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Today, Global TV launches the second season of its homegrown Canadian hit, Bomb Girls. The season picks up where the first one left off as a group of youngish women try to navigate a world where the men are largely gone, off to fight WWII leaving their wives, mothers and girlfriends to take care of matters at home.
Most of the women have never held jobs, especially not ones working on assembly lines in dangerous munitions factories, building the bombs that Canadian soldiers drop out of planes or launch from submarines. The nature of these jobs made the so-called “bomb girls” part of the chain of war. They're not firing the guns, but it’s the same core group of women who are building the deadly ammunition.
Gladys is still the determined socialite who wants to find out what it’s like to be a working class hero. In Season One she fought her parents to get a job on the line and she succeeded. Now, she wants to kick it up a notch. However it appears that Gladys’s shenanigans might get her booted out of the mansion and into the dilapidated boarding house with the rest of the girls. How well Gladys will fare in this unknown world is yet to be determined.
And then there’s Betty, a plucky young blonde, who has a hidden yen for girls. Remember folks, this isn’t the land of same sex marriages and rolling in the bracken on Brokeback Mountain. During the 1940s homosexuals and lesbians were considered at best morally corrupt and at worst, severely mentally ill. Betty wants to meet a girl, but at the same time she’s very concerned about what will happen to her if her secret gets out.
Kate is a singer with the voice of an angel. A voice she picked up while singing praise music for her preacher father's traveling street mission. Her Dad is the most unlikeable -- and one of the most interesting -- characters in the show. He possesses the type of true evil that wields the word of God in his hand and spews vitriolic hatred from his mouth. Nothing is quite as terrifying as being relentlessly pursued by this man of the cloth. He never stops. His fervent faith keeps him coming - on and on and on. Kate is never safe from her father.
We must not forget the men left at home. Some are much too young to fight, but the men who remain behind are there for a reason.
Lorna, the oldest woman on the factory line, has a husband (Bob) who was permanently wounded in an earlier war. Peter Outerbridge is to be commended for his performance here. Anger and self loathing seep from his skin. It's a spot on depiction of a man diminished in every way. A man who takes his pain and twists it, attacking everyone who crosses his path.
Marco, the shift supervisor, is deemed unfit to fight because he’s an Italian immigrant. Italians, considered to be enemy aliens, were fingerprinted, photographed and told to report monthly to the police. Initially, Lorna thinks that Marco deserves all this suspicion, but as the second season begins, things have radically changed.
Creators Adrienne Mitchell* and Michael McLennan have picked a terrific period of Canadian history to mine for dramatic conflict. We have large groups of women experiencing freedom for the very first time. They had their own jobs and were making their own money. They were free to experiment sexually in ways they never would have been able to before.
There was also the constant threat of imminent death. German U-boats were seen in the St. Lawrence Seaway and reports of incoming enemy planes caused frantic citizens to flee into bomb shelters. Back then you were never sure if any day was your last. Everything was heightened.
Mix all of these possibilities together, and we’re bound to have a second season of very fine Canadian TV.
Bomb Girls airs Wednesday, January 2 at 8pm EST on Global TV.
Cathi Bond is a writer and broadcaster currently gearing up for the spring launch of her first novel, Night Town, with Iguana Books. Read about her experiences at cathibond.com and on her blog here at rabble.ca.
*Full disclosure: I worked with Adrienne Mitchell on an earlier project, but this in no way influenced my critique. I simply think Bomb Girls is great TV and when we get great Canadian network TV, it’s important to celebrate it.