Wow! The season finale of Bomb Girls was absolutely chock-full of drama, excitement, tension, and heartbreak. Secrets were revealed, loyalties questioned, and decisive steps taken that shook up the lives of our favourite Victory Munitions workers. By the end of the episode, we were left with many unanswered questions but also with an affirmation of the strength and courage of the Bomb Girls ladies. That being said, I am VERY pleased that this was just the season finale, not the series finale, and I am eagerly anticipating (see: I can’t wait, I can’t wait!!!) the second season.
There is certainly a lot to talk about when it comes to “Elements of Surprise”: Vera is released from the hospital and must decide whether to return to work at the munitions factory; the appearance of Kate’s frightening and abusive father leads her to question her life choices; Betty grapples with her love for Kate and desire to protect her; Lorna faces the terrifying reality of an unwanted pregnancy as well as her relationships with Marco and Bob; Gladys is faced not only with Lorna’s attempts to sabotage her, but also with the prospect of James enlisting in the war; and to top it all off, Pearl Harbour is bombed. So…not exactly a light episode. However, I really appreciated that all these events, which range from mild to extreme on the catastrophe scale, were addressed with respect, gravity, and care by the creators and actors of Bomb Girls.
I can’t address all the good things in this jam-packed episode, but some of my favourite parts were seemingly minor moments or lines that actually had great significance to the characters. For example, when Betty and Lorna are trying to convince Vera to come back to work rather than return to her parents’ home, Betty tells Vera, “we all have our scars”. It’s almost a throwaway line, but it says so much about Betty and the other characters on the show. We know Kate has physical scars on her back from her father’s abuse, but Betty herself probably carries the scars of never fitting in, never being socially acceptable (as seen by the debacle with the propaganda film, which invented a life story for her). By the end of the episode, Betty’s scars are externalized by the nasty black eye given to her by Kate’s father; it’s a representation of the fact that her secret (i.e. her sexuality) has been revealed for all to see.
And since I’m on the subject of Betty, I must devote some space to her storyline. After watching her slowly begin to trust, admire, appreciate, and love Kate over the course of the season, the results of her actions in the finale are upsetting to behold, to say the least. Seeing an opportunity to make her feelings known to Kate in Leon’s bar, Betty tenderly presses her lips to Kate’s palm and then leans in for a kiss full on the mouth. This goes horribly wrong and Kate reacts with shock, anger, fear, and repulsion. The characters’ ease with each other is transformed into awkwardness and discomfort in a split second, thanks to the great performances of Ali Liebert and Charlotte Hegele. Betty protests until Kate calls her disgusting, after which we see her face crumple before she rushes out.
Despite this emotional blow, Betty is prepared to defend Kate from her father. Their last scene together is made even sadder because the Kate that we have come to know as a sweet, determined, hard-working, fun-loving woman has all but vanished. She responds to Betty as if she has once again been brainwashed, spouting the language of sin and subservience like an automaton. For Kate, the rooming house and factory no longer represent safety, but rather an unstable world where things aren’t as they seem. She is in no way ready for Betty’s actions, and they scare her into returning to the doctrine of her father. In a way, it’s understandable that this would be her default reaction when something frightening happens because she has lived with that worldview for the majority of her life. Though earlier in the episode she incredulously says to Gladys, “you honestly think your father would rather hurt you than see you happy”, she herself is once again victimized by her father and can’t escape that pattern of abuse. All I can say is, poor Kate! She has nothing but cruelty and loneliness to look forward to. Until Betty and Gladys rescue her, that is.
I found Betty’s tearful confession of love in the hallway to be one of the most moving moments of the episode, not just because of her sadness but because of Kate’s reaction as well. This is pretty much the only time we see Kate’s steely, machine-like composure break. Her expression is not one of disgust or anger, but one of sorrow and compassion, pleading Betty with her eyes not to make it harder than it already is to leave. That one look gives me hope that when Betty finds Kate (because she has to, right?), they will be able to slowly rebuild their relationship with the trust and affection that we have seen throughout the first season.
I love that Gladys has probably been aware of Betty’s sexuality for some time (at least since episode 5) and is totally supportive of it. All Betty tells her in the final scene is that Kate left, but Gladys clearly knows the full import of this statement. Their grudging association has turned into a beautiful friendship, and we get the feeling that nobody would dare mess with them as they stroll arm-in-arm to work. Gladys, facing the fact that she may never see her fiancé again, is still strong and capable and ready to stand by her friends. Yay, Gladys!
It was also a very interesting decision to end the season with a shot of Betty’s legs marching up the ramp to the factory. Thinking back to the first episode, the entire series opens with a shot of an anonymous woman’s legs, about to carouse with a bunch of randy soldiers. Whereas this is a representation of the fundamental objectification of women – one in which sexuality is a woman’s main asset – the series has rightly and refreshingly shown women to be so much more that that. In the final shot, the legs aren’t anonymous: we associate them with Betty, someone who shows that women can be strong, sassy, loyal, vulnerable, sexual, brave, and heartbroken without becoming an object. Women are the SUBJECTS of Bomb Girls and that’s a large part of why it is such a great show.
- I love Vera’s character, and I thought they dealt with her post-traumatic reaction on the factory floor really well.
- I’m hoping for a blossoming friendship between Betty and Leon. They’re both cool and they both care for Kate…plus I get the sense that Leon may have had his suspicions about Betty’s feelings for Kate.
- Lorna, you’re in trouble one way or another, girl!
- Betty, on seeing James and Gladys making out in front of the factory: “hold onto your tonsils, Princess!” Haha!
Okay, it turns out I mostly talked about Betty and Kate, but what did you think of that or other aspects of the finale? And what are your theories for season 2? Will James survive the war? Will Betty and Gladys find Kate? And what’s going to happen with Lorna, Bob, and Marco? We love to hear feedback, so feel free to share your thoughts and feelings!