Bomb Girls – 2.06 – Where There’s Smoke

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Previously on Bomb Girls: Gene is on a downward PTSD spiral, Betty kissed Kate way back at the end of season one and no one ever spoke of it afterwards, and James is still in England.

Guys, I’m going to be upfront with you: I love this show. When it’s good, it’s fantastic, and that’s why I started recapping it. When I criticize it, it’s not because I enjoy blowing holes in it: it’s because I want it to be good, and I know that the creative team is capable of that. But this season, they’ve made choices that I don’t understand or, honestly, enjoy, and I can’t sweep that under the rug for the sake of enjoyment, because I’m not enjoying it. I love this show. That’s why I’m critical of it.

Okay? Okay.

At VicMu, Leon is playing a Witham Foods jingle on the piano while Kate and two of the other workers sing along. There’s a bond drive coming up at the factory, and the three girls have been hired to sing the jingle for radio. Also at the factory is a new soldier girl, Teresa, who’s putting up “buy war bonds!” posters and soliciting donations from the factory workers. Gladys coughts up a hundred dollars, because Gladys does nothing by halves. She also mentions to Betty that she hasn’t seen Gene since he left on the bond tour. Oh no. What a terrible loss.

At the hospital, a frantic Sheila comes flying down the hallway squeaking wildly about the Hollywood star who’s visiting the patients as part of the war bonds drive. “Didi Burke” enters, and I’ve tried Googling the name, but she seems to be a made-up star for the show. Gene, who’s also touring the hospital, introduced Sheila as “my pipsqueak sister,” and they all troop down the hall to chat with the patients. Gene makes it as far as the hospital room doorway before having a sepia-tinted flashback to the battlefield hospital, and quickly hurries off to smoke.

Lorna and Vera are working on the factory’s account books when Mr. Aikens comes in to tell them that the Ajax bomb factory broke bond-sale records, and they’d BETTER one-up them. Heh. (For those not aware, this show is based on the Ajax bomb factory.) He tells Vera to figure something out, and let a bomb off in the factory yard if she has to, and Vera smiles the smile of someone who has an ace up her sleeve.

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On the production line, Ivan stops Kate to ask if she wants to come to the Jewel Box tonight. Kate agrees, forgetting that she had plans to see a movie with Betty tonight. Harsh, Kate. Ovaries before brovaries! Betty is none too pleased to hear about this, so she stomps over to Ivan to tell him that she’ll rip his nuts off and make him eat them if he pressures Kate into something she doesn’t want. He points out that it’s Kate’s decision, and . . . yes, that’s fair, but you don’t have a great history of respecting the word “no,” buddy.

Also, Gladys tracks down Lorna to ask how Gene’s doing, and Lorna basically says “yeah my son’s an asshole, sorry.” Well at least she has the courage to admit it.

Speaking of Gene, Sheila pokes her head out of her hospital room like an adorable groundhog and notices that Gene is still standing at the end of the hall, smoking. She goes to confront him about not visiting the guests, and when he tells her tough shit, she replies that he’s just like their father- “you want your every crime excused just because you went over.” OHHHHH SNAP. You know, I’d really like to see Sheila’s perspective on the whole Bob situation; she obviously loves her dad, but she hasn’t been immune to the way he treats her and her mother. Gene stubs a cigarette out on his hand in response.

No, I'm not screencapping it.

No, I’m not screencapping it.

Gladys is unpacking some new dresses in her hotel room when a notice of arrears gets shoved under the door. She calls up the manager to explain that her fiance is overseas so maybe that’s why the payments haven’t come in on time. No? Well then who’s been making the payments?

YOU

YOU

Gladys invites her dad over for a little father-daughter chat, wherein he explains that he wants Gladys to come home, so he stopped paying the hotel bills. Gladys has no time for this fuckery, and insists on paying her own way. On a factory worker’s salary? Good luck.

Lorna is none too pleased to get a call from Sheila and Ned asking her to come down to the hospital and talk about Gene’s combat fatigue, and even less pleased when she finds out that Sheila told Ned about the car crash. Ned is very firm on the fact that Gene should not be going back into combat, though, and suggests medically induced sleep. For a month. Lorna objects strenuously to this plan to turn her son into Rip Van Winkle, but it’s not like it’ll ever happen without Gene’s consent anyway.

