Lovely and delicate Gemma (Emma Rigby) has the perfect life. A charming husband named Steve (Jonas Armstrong), a beautiful home, and a baby on the way. Her life is shattered when Steve is arrested for murder, and Gemma must learn how to cope with her new reality.
To help her along is the glamorous and beautiful Francesca (Polly Walker), whose drug-kingpin husband Paul (Iain Glen, Game of Thrones) is in prison with Steve. Frannie's been around the block a few times and her husband has been in prison for 6 years with 6 more to go, so she shares advice with Gemma and teaches her the ropes. While Frannie is content to keep living her luxurious life (for the time being, anyway) and turn a blind eye to her husband's past and ongoing crimes, Gemma has to come to terms with the fact that perhaps Steve is not the man she thought she married. But what will she do about it?
Then there's Lou (Natalie Gavin), a tough young woman whose husband Sean (Reuben Johnson) is serving time for drug-dealing. He'll be out in a few weeks and the couple does everything they can to keep the fact that Sean is in prison from their young son Mason (Oliver Hannam). But with Lou on the outside trying to hold it together for Mason, and dealing on the side for money to support them, things get complicated and dangerous quickly.
There there's poor Harriet (Pippa Haywood), whose vulnerable young son Gavin is in prison for hiding a gun. Gavin and Harriet are at odds a lot, as they have been since his father died some years before, but he is also greatly at risk in jail because he is a bit of a mama's boy. Harriet is a weak and simpering woman, but when the prison chaplain befriends her and offers to assist with Gavin's plight, she gains some strength. Harriet and Gemma are the pair that experience the most personal growth throughout Series 1, as their lives change greatly, but Lou and Francesca go through a lot as well. Gemma and Lou's stories conclude in Series 1, unfortunately, since they were my favorite characters, and a new pair is introduced in Series 2.
Aisling (Karla Crome) loves her father, Brendan (Owen Roe), despite the fact that he is constantly in and out of prison. She is getting married in a few weeks to a respectable man whose parents don't know about her dad's history, and all she asks is that he stay out of trouble so he'll get released in time to walk her down the aisle. Unfortunately, Brendan is wrapped up with gangster Paul and often finds himself in hot water on the more powerful man's behalf. Meanwhile, Paul and Frannie's son Matt (Harry McEntire) is following in his father's footsteps this season and has begun dealing himself, plus he has a terrible crush on Aisling, although she wants a respectable life, and not that of a gangster.
After losing all of their assets, Frannie and the kids had to move in with her dad, Frank (David Bradley, Game of Thrones), but life continues to get worse. There's a drug turf war going on that complicates their lives seriously and will have permanent and dangerous repercussions for the entire family.
Harriet's life is improving as she has been seeing Ian (Adrian Rawlins), the chaplain, but Gavin continues to muck up her life even while he is in prison, getting himself tied up with a group of bad men. Even though Harriet can see a silver lining for herself, she must come to terms with the fact that she must let go of Gavin if the two of them are to have any hope of a decent future.
Lastly, Kim (Sally Carman)'s husband Mick (Enzo Cilenti) is accused of molesting one of his young soccer students, a boy who also happens to be one of their trashy next-door neighbors. As Mick fights to survive in prison, Kim works to see him set free, but her meddling gets her in hot water. Their lives are upended and, although Mick is innocent, Kim will have to bare her secrets in order to see him freed, so he can return to her and their three boys. Once all is revealed, will Mick still want his life with her?
Prisoners' Wives: Complete Collection is definitely a cautionary tale. While I found some of the stories really moving, I can also see why it didn't last more than two series. The acting is exceptional and the stories are compelling, but I found it didn't have the staying power of some shows, mostly because of the cast changes, at least for me. There are no special features on this collection, but it is worth watching. It's not something I'd re-watch, so I am not sure if it is something I'd recommend for purchase, but the stories are well-written enough that you'd enjoy checking it out on Acorn TV, if you like good drama.