is a disservice to both characters, and a bit insulting to those of us who saw so much more in Franky’s journey. Her redemption was fully presented on screen, laid out throughout seasons 1, 2, and 3. It did not come out of nowhere, nor was it unjustified. Franky’s psychology: She was abused and abandoned as a kid, with no one supporting or loving her, yet she survived. The problem is, survival isn’t living to one’s fullest potential. Her attitude, anger, and resentment grew over time. When Mike pushed one button too many, he got a pan of oil tossed on him. Being abused and abandoned by her parents, and who knows how many others throughout her foster care years and beyond, is no excuse, but it did set Franky up as a troubled person. Love, trust, hope, security, self-worth… foreign concepts to her. All she knew was fear, hate, anger, defense, mistrust, self-protection, and self-preservation. Once in prison, that self-preservation kicked into high gear. Do unto others, before they do unto you. Use or get used. That is the prison code of conduct. She learned her lessons quickly, and took the system for what it was: unfair, impersonal, manipulative, and unrelenting. The Franky we met in season 1 had been there a while, and knew how to work the system. She had her sights on Top Dog, not because she’s a natural leader, or cares about the women, but like all Top Dog’s before her, the position held security and safety through control… or so she thought. What she learned in season 2, is that being Top Dog is far from being safe. It makes you a target. And it forced her to do things she clearly was not comfortable doing. How many times did we see her in private moments cringing or crying after inflicting some horrible shit on someone. Why did she “use” Kim like she did? To balance out the horror – find comfort, pleasure, release the negative energy that was drowning her. Without someone like Erica to help her focus on something positive, she was left with her base instincts: A wild animal, caged up with no way out. Her aggression, her humor, her confrontational nature, her anger and violence, sex… It’s all she had to protect herself and keep from going crazy. Watching her throughout season 2 was deeply painful and moving to me. Her soul was slowly being eaten away, taking her to darker and darker places. Ferguson took advantage of this vulnerability every chance she could. Even Franky’s best friend Liz saw what was happening to her, and she tried to stop it by lagging about the drugs Franky was bringing in through the garden. That betrayal hit Franky to the core of her being. The one person she thought she could trust stabbed her in the back. Why do you think Franky stopped fighting Bea for Top Dog? Not because Bea won the fight in the laundry, but because Franky didn’t want the job any more. She wanted a way out, and Bea gave it to her. Bea used her, so Franky thought, let her take on all that shit, and see how she likes it. Queen Bea! Franky used drugs for power long before Bea “showed” her she didn’t need to. She used drugs because that’s what she learned from Jacs, her Top Dog role model. She kept dealing drugs after losing Top Dog, because it was the only way she knew to still have some control and protection. If people were dependent on her, she’d be safe. Again, that was a false sense of security, which she quickly discovered when her supply dried up. She was back to being a target, so Franky found a way (and paid a high price) to get out of the trade for good. No, she didn’t do it for noble reasons, or because she felt guilt or remorse (though I think she did feel guilty over Su-Yun’s death). Her reasons were pure self-preservation. And a good thing, too. Bea may not have used drugs to control the women, but she certainly used violence, the other Top Dog baton passed down the line. I’ve been reading a lot of people listing all of Franky’s horrible actions, while putting Bea up on some virtuous pedestal. Bea did some horrific shit too. And Franky pointed out what a hypocrite Bea was time and time again. So, let’s have some perspective. (I’m not accusing Tad of this. I’m just saying over all there has been a pattern in the Franky bashing this season.) Which brings me to my next point: Bea Smith. Seasons 1-4, especially 1 and 2, were very much focused on Bea’s perspective. We the audience saw characters first through Bea’s eyes before they took on a life of their own. To Bea, in the beginning, all she saw were criminals. However, over time, her perspective changed, and she/we learned that each person in Wentworth has their own story, and should never be judged solely by their actions, or their positions. Officers can be corrupt, and prisoners can be your best mates – and vice versa. It’s not black and white. She made friends, and enemies, because of experience and relationships. That is how I’ve always watched this show, even now. Seasons 1-3 taught me how to accept these flawed human beings, in this extreme environment, by asking