Gladys gets on the phone with James, hopping mad about his complicity in her dad’s “pay the hotel bills” scheme. He offers to wire her money for the hotel, but Gladys doesn’t feel comfortable taking cash from him while banging Gene on the side, and starts to say as much before an air raid siren goes off and James has to hang up the phone. Bye James! It’s been nice knowing you!

At the Jewel Box, Vera begs Marco to buy fireworks for the VicMu bond drive. Marco resists, because the police are still trailing him everywhere and will probably look on him buying explosives with suspicion. On the other hand, he knows a guy who knows a guy. Is Marco seriously buying fireworks from a shady fireworks dealer? Only in Canada.

Kate walks in wearing- unless I’m mistaken- the same dress she wore in the dream sequence back in episode two. Symbolism! Ivan pops a pair of cartoon hearteyes (and probably a few other things, HEYO) and takes her out onto the dance floor while Betty plunks herself down at the bar to drown her sorrows regarding the fact that her gay crush is dating her former beard. Yeah, I’d drink too.  Teresa, the soldier lady from earlier, sits down next to her, winks, and offers to make Betty’s life “better.” Rowr!

Gene paces around the kitchen exulting over the new warplanes, but Lorna doesn’t want to talk about it. She’d rather confront him about the car crash and the burned hand, but the tack she chooses to take- “what’s in you, it’s not normal-” does not meet with much success, and Gene storms out, saying he’ll see his mom when the war’s over.

That went well, I think.

That went well, I think.

While Marco is off making his illegal firework puchase, Gladys is haggling on the phone with the hotel manager, who wants to kick her out right then and there. Her haggling is interrupted, though, when Gene shows up hoping to fuck away his problems. She’s not interested, especially when he pulls out lines like “I’ll show you a new front,” and they end up cuddling. Aww . . . ?

Kate gushes about Ivan to Betty, who’s about as interested in this line of questioning as you might expect. She tries to get Betty to jitterbug with her, but Betty puts a stop to that, and thus the conversation we’ve been waiting for all season begins. Kate tries to dodge it by asking if Betty’s upset that she’s dating Ivan, but Betty’s done dodging.

Betty: You have everything you want- a boy who’s falling in love with you, and a girl who already has.

Kate tries to brush her off by saying “but things were going to well!” (oh noooooo) but Betty’s on a roll now. She accuses Kate of “using [her] to make a new life” and informs Kate that if she doesn’t want to date her, then she needs to “find someone else to dance with.” Kate stomps out.

Okay. Betty has a point here, although not the one she’s actually articulating. She and Kate do need to talk about their relationship, because thus far this season, it’s been characterized by the avoidance of what happened between them at the end of season one. I question the choice on the writers’ part to make Kate’s feelings so obscure, because it leaves the viewers in the same place as Betty, and Kate is supposed to be one of our point of view characters. But, there is a big difference between “our friendship is painful to me because of unrequited feelings on my part” and “you OWE me because I’ve helped you get on your feet,” and Betty’s arguments are the latter. And they’re wrong. Kate does not owe her romantic affection because Betty freely offered her help. (Kate does not owe her romantic affection in any case, because that’s not how love works, but I disgress.) Basically, this whole arc has caused a lot of drama where I don’t think it necessarily needed to exist, because instead of talking about Kate’s feelings and clarifying how she feels towards Betty, they’ve spent the past six episodes burying her true emotions so deeply, even the viewers can’t find them.

Speaking of buried feelings! Lorna’s asked Bob, who’s chilling at his newsstand, to have a talk with Gene, vet to vet. He does. It goes like this:

Bob: Son, when I was your age, I went to war. I saw my friends die in front of me. So many friends. So much death. The blood . . . dear god, the blood. And now I see it again whenever I close my eyes. So is anything like that up with you?

Yeah . . . Bob needs to work on his talking skills.

After that utter failure of a talk (no, the OTHER one) Betty heads over to the factory to held Teresa fold pamphlets and talk meaningfully about how “for once, we don’t stick out like a sore thumb,” with many attendant Meaningful Eyebrow Raises. Get it, girl!

