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Bombs Girls: Season 1

What She said:

She

Keeping with the trend of television shows that you’ve never heard of, this one is for the ladies! It’s a Canadian series called Bomb Girls that takes place during World War II and tells the stories of several young ladies working in a munitions factory. Originally intended to be a six-part miniseries, this show actually ended up spanning two seasons and 18 episodes. There’s certainly enough drama and excitement to enable this series to endure, as it’s largely character driven, but against the backdrop of a very high-stakes war. The first season is only six episodes, and aired back in 2012.

Bomb Girls: Season 1

Bomb Girls focuses on a few central female characters who are gainfully employed as members of the Blue Shift at the Victory Munitions Factory in the Toronto area. The series opens around the start of WWII and before U.S. and Canada’s official involvement. We learn that a 20-something socialite Gladys Witham has decided to do her duty by taking a job as a secretary at the factory. There she gets to see the other young ladies hard at work down on the line and is inspired to get her hands dirty by joining them. Gladys struggles to make new friends, in part due to the fact that she’s from an entirely different social class from the rest of the workers. She also must keep her new role as a Bomb Girl secret from her parents. Either way, there’s tons of unrest between the elder Withams and their daughter. Plus, Gladys has become engaged to James Dunn, a wealthy American working for her father. There’s turmoil in that relationship as well.

But this show doesn’t just dwell on Gladys’ character. There’s also a major storyline revolving around Kate Andrews. Born as Marion Rowley, she is the daughter of a preacher who faced years of physical and emotional abuse from her father. Her mother sets her up with forged papers and enables her escape to a new identity and a new life as a Bomb Girl. Of course, Kate struggles to leave her past behind her for good. She’s haunted by her father, and is at a continuous risk of being found out. On a more basic level, she has a tough time fitting in with the new crowd because of her conservative upbringing. However, Kate finds strength in her voice and is a very gifted singer.

Bomb Girls: Season 1

There’s also Betty McRae, a toyboy line operator who actually stands out as the best worker among the group. It’s pretty clear from the outset that she’s not quite like the rest. While the other girls are on a continual quest for the perfect husband, Betty seems unaffected by men and even burdened by the thought of marriage. It’s eventually revealed that she’s actually a lesbian who is having a very difficult time finding her place in society. She has dreams and aspirations of having a meaningful relationship, but the culture of the times does not support her lifestyle. Betty is both outwardly strong, and also emotionally fragile. She puts on a brave face but is often conflicted. She’s a surprisingly complex character.

And then there’s Vera Burr. She’s a little bit more peripheral during Season 1, but also has a lot of drama in her life. She’s a sweet girl, but also a seductress. An unfortunate accident at the factory leaves Vera disfigured and she has to come to terms with this loss of control in her life. She had always been defined by her sexual appeal, and now she must grow to become more than her former label.

Finally, we have Lorna Corbett. She is the floor matron for the Blue Shift and is a little bit older, wiser, and more distinguished than the rest of the women. Actually, I’m not sure I should say she’s wiser, because she is highly prejudiced and makes a lot of bad decisions. Season 1 follows Lorna as she deals with her crumbling relationship with her husband and the fears associated with her two sons serving overseas. She also has a deep distrust for one of the male workers at the factory, Marco Moretti. Marco is a native Italian but spent most of his life in Canada and self identifies as a Canadian. Unfortunately, given his heritage, he is seen as a potential enemy, and his father has actually been incarcerated in a prison camp. Lorna has made it her mission to have Marco disposed of, as she believes that he conspiring with the enemy.

There’s lots of drama happening concurrently during Season 1 of Bomb Girls and it’s all super juicy stuff that any lady will be sure to love. The women on this show are both heroines in their strength during war and also foolish in some of the decisions that they make. They can be identified with and also learned from. Even though this show takes place over 70 years ago, I still found the female characters and their flaws relatable. I’m not sure that a male viewer would quite get the same satisfaction out of this show, though, because this is a largely female-driven series.

Bomb Girls: Season 1

The show is well-shot and has decent production value. Much of it takes place within the factory, and so you’ll see many of the same sets over and over. However, all of the scenes feel authentic to the period. You can tell that a lot of care has been given to the costumes, make-up, and hair to ensure that this is as authentic to World War II as possible. While some of the actual plotlines seem overblown for the sake of entertainment value, the core of the show is based on the reality that women were forced to step up and do men’s jobs during the Second World War. That point helps to make the subject matter fascinating.

The core female actors on this show are all very talented and do a good job of bringing their characters to life. I found some weakness in some of the peripheral characters, but it’s not so much as to detract from what is an otherwise solid cast. You probably won’t really recognize many of them—maybe Meg Tilly, sister of Jennifer Tilly.  Otherwise, the actors and actresses on this show are a mixture of young talent just getting their start and Canadians who have largely only acted in programming from that country.

You’ll probably forget pretty easily that this is a Canadian show. I was only reminded a couple of times, as it actually feels very American. It’s an easy watch that portrays a glamorous time in world history.

Thumbs mostly up.

What He said:

He

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