Betty: It’s just… How can this happen so fast?
Teresa: Wow. Seems to me you’ve waited a long time.
Teresa: And here I was thinking I’d gone and missed the fireworks.
Four characters, stuck between waiting and figurative fireworks – action, movement, decisions. Gladys is told that her life will start once she is married, but the idea doesn’t fit in with how she feels herself change and evolve while James is gone. Betty is waiting – and the thing is, she’s waiting for Kate, but also for a whole lot of other things, except it’s difficult to divide the two since she’s in love. Eugene is physically unable to wait, because whenever he stops moving, all his memories from the war and the questions about who he is that he can’t answer meaningfully anymore come sweeping in. Kate can do nothing but wait because everything is terrifying, so instead of facing her feelings and her fears (or as a way to face them that isn’t working out very well), she has created an elaborate fiction and is constantly performing in it.
The moments when characters decide to finally move in one direction, come to decisions that affect not only themselves but also others, are the key scenes in the episode. Gladys realizes that she has to tell James about her feelings, because not telling him is starting to feel the same as lying to him. And it’s more than just her attraction to Eugene Corbett: it’s finding out that her father has been paying for her hotel room all this time (that he wasn’t honest about something and doesn’t understand why she cares so profoundly about not being dependent on her family), that the only way she will really be free of their attempts to influence her life is to be financially independent from them. What troubles her most is the idea that the responsibility for her will pass from her father to James, that the idea that she may be responsible for herself never even comes up. As long as she’s James’ fiancée, her father takes care of her; once she passes on to James by marriage, he’ll take care of her. She’s enjoyed the privileges, but Gladys is starting to realize that she’s maybe no longer willing to pay the price. I think that’s where her attraction to Gene comes from: it’s about how different he seems to be from James, how different he is from her family, but also the fact that she desperately wants to be responsible for her own life, and her own mistakes. Part of owning her mistakes, and taking responsibility for her life, isn’t just being able to pay for her own food, telephone calls, and accommodation, it’s being able to be honest to the people in her life about her own actions. Except of course James stops her before she can tell him the truth; it’s clear that he already knows what’s coming, but he’ll be sure once she says it and he’s not sure he’ll be able to face the war once he is.
Gladys: I’m not strong, James. I haven’t done right by you.
James: Gladys, let’s not.
Gladys: You deserve to know. Please, let me try to say this, James, this is difficult. You won’t be coming home to the same girl you left behind.
James: This may be the last chance we have to talk before the war is finally done.
Gladys: It’s gonna be okay, James.
James: It means the world you saying that.
Gladys: There’s more I wanna say. You have to let me say it.
Sometimes telling the truth is absolutely necessary, but it’s also selfish to an extent; both Gladys and Betty need the relief, the burden off their shoulder, but James and Kate respectively are the ones that have to carry it as well. This is probably my favourite scene of the episode, because it’s so layered and complicated: Kate is removing the traces of an evening out with Ivan in Betty’s room, talking in that strange voice that is so unlike her about him while we see her removing her make-up in the mirror over Betty’s basin. Meanwhile, Betty is furiously, aggressively, knitting an intelligible piece of clothing on the bed, surrounding by a pile of wool and what’s probably supposed to be mittens and pullovers and scarves. On the surface, it’s a painfully domestic scene, and maybe, whenever Betty imagined that house she would own one day, and the person she’d share it with, she pictured something fairly similar. The idyllic picture is disturbed by the fact that Kate seems to be so unlike herself, her face is a mask, her voice is a bit too high and her smile doesn’t seem genuine at all, and as she tells them, Betty’s knitting gets even more frantic (she needs new needles because this is what she’s been doing this past months, instead of talking about her feelings). Later, Teresa is going to mention all the walls in the room – which is perfect, because Kate and Betty seem trapped in this scene, in this performance of something that is imitating the idea of a normal friendship. It seems like a stage more than anything – a stage with a lot of mirrors as well, reflections. Kate mentions dancing with Ivan, and proceeds to show Betty the foxtrot – grabbing her hands, just like she did when they first met, pulling Betty with her except everything’s changed since then. It’s the only way she can share things with Betty. Ivan showed her how to dance, and now she’s showing Betty, until finally, Betty breaks. And I love this show to bits and pieces that the breaking point isn’t a result of a conversation, but of their physicality, that it is Kate taking Betty’s hands to pull her in for a dance – Kate who is a reflection of herself, and Betty, who is reflected in the mirror on her dresser but sits too far away from it to ever be in the same frame as her own reflection (which is maybe analysing the scene too much, but it’s just striking to me how perfectly it matches where they are). The moment Betty realizes she can’t continue, it’s a physical thing as well, before she starts to explain. It’s the way her entire body tenses up, she raises her shoulders, she almost pushes Kate back before she steps away from her.