the questions “Why are they doing that?” “What are they afraid of?” “Where is this coming from?” “What do they really want?” Season 5 challenged me on this, but I have done my best to continue to examine, and not take anything at face value. I’m still processing this season, so I won’t dwell on it here. Bea and Will forgiving Franky was not unprecedented on this show. I’ve pointed out many times that our H1 family is incredibly dysfunctional, but also generous with their forgiveness. They must. All they have is each other. They’ve all done shitty things to each other over the years. Yet they always find a way to forgive one another. It’s what you do when you look at the person and not the act. And when you look at Bea and Will, it is absolutely in their nature to see the whole person, and the environment, and not hold Franky’s self-protecting actions against her. Love Fridget or not, it doesn’t negate the fact that Bridget had a profound effect on Franky in season 3. However, to say it was all because of Bridget is ignoring the huge events and shifts that had already happened to Franky in seasons 1 and 2 and the first few episodes of season 3. Examples: 1. Bea arrived and created a massive shift of energy, focus, and support in the prison. 2. Being Top Dog was hell for Franky, especially with Ferguson as Governor. 3. Liz betrayed her. 4. Bea used her, and beat her to a bloody pulp. 5. Her drug business went south, and she selfishly let Su-Yun die from drugs she had swallowed. 6. To quit the drug trade once and for all, Franky had to literally fuck Juice to save herself. For the record, I’ve never seen Franky as a sexual predator. She has used sex as a release and a distraction (Kim, Jodi, Allie). Occasionally she’s used her sex appeal as a tool (Erica, the nurse). And her attacking Bridget was a desperate attempt to push the woman she loves away, to protect her. I’m not saying all these instances are right or justified. But they are singular events and relationships that should not be thrown together into one category - predatory. And just because she’s a confident sexual being, doesn’t make her a predator either. She has assets and she knows how to use them, for better or worse. And yet, even with the most recent examples, Allie and Nurse Radcliff, she was clearly uncomfortable about what she was doing - signs of her growth. We must look at each instance, and each relationship in their own context. Bridget: Unlike Erica, who saw Franky as a gold star on her career path, and a lustful fantasy object - Bridget fell for Franky, not just sexually, but in a deep emotional way from that first major encounter when Franky went berserk in the library. She saw something in Franky that no one else had. A puzzle that needed to be solved. A challenge that could be overcome. Potential that needed to be supported. A human being that needed to be loved and trusted. A heart begging to be embraced. By season 3, Franky had gone as far as she could within the system. Being Top Dog wasn’t her thing, and she gave up the drug trade when it became more of a hazard than an asset. It was time for her to move on and find a new way of being. Bridget offered her that new way. She provided a safe place for her to face her past, her fears, her mistakes, and take ownership of it all. It also gave Franky some breathing room, to step back and view the system, via her own experience and what she was learning in her legal studies, to have a more objective perspective. This gave her a stronger sense of what she wanted for her life, and a clearer vision of the path she needed to take to create that life for herself. She developed a stronger, more positive bond with Bea, she made amends with Liz and Boomer, she helped get Boomer’s sentence reduced, and she helped Bea save Josh and take down Ferguson. Bridget stated to the parole board, Franky’s a work in progress. There was no denying her release was a near miss. Yet, the deeply felt remorse and determination she showed at her hearing was enough for the board to see she had potential to be a reformed person on the outside. No one will improve if they are not given the opportunity. Her story was one of redemption, not perfection. They could have ended it with a hot girl in a hot car, driving off into the sunset, but they didn’t. It is still questionable to me whether they made the right decision or not. In any case, season 4 showed us a still flawed Franky, working hard to prove herself, and making great strides in her career goals, which included helping people in trouble. Yes, she was breaking her parole by living with Bridget. But can you blame her? She’d had no love and care in her life until Bridget. I would have risked it too. And her reaction to Vera finding out and threatening all the good that Franky was finally experiencing… I would have gotten angry and defensive too. But, she turned it around, and agreed that she should live on her own. She faced her fears and made the healthy decision. Franky HAS