Gladys bumps into Gene at the fundraiser and offers to straighten out his uniform, which send him off on a rant about how WOMEN MAN, THEY’RE ALL THE SAME, THE JUST WANNA TIE YOU DOWN. And here’s my second criticism: why, when writing the character of Eugene, did they make him such an asshole? I’m not talking about the PTSD symptoms; those are true to life, even if they are painful to watch. I’m talking about the casual misogyny/harrassment of women, the lack of respect for his mom, or for that matter, anyone else. It’s okay to have a flawed character, but you need to give me some reason to like him, or I’m not going to invest in his story at all.

Rollie creeps up behind Gladys and asks her where she’s going now that she’s checked out of the hotel. She proudly announces that she’s moved into the boardinghouse with the other girls, so she won’t be needing his money. He scoffs at the idea that she’d last more than a week on her own, but she just tosses her hair and struts off.

Kate and the two other singers (do they have a band name?) are queued up to sing a jingle, wearing ridiculous flowered pancakes on their heads.

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They do their song and dance, and Rollie steps up to tell the crowd about war bonds this and Witham Foods that and blah blaaaaaaaaaah. While that’s going on, Leon asks Kate what she’s fretting about, and she bursts out that what Betty wants from her is a sin, just like the Bible says. Leon points out that the Bible also says shrimp, polyfibres, and working on Sundays is a sin. Leon’s a cool dude.

Rollie finishes his speech, and they still have three minutes to fill before Didi Burke shows up. Leon suggests they put Kate onstage to sing, and the stage manager balks, but she insists that she was “born ready” for it.

"You're gonna go out there a sheltered Christian girl, but you're gonna come back . . . A LESBIAN."

“You’re gonna go out there a sheltered Christian girl, but you’re gonna come back . . . A LESBIAN.”

While Kate sings a song about how “I don’t wanna walk without you” (sigh) Gladys finds Gene humping some girl’s leg out back and storms off in disgust. Meanwhile, Betty sits in the audience for a bit, but leaves before the end because supporting dreams is for people who give her orgasms, sorry Kate. While Kate looks at the empty chair with that same damned ambiguous expression- nothing against Charlotte Hegele, but would it KILL the writers to give us some clarity?- Gene promptly launches off into another sepia flashback and goes stumbling around the corner.

Betty takes Teresa back to her place and introduces her thusly: “There’s a wall, a window, another wall, a . . . bed, a painting, and . . . a wall.” “That’s a lot of walls,” Teresa says sagely. Then she moves in for the kiss, and Betty freezes up a bit, wondering if they’re maybe moving too fast. “I think you’ve been waiting long enough,” Teresa says, and they kiss. That lady’s got moves.

Didi Burke shows up at the factory to give her speech while Marco lights up the fireworks, wearing a pair of steampunk goggles.

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While everyone oohs and ahhs, Gladys looks up at the roof of the factory and notices that Gene is wobbling around on the edge. Wisely, she doesn’t scream and spook him, but runs to grab Lorna, and they both make a run for the roof to showdown like this is Mulan.

LOOKS LIKE YOU'RE ALL OUT OF IDEAS

LOOKS LIKE YOU’RE ALL OUT OF IDEAS

NOT QUITE

NOT QUITE

Lorna says he “goes somewhere,” and Gladys insists: “well, bring him back.” Amateur suicide negotiation? Well, this will end well. Gene is in the midst of a fireworks-induced bombing flashback, but when he turns around and recognizes Lorna, he still doesn’t want to back away from the ledge. He throws Gladys’s words about his womanizing back in his face: “I hurt ‘em all the time.” Gladys says to Lorna in an undertone that she needs to tell Gene he can go back to the front, because that’s the only way he’ll back down from the ledge. She promises he can go back, and he backs away from the ledge and into his mother’s arms. Um, this is a touching scene and all, but are we really letting him go back to the front? Where he could easily get himself killed on a suicide mission? Uh. Okay.

Betty and Teresa lounge around Betty’s room in their lingerie, and Betty confesses to having been a twenty-eight-year-old-virgin prior to this afternoon. Teresa is proud of being her first, but Betty sheepishly admits that she probably wouldn’t have done it if she’d known Teresa was hanging around for a few more days. Teresa’s okay with being her casual hookup, though, and they start making out some more.