Because Ivan almost made Kate feel like she knew what she was doing, performing in the role of Ivan’s girlfriend, but forever, only always, because she is still never talking about her feelings, truly.
Betty: I can’t. I can’t do this anymore.
Kate: You were doing great.
Betty: That’s not what I mean, and you know it.
Kate: Is it Ivan? Do you still have feelings for him?
Betty: No. Of course I don’t. Dammit, Kate, you’re not an idiot.
Kate: Betty, don’t, things are going so well.
There are several scenes where Kate’s mask drops, but this is the first one: her tone changes completely at “Betty, don’t”. She recognizes that they’ve just stepped out of their respective roles she’s cast them in. She acknowledges that this is a dialogue about what is going on behind the scenes, and she is wary of it. Kate isn’t acting anymore. And now we don’t see their reflections anymore, because they are facing each other.
Betty: For you, yeah. You got all you want, a boy who’s falling for you and a girl who already has. You use this… you use me... I helped you make a whole new life, and what are you doing?
Kate: I’m living it, Betty. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Betty: Then you find someone else to dance with.
This isn’t an act of hope. It’s an act of desperation. The thing is that there is still a part of Betty that profoundly believes that she saved Kate Andrews. This is what kept her going while Kate was gone; the idea that she would save her from her father. But Kate Andrews ultimately saved herself – is saving herself. It started when she stood up to her father and told him off, asked him about her mother, found the strength to leave him. That was just the first step, though, the real exhausting work is unlearning all the lies he told her all his life. Vernon Rowley left scars on her back and took the light from her eyes, last year, when he came to the boarding house to reclaim her. That kind of damage can’t be undone by one act of heroism, and this is a lesson that Betty needs to learn. This is maybe why Betty’s thought of “You use this” is unfinished, because this is still something that Betty needs to realize (and I love Betty McRae, but being in love so much and shaping the person you’re in love with into something they’re not is dangerous, and selfish). She did provide Kate with a home though, that’s valid. It’s always easier to run to something than it is to simply run away from someone.
Here’s what happened before this conversation: Betty made the acquaintance of a female sergeant involved in the VicMu bonds drive. A soldier confident enough to ask her, after seeing her watch Ivan and Kate dance, which one of the two she used to date, and then to flirt with her more openly than she’s probably ever been flirted with by another woman (“Could it get any better”, Teresa asked, after Betty lied that her life’s great). And Betty walked off, because she’s just spent a year putting all her hopes and expectations in the one person she’s head over heels in love with. Gladys’ life is supposed to start once she’s married to James, but I think that Betty has, in her mind, stopped hers until Kate is ready to admit that she loves her back, regardless of whether Kate feels the same way about her, or will ever be able to admit it. Betty’s closed herself off to all other possibilities because she’s already in love, what else could she possibly do?
The terrible thing about this entire conversation is how different it is from Betty’s first declaration of love in Elements of Surprise – Betty trying to kiss Kate in that episode, and explaining how she felt for her, was an act of hope. She misinterpreted the signs, didn’t fully comprehend Kate’s situation, and expected a completely different ending to that conversation. Declaring her love so openly was a romantic gesture. Here, it’s something entirely different. I don’t think that Betty expects any other outcome than the one she gets. I don’t think that Betty even hopes that Kate is going to say that she feels the same way about her – she’s just so frustrated, and so angry, and so desperate, that she just wants a way out of this impossible situation. It’s a coup more than anything. She can’t bear taking part in the performance anymore – one that Kate asked her to agree with in the beginning of the season. She can’t go through the motions of a normal friendship. Once she's told Kate to leave, she’s able to go and find Teresa in what’s surely the cutest outfit Betty McRae has ever worn.
Because here’s the thing that romantic comedies never tell you: sometimes putting all your hopes into one person and expecting that person to meet them is horrible for both of you. This is why this new and shiny relationship works so well, because Betty wanted all of this from Kate but Kate isn’t ready for any of it. Teresa and Betty fold forms together, and Betty bravely declares that she won’t attend the bonds drive for Kate, and then Teresa does the most marvellous thing: she openly acknowledges that they share their specific sense of alienation, of otherness. Betty spent a whole episode speaking in code with a German prisoner of war about how she felt different and how scared she was of being found out, and here’s Teresa, speaking about it so openly and directly.