evolved. She isn’t perfect, but she’s a growing individual, like all of us. Season 4 wasn’t the best, but at least for Franky, she was still moving forward on her journey. Season 5 nearly destroyed all her progress by putting her back inside, on bogus charges. She wasn’t the scared bully she was 5 years ago, but her self-preservation manifested in different, equally disturbing ways. Her selfishness seemed to know no bounds. Her manipulation and lying was unprecedented in terms of what we’ve seen from her before. It became harder and harder at times to see the Franky I know and love. The most disturbing aspect for me was the lying. I never thought of Franky as a liar before. She was always so brutally honest, telling things like they were, or as she saw it anyway. She never manipulated with lies. Which makes me question, why now? And why were the lies reserved mostly for Bridget? This wasn’t random. This was isolated and specific behavior. The system backed her into a corner with no way out. (None of us like or agree with this plot, but that’s what we got.) Like it or not, given these circumstances, Franky chose escape as her only solution. This decision created tunnel vision for Franky. Franky trusts and loves Bridget, but she cannot trust the system. She knew Bridget wouldn’t approve her plan, nor did she want her directly and knowingly involved, so she had to work behind her back… and that meant lying to her… repeatedly. I hate it, but Franky had her reasons. Despite her lying to her and using her indirectly, I believe Franky proved her love and trust of Bridget by the end of the season. She finally asked for Bridget’s help, and she told her more than once that she loved her. She vowed to make things right so that they could be together again. That has been Franky’s whole motivation… to get back to her life with Bridget. When looking at her actions from that perspective, I can understand it, mostly. To her credit, Bridget kept pushing to help Franky (causing her to lie so many times), and she never turned her in when she caught her in compromised situations. They were both hit hard when Franky was put back inside, and the emotional toll they paid was costly. I believe Bridget when she said she would wait for her forever. But even if Franky had let her help, and they had worked together to fight this, I don't think Bridget would have lasted long seeing Franky every day and not being able to be with her. She had to leave Wentworth for her own self-care. This abandonment woke Franky up. She realized she had to let Bridget in again, which you saw when Bridget came to visit. A whole new Franky emerged. When all was said and done, it was a true testament to how strong and beautiful Fridget’s relationship is: In their last scene of the season, Franky was free and on the run, yet she ran straight to Bridget, brazenly declaring her love for her. Bridget stood there, almost in awe, smiling at Franky’s determination to make it all right again. No one can tell me that isn’t true love. The Franky of seasons 1-3 makes perfect sense to me. I understand her and love her, flaws and all. Even season 4 Franky is enjoyable – mainly because she wasn’t inside the madhouse that became Wentworth: Freak Show . But season 5 felt like it jumped the shark at times. And it hurts me to see so many people justifying their dislike of what Franky became (via an idiotic plot), by condemning her redemption story of the past as bad storytelling. The writers did exploit Franky’s popularity to keep people watching this season. And it was incredibly difficult to remain a Franky fan, while watching her act so un-Franky like time and time again. The few moments with the H1 family, when real-Franky was present, were not enough. Season 5 needed more balance, and more assurances that the insanity had a purpose and was going to pay off. It needed plot points that made sense, and didn't have so many holes. They pushed our suspension of disbelief too far. Plot-driven storytelling instead of character-driven storytelling. Unlike with other seasons, I could no longer believe that everything on screen had meaning and purpose. I could no longer trust in the writers endgame. However, the season finale gave me hope again. About 4 or 5 weeks ago, and several escape attempts in, I finally decided to stop fighting it, and just go with the escape story as endgame. I could visualize Franky succeeding in her escape, running to Bridget first thing, and starting her journey to prove her innocence. And that’s exactly what we got. I am glad this season is over. I’m glad Franky got her freedom, flawed and tenuous as it is. And now starts the anxious waiting to see how much of her outside story we will see next season. Regardless, I feel hopeful that she will succeed on her mission. If I didn’t have that hope, I would stop watching the show all together. Franky is still the redemption story… until the writers prove otherwise. Thanks for reading. I appreciate you making it to the end. xo Sarah