Kate and Ivan return to the boardinghouse, talking about having “the right people in the audience” helped Kate sing. SIGH. She overhears Betty and Teresa getting busy and looks troubled, but heads off with Ivan when he asks her if she wants to get dinner. See this? THIS is what I mean. The writers keep tossing crumbs of hope at viewers who want to see Kate reciprocate Betty’s feelings, but do it in such a way that there’s no confirmation, and it’s starting to feel a lot like teasing. And I don’t like being teased.

Gladys is cooking omelets in the boardinghouse kitchen when Lorna comes in and asks the other girl for privacy. Uh-oh. She’s there to thank Gladys for her help with Gene, and to offer some praise to balance my criticism, I really do like how they’ve let Lorna and Gladys’s relationship grow organically over the course of this season. Lorna is here also here to deliver a telegram that was sent to Gladys via the factory, and I think we can all see where this is going. Gladys can’t bear to read it, so Lorna does so: “The Secretary of War desires me to express his deepest regret that your fiance, James Dunn, was killed in a bombing raid in Canterbury, England.” Fare thee well, James. We’ll always have that time Hazel MacDougall gave you the clap.

tombstone

Gladys responds to the news in typical Gladys fashion, swearing when she burns her omelette and cracking eggs for another one before bursting into tears. Lorna holds her.

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And that’s it until the end of March, folks.

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7 responses to “Bomb Girls – 2.06 – Where There’s Smoke

  1. Another great one Laura!
    And I agree, I know that they are intentionally keeping Kate ambiguous to have us on tenderhooks. But really, there’s a time coming (soon) when she has to show her hand so to speak.
    And frankly, it’s starting to feel like queerbaiting.

  2. On the Gene thing, I kinda think it’s good they made him into douche in this show. The easy route would be to make him a nice guy we could all feel sorry for, but it’s hard to even find something about Gene to like. To me, this is true to life in some cases & bravo to the show for making a character who wasn’t idealized. Not every vet with PTSD is a hero.
    I live in an area with a large number of vets. When it came to dealing with one I met in school, who had PTSD and was 65% disabled when he came back from Afghanistan, it was tough for me. He was a jerk who harrassed me and felt like he deserved a free ride because of what he’d been through. I tried to be nice, but seriously, after he pulled a couple of things & I felt unsafe, I spent time thinking of ways to injure him further. Guilt/confusion/lack of sympathy/fear: A mixed bag of emotions…not unlike what’s happening on the show.

    • Oh absolutely he doesn’t need to be- and shouldn’t be- portrayed as a white-hatted hero. The problem I have with his portrayal is that the PTSD aspects of his storyline mean that his awful behaviour that has nothing to do with PTSD gets swept aside while dealing with it. It’s disappointing, especially on a show that usually holds female autonomy so highly.

  3. I agree partially with you about the Kate/Betty situation.

    A lot of what Betty said during her outburst was unfair. But I didn’t interpret it as an accusation of “friendzoning” or saying Kate owes Betty romance because she helped her. I think by “and what are you doing?” she meant that Kate was being totally insensitive about Betty’s feelings. Betty thinks that Kate knows she’s in love with her, and was choosing to pay back her kindness by throwing her love life, with Betty’s ex no less, in her face with no thought towards her feelings. I really thing that’s what Betty was talking about.

    It still might not be totally fair, but I think she does have a bit of a point.

    • The problem, I think, is the way the writing for this storyline has been executed throughout the season- the characters haven’t had any kind of honest conversation since the pilot, and so it’s virtually impossible to dig out what’s actually being said. When your writing involves one of your major characters being so opaque as to leave the audience unable to understand their actions, that’s bad writing.

    • I agree with Katie. I don’t think Betty meant ‘all or nothing’ when she said find someone else to dance with, I think she actually meant find someone else to dance with. I think she’s irritated by the same thing we viewers are – the mixed signals, the potential teasing.

      Course I very may well be just overidentifying and indulging wishful thinking but Bomb Girls was so good! I don’t want them to have a sophomore slump!

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