Teresa: I see your friend is performing?
Betty: Kate, yeah, she’s singing a jingle, part of the Witham trio. That’s not why I’m here.
Teresa: Got a thing for folding forms?
Betty: Just doing my bit for the war effort.
Teresa: Well, if you ask me, this war has given us more than we could dream of.
Betty: Now we fit right in.
Teresa: For once we don’t stick out like a sore thumb.
It’s a glorious moment for Betty, being recognized this way. Her connection with Teresa isn’t about love; it’s about sharing this knowledge and acknowledging each other’s desire openly. Teresa waltzed into her life and found her – somehow picked her out from the crowd, instinctively knowing she was gay too – and maybe for the first time, Betty doesn’t feel like the loneliest person on Earth, which I think at this point in her life is maybe more important than being in love.
Betty and Kate have always had terrible timing. Kate performs the jingle for Witham’s Food at VicMu’s bond drive, right after her conversation with Betty, and Leon later remarks that her “head’s not in the game”. So Kate chooses the one person who already knows to talk to about Betty McRae.
Leon: Something with your fella?
Kate: It’s Betty, she has these feelings.
Leon: Yeah, she’s very fond of you.
Kate: No, what she feels is sin, it says so in the bible.
Leon: The bible also tells us to stone a man to death for working Sundays.
Kate: I can tell in my heart if something’s wrong.
Leon: If you can’t love her the way she wants, love her the way you can.
Kate used to sing to feel, and then she sang because of her feelings, and then she couldn’t sing at all – and now her performance is empty because of what Betty told her, and just another person in her life offers an interpretation of religion completely different from Vernon’s, but she can’t openly accept it yet, because believing these things, believing and practising all the things Vernon taught her, was a matter of life and death, and unlearning them will take a long time. It might be that Kate is talking about herself here, not about Betty, and her own feelings (because she never does, so it’s safe to assume that if she ever did, she’d pretend she was talking about somebody else). It’s dangerous for Kate to think about the ways that she loves Betty. In the end, she is more genuine and honest in her singing than she could ever be in anything else, because that’s how things always were – Kate used to sing to Betty, all her songs were about Betty, but she used to sing them to her as well – and now, Betty walks out before she’s finished, because something’s changed.
Kate: All our friends keep knocking at the door, they’ve asked me out a hundred times or more but all I say is leave me in the gloom and here I stay within my lonely room because I don’t wanna walk without you, baby. Walk without my arms around you […] I don’t have to turn up for that sunshine, oh baby, please come back or you’ll break my heart for me. Cause I don’t wanna walk without you, no, sorry.
Betty’s sitting right behind Ivan, so Kate can conveniently sing this song directly to her without being found out, but it’s left strangely open whether Betty realizes that this song is about her – and maybe she doesn’t allow herself to think about the possibility, because it means she couldn’t ask Teresa up into her room. Betty leaves before Kate finishes, and this is the second time that Kate’s façade drops, when she realizes that her seat is empty and that the only way she knows to communicate her feelings didn’t work.
Betty takes Teresa up to her room, and this is the most glorious contrast to how things happened when she did the same with Ivan: she was so hesitant and irritated by her at first because she approached her in the bar frequented by everyone working at VicMu, and now she’s actually gathered the courage to take her to the boarding house (after taking Ivan there to make a point). She doesn’t need whiskey to convince herself she wants this. She’s terrible, hilariously awkward (“Well, here you got a wall… fan, dresser, another wall, window, wall, a lamp, and a picture I’ve never actually looked at until right this moment, brush… and…. Well, bed.”), and she doesn’t know how to handle physical contact at first, but she also profoundly wants this, and has waited for this to happen forever. Just think about what it means in that historical context and for a character like Betty McRae to say “I want to”, and then to cross the distance to kiss Teresa? Betty probably pictured something along these lines with Kate, in a million years, but now, after a day or so, someone who used to be a stranger is in her room, kissing her, and being herself and being true to her feelings and her desires suddenly doesn’t seem alienating and ridiculous anymore. It’s the first time “it felt right”. The first time she felt safe.
All the ways she had to speak in code about herself and her feelings, she had to hide herself away, to a point where she convinced herself that she doesn’t deserve any kind of love, from anyone, and suddenly, here’s a woman who knows all her secrets intimately and understands them, someone she can share a part of herself with that she’s been hiding forever. She just always thought that “When we’re finally safe, it’s okay to stop fighting” would be about Kate, not about herself.
Teresa: Now is the time you ask me how soon until I ship out.
Betty: So when do ya?
Teresa: I’m heading out on a bond tour but I’ll be back.
Betty: Don’t take this the wrong way but I’m not sure I would have done this with you if I’d known I’d have to see you again.
Teresa: So that’s what you were looking for?
Betty: I wasn’t looking for anything. But I’m glad you found me.
All of this is incredibly endearing and beautiful, their intimacy, the way that Betty’s previous alienation has suddenly led to this completely unexpected and easy feeling of companionship and closeness.
And Kate hears, because her door doesn’t close easily (this is how Kate and Betty first met, because Kate’s door wouldn’t close, and she needed it to close so desperately). It takes her a moment longer to lock it, Ivan’s already ahead, and she hears these noises from Betty’s room and realizes and it takes her a moment to put up that smile for Ivan that has nothing to do with the way she really feels, and everything with whom she is pretending to be. She was a whole new person, on that stage. She was herself, but only for a bit.
Eugene Corbett is the character that can’t be still, because moving is the only way he can keep the scary thoughts at bay. His concerns about his own humanity aren’t theoretical anymore, as James’ were – he’s at a point, after experiencing the horrors of war, where he’s convinced himself that he is now impossibly different from everybody else, someone who kills people, so returning to the normality of life not directly affected by war has become utterly impossible.
Lorna: What is in you, it’s not normal.
Gene: Who says I’m normal? Hm? I kill people, ma. I look through the dark at a man’s face, and I shoot him dead. So if I wanna whoop it up to forget, I damn well will.
Lorna: There’s doctors and they have treatments.
Gene: Treatments? I already got one. It’s called going back. I’ll see you when the war is over.
He can’t even relate the stories his father finally, in an act of bravery, shares with him to help him, because his experience of war is so completely different from his: Bob fought in the trenches of WW1, but Gene is “up in my glass bubble, no mud no blood”. His experience of killing people is strangely distant. The only way his life is making sense anymore is when he isn’t being careful, when he is risking it, when his “heart’s in his throat”, and the only way Lorna will be able to keep him is by sending him away to a place that he understands. There are so many different ways of losing someone in a war. Gene steps off that ledge because his mother tells him to, and gives him permission to return to the battle.
After their shared experience of talking Gene down from the roof of VicMu, Lorna delivers a telegram to Gladys – after explaining to her how to make an omelette, which is the first time that she’s ever acted as a sort of mother-figure to Gladys – and Gladys immediately realizes what this means, because she’s just spoken to James and he didn’t mention a telegram, and he is a soldier in a different country, so this is how she would get that message. She knows what’s going to happen, and she’s unable to read it herself, so she asks Lorna. They just spoke, and said they loved each other, and Gladys bit her tongue not to share the one thing she so desperately needed to say.
There are moments in shows that feel so painfully true to life that it’s incredibly hard to write about them. Gladys realizes that she burnt that omelette, and throws it out, and starts making a new one, and Lorna kindly and quietly explains to her how it works, because this is all she can do, wait for the terrible truth to set in. Gladys tries to do this one thing right – making omelettes with the spatula set that she won spending money she didn’t have, because “a gal can cook wherever she wants” – and then she finally breaks down, and cries, and the unlikely person comforting her is Lorna Corbett, whose way of holding on to her beloved son was sending him back to the war that just killed James Dunn.
Meanwhile, the personal responsible for the literal fireworks is one Marco Moretti. He purchases him from a friend, who has suspicious insights into the detainment camp Marco’s father is held in, asks about the TNT used in VicMu and makes a weird comment about “new countries”. I think I have a vague idea where this is going but Marco sure doesn’t, because he’s just realized that just like other characters in this episode, he’ll stop worrying so much and live his life and Vera’s right there, watching him be more happy than we’ve seen him in months, and they are both so adorable (I think I also know where this is leading…)
I really like that we get a look into Gene’s confused perception of reality – an intimate insight into his troubled mind – while the only way to figure out what Kate is going through is to try and make sense of the moments when her façade drops and she finds herself unable to keep up the fiction (in her conversation with Betty, maybe during the conversation with Leon, in her performance on stage, and finally, when she hears Betty and Teresa through the door). With Gene, all we see is the fire, with Kate, only the smoke.
Watching Teresa’s gaydar work out Betty was glorious. Thank you, show.
Teresa/Theresa/Bond Girl. I'll eventually go back and correct it if I'm wrong but from the perspective of the reviewer, not once mentioning the name of a major character in an episode is a bit mean??
HIM OR HER??
Honestly, Betty could clothe an entire regiment with her knitting. SHE NEEDS NEW NEEDLES!!
Lorna warns Gladys that Gene makes “a Sherman tank look like a tricycle”.
Betty: Princess! My point exactly.
The way Gladys talks to Eugene still cracks me up. “I spoke to James I’ll have you know.”
This episode features a glorious scene where Lorna explains women’s magazines to Bob and it’s secretly one of the loveliest tiny things ever. The way they laugh about their shared funny stories makes my day.
Rollie Witham, that sly fox, talks about how “freedom costs money” and gives a whole speech about Gladys’ and James’ sacrifice, “lovers investing in their bond, deferring easy happiness knowing that greater rewards await”. Considering how this episode ends…
Dee Dee: I have met so many soldiers on this tour and each and every one of them has touched me.
So has Gladys Witham, Dee Dee.
See you in March!!
See you in March!!
I love your insight into Gene's fire and with Kate only seeing the smoke, the hints that something else lurks underneath her mask.
Great work once again!
I've struggled with some of the reactions to Kate's behaviour, maybe because it seems more obvious to me what is going on with her (and I may be wrong of course), but I really wonder what the thought process behind the title of the episode was. Oh, to be a fly on the wall in the writers' room!
Oh I'd love that too... I *get* Kate too. Which may not be such a good thing...anyways. But it's so subtle in so many ways that I think a lot of the fanbase has trouble with understanding her. And I see their doubt and then I doubt myself and my thoughts.
- Lady Canuck
Count me too amongst those who totally get Kate.
I understand why some followers of the show have the reaction they have to Kate but it leaves me quite dissapointed. For me, being gay always felt as the straightest of jacket. Precisely because of this inability of a community that is by definition 'different' than the norm to accept difference. I've known even at 5 that it's all about women for me. But I've never felt part of the community (or the vocal/visible part of it, anyway).
Isn't the title yet another clue in the long series of clues that Kate does have feelings for Betty. It seems obvious to me, there's nothing else in the episode that it can refer to.
Thanks for the wonderful, insightful analysis, as always. There's so much going on in the episodes, layers upon layers.
I think you've hit the nail on the head with regards to Kate's conversation with Leon; she could both be referring (literally) to Betty's feelings but also (subconsciously) her own. Here's this person of religion who offers a polar opposite interpretation of religion to her father's oppressing viewpoint her entire life. One does not simply unlearn that oppression over the course of a few months to a year. That's long ingrained. When she sang that solo song, that was her singing to Betty much more than it was to Ivan. She communicates her 'true' voice in song - things she can't seem to say in speech. That time her head was in the game, and when she noticed abetty had left before she finished, her mask dropped, for just a moment, and she realized that what she was saying, Betty couldn't hear at this time. Betty, has put up those walls around her heart again.
It was absolutely necessary for Betty to have to articulate her needs, her truth - she can't keep pretending as Kate so desperately needs - that she loves Kate. And as much as she might like to hold on for Kate to realize her own feelings, she can't keep up that facade and continue to be lonely and having her heart break everytime. I'm very glad for Teresa/Bond Girl for finding Betty and Betty realizing she was not alone in her 'otherness'; that circumstances surrounding the war makes them 'not stick out like a sore thumb.' For a long time Betty has provided that safe harbour for Kate (safe from her father, safe in this new world) and now at least for the time being, Teresa is providing that, albeit slightly differently (needs/desires and exploring those, articulating those needs/desires) for Betty.
Gene - as much as I didn't like his character when he first showed, this ep actually had me feeling sorry for him. In some ways, his fate as a soldier home from the war on leave is worse than James's death. Gladys can eventually mourn his death. For Lorna, Bob & other Corbett's - Gene's PTSD is something he'll always have to live with. Bob was right on the money - war changes people that the folks at home don't always know how to deal with. They can work with counsellors, but they're never the same.
Gladys. My gods. That last scene with Lorna had me in tears. She so wants things to be different - to be able to effect her own independence from James and from her family. To be responsible for her own life - something I think she really admires in Betty. She sees Betty as being very independent - to make her own choices in life; maybe seeing something in Betty that she'd like to be able to do for herself, but her position (her family's social status and her upbringing) has not allowed her do do so. At the beginning of the episode, she and Lorna are still at odds over Gladys's interest in Gene, and by the end of it Lorna is trying to comfort Gladys when she informs her (via letter delivered to the VicMu) that James had died. Such a stunning scene by both of them.
Vera & Marco. This is an interesting development, for both who seem to perceive themselves on different levels as being outsiders - Vera because of her scars and Marco because of his Italian background - bonding in friendship.
Alas, I think I've rambled on enough in your blog :D
That time her head was in the game, and when she noticed abetty had left before she finished, her mask dropped, for just a moment, and she realized that what she was saying, Betty couldn't hear at this time. Betty, has put up those walls around her heart again.
That should have said ...when she noticed Betty had left ...
Too bad there's no post-edit feature. :)
Thanks for all the comments!
Honestly, the subtlety and ambiguity is exactly what I'm enjoying so much about her character, and Charlotte Hegele is so brilliant and potraying them. And then I remember that practically every single song we've ever seen Kate Andrews sing was about (and sung to!) Betty McRae (she feels something and then she sings!!), so I'm not even sure if subtle is the right expression. It's just that she doesn't often express her feelings with words (I think the only exceptions this season were the conversation with Betty about what she wasn't feeling after her father's death and the one with Gladys about being scared?). Being able to articulate her feelings is one of the things that she needs to reclaim after growing up with Vernon.
"She communicates her 'true' voice in song - things she can't seem to say in speech."
Beautifully put. That's why her inability to sing was so heartbreaking - because it meant that Vernon also took that one thing from her that gave her the ability to express herself.
I'm still not sure about Betty's reaction, but I can't wait to see how their dynamics will change now that Teresa is here.
Some of the reactions to Kate this week left me baffled because they came from people that I've mostly agreed with in the past (and whose writing I've admired), and their reading of the situation was so different from mine. Maybe part of it is that Betty is a character a lot of people identify with, and they feel protective of her?
My biggest fear with regards to the show but this storyline specifically is that the writers are clearly playing the long game with the characters - that probably already extends beyond this season - and it would be a tragedy if the show got cancelled after the next six episodes.
And Ceridwyn2, great observation about Vera and Marco bonding because they are outsiders. This is still happening in the background so I haven't written about it much but I love how their story is developing. They have great chemistry.
Bringing Teresa is such a clever solution that it surprises me that I didn't see it coming.
It's interesting that out of all the other times that Betty could have said 'I can't anymore' to Kate she did it right after getting the idea that someone is interested in her, that she's not alone. It was the final push that she needed.
This also comes, of course, after Betty goes to church and finally stops being ashamed, afraid of her love of/desire for women. But from her saying that 'she wasn't looking for anything' you could understand that she still wouldn't have gone out seeking other women.
It was a wonderful parallel between the church of Kate's father, a church that condemns Betty to eternal damnation as a deviant and a sinner (and still gives Kate problems in processing her relation with Betty) and the church of Leon that gives Betty her freedom and her piece of mind.
Betty, in a way, saves religion for Kate. This is important because Kate will probably always be a religious person and she needed religion saved from the horrible distortions of her father. It's also another thing that binds them, brings them together.
Betty's 'religion' (the thing that she believes in, that she finds comfort in) is the love for Kate and the house she wants to build for the both of them. In time, Kate will come to see that this religion is exactly in keeping with her religion, rather than against her religion, a virtue rather than a sin.
Had it not been for Kate, Betty would have not stepped foot into the church (and thus got her liberation). Had it not been for Betty, with her protection and support, Kate might not have made it out in the real world.
It remains to be seen if Kate and Betty will share physical intimacy. But what is already true and cannot be taken away from their story is that they will always be each other's (first) significant other.
And then we have Gladys, whom both Kate and Betty see as part of their family. That shot of the three of them, lying on the bed in Betty's room (that bed is not just a prop, it's an integral part of the cast with all the things that happened on it) is priceless.
The story begins with Gladys stepping out of the world of her biological family and gradually, slowly, but surely, with each episode, she moves further and further away from that family/world. And now that her presumed future family (James) is gone and she has moved out of the hotel and made peace with Lorna and had Lorna be there for her in that crucial moment, her integration in this family is almost complete. Her mother tells her that 'this is the last thing I do for you, from now on you're on your own', Lorna helps her 'do this thing right' and to comfort her.
I love Gladys for pushing and pushing for her freedom, despite all the obstacles.
Gladys too, like Betty and Kate, is forever changed the moment she sets foot at VicMu.
Having Teresa in the picture also gives Gladys a chance to enjoy her new family (if Betty and Kate became an item after Betty's declaration, there wouldn't have been much space, at least for a while, for Gladys). All three of them were at a crossroads this last episode and now begins the another phase of their friendships. I think Betty's new found joy with Teresa, rather than make Gladys feel left out, it will give her courage that life goes on. It will be interesting to see how much Gladys finds out about the Betty-Kate fall out and how she reacts to that. Gladys has always been closer to Betty and there's the Gene incident between her and Kate, so how will the dynamic between Kate and Gladys be?
I still can't visualize Vera and Marco as lovers but I think that's because I don't yet understand where Marco, as a character, is going. I know for Vera, her path to liberation and emancipation has been as sweet and fantastic as Betty's, Kate's and Gladys'. But Marco seems to be drifting still. There's the conversation with the guy that supplies him the fireworks but didn't know what to make of it. Is this guy a 'traitor' and Marco will expose him and thus gained the recognition and acceptance from the authorities that he so wants?
Also, will this be the spark for Vera (who only goes out with heroes and who taunts Marco a bit for being 'a hero waiting to happen)?
I was all keen on Marco-Lorna affair because I thought they had great chemistry and they both deserved a bit of love (physical and emotional). But I'm also happy now that things didn't work out that way because this has led finally to some sunshine in the Corbett household, rescued Bob as a character and made Marco and Vera possible.
I think there is also a parallel between the way that Betty and Kate struggle with their sexuality, because for both it's not just just a struggle with themselves (I'm fairly sure that Betty is certain that she is gay, while Kate is still lacking the language to make sense of herself, she's just at the beginning of that process), but a constant conflict with their environment. For Betty, her sexuality is what makes it impossible for her to be normal (and you sometimes get a sense that she resents herself for that) - she struggles with society - for Kate, any kind of sexuality was turned into something dirty and wrong by her father. That's why Leon's church makes so much sense in their respective stories - for Betty's, it's hope that society might accept her (Betty isn't religious strictly speaking, but that's why she was so moved by Leon in that scene), for Kate, potentially the idea that there is an interpretation of religion that makes it okay for her to be herself (but she isn't at a point where she's able to accept that message yet). Also, the "if I had a voice like that" comment from season one?! It's all tangled up.
I'm not quite so optimistic about Gladys. I love your interpretation of her being fully integrated into the Vic Mu family, and the scene of Lorna teaching her how to make omelettes - the most simple thing to make, really, but Gladys never had anyone in her life who thought it necessary to teach her how to cook - was incredibly moving, but I think part of Gladys' arc in the second half of the season will be about her guilt, and that's connected to her move away from her old life as well.
Marco... I think one of the themes of the season is finding a safe home, fitting in (and of course being alienated and not fitting in, that's the conflict), and Marco is struggling so hard to be accepted into this world that he's always been part of. I'm not sure where they are going with his storyline, but there's this weird feeling of things getting pretty sinister and dark (secret police? Shady "friends"?), so I'm a bit worried about him.
I liked the Marco-Lorna romance for what it did for Lorna's character (and it was so entertaining to see how flustered she was!), but Marco didn't really get a lot of development of his own.
Also in the "things are going to get dark" vein: I'm pretty sure Vernon's death is coming back to haunt Betty and Kate, especially since it's been so suspiciously absent so far.
I agree with the parallels between Betty and Kate's stories. When I wonder about what drew them to each other in the very beginning - apart from Betty's innate sense of protectiveness and Kate's early vulnerability - i think perhaps they related to their shared sense of otherness. Whether this is read as being queer otherness doesn't really matter. One of Betty's biggest dragons - which you point out- is the fear of not fitting in; the fear of not being perceived as normal, or perceiving herself as being "normal". This is why the 'deviant' slur hit so hard apart from the very rea possibility of losing her job. Kate comes from another position of being 'othered', by virtue of living a sheltered upbringing, not being able to consort with boys etc. They do this parallel really well in s1. Kate, who i really think is quite savvy and clued on, acknowledges this in Betty (it doesn't matter what people think of you, just the important ones) and makes it okay, makes it feel safe to be herself. Eventually, both try to play the roles society has cast them into (using poor Ivan as the willing actor, or prop really). They did so for different reasons, and here is why i feel like Kate's journey to discovering her sense of identity will be more rugged and tumultuous. She is in many ways a blank canvas, a new life - Kate Andrews - and so many possibilities of who to be. And the thing is, when we choose bits and pieces of our personality (consciously or unconsciously), we are rejecting other sides, potentialities of who we could be. Kate really has so much exploring to do and is grasping i think between two selves -a self that she thinks she should be, and a self who is authentic to who she is (sound familiar?). The difference with Betty and Kate is that Betty has most of pieces of the puzzle. She knows for better part who is is, she's likely known these unnatural feelings and desires of hers for some time, though fought against them. Kate, and it breaks my heart, Kate has such a long way to go you guys!! And that's why i'm really glad they've gone the way they have. I feel like Kate (and Betty) are going to learn the most without the comfort of each others support. Sometimes pain and rejection are the fastest way to growth and learning.
Arrrrrggghhh i typed this on my phone on a bus so sorry for bad structure/spelling and such!!
Yes, that's a good way of putting it 'The difference with Betty and Kate is that Betty has most of pieces of the puzzle', but they're both working at that puzzle.
I liked the fact that the writers gave us another clue as to Betty's 'otherness' and to her jumpiness. Imagine Betty at the age when you get a sense of yourself in the world: you're German and you like girls. Two things that you can't change, can't do anything about but you know would cause you problems if they were found out. So then you're always ready to defend yourself, to fight if anybody was to found out.
This might be far fetched but it struck me that Kate seems to know nothing about boys (really nothing) but she does knows straight away that with girls is 'sin'. There's something that doesn't add up. Clearly there was some talk in the McAndrews family about sex or at least coupling as a concept was mentioned, otherwise how do you explain the sin/deviant concept? Vernon skipped those passages in the Bible that talked about sexual/romantic love between men and women and didn't allow Kate to talk to boys so he almost wanted her to be asexual, barren, dedicated just to him. But he had to say something about sexual/romantic love to explain why it is wrong (according to him and the Bible) to have this love with a person of your own gender.
You could say that he talked of the 'sinful' love because he was all about sins and he denied her the 'virtuous' love because he was a selfish, abusive bastard.
But you could also wonder if the talked about 'sinful' love because he saw Kate having some feelings of that kind for girls as she was growing up, maybe even 'catch' her acting on those feeelings.
Also, as much as you are not allowed to talk to boys, when the hormones start raging, you're still after boys and you are not after girls if that's how you're wired. I mean, ok, you're not allowed to talk to them, but you still have boys in church, you're surrounded by them, they are surrounded by you and full of hormones so some flirting does happens, despite the prohibition. But Kate seems to be totally awkward when it comes to flirting with boys.
When Marco tried to teach her and she touches him on the arm but then quickly pulls her hand, shudders and she says 'I can't' in the same way that you would be if somebody told you to pat an aligator on the head.
So Vernon thought that he had all the bases covered when it comes to keeping sex & Kate totally separate. With boys, by actually denying day to day contact. With girls, by presumably allowing day to day contact, but making it a sin instead. He was so convinced of the hold he had on Kate and the righteousness of his religion that he staked them on Kate not liking girls. Th irony...
@bnofree: so I just re-watched the first episode for research purposes (oh what a sacrifice :) and the way the show builds their mutual... attraction? fascination? let's call it connection for now, with each other is so great, because I think with Kate it's almost immediate, from the moment Betty happens to be the one helping her so competently with her door (even though she turns around immediately with no interest at all to start a conversation). With Betty it seems to be two things, that also happen to correspond with the two (contradictory?) aspects of Kate's character: when she almost causes the explosion and the way she explains to Betty that the factory is all she has (OF COURSE Betty would understand that) somehow compels Betty not to rat her out to Lorna AND to show her how to pour the amatol (that little reassuring smile always gets me), the scars on her back, but even more so I think the singing and the moment when Kate grabs her hands to try a twirl with her. I love that moment so much because it's almost like Kate is giving something back for when she was new at the boarding house and Betty was the first one to sort of reach out to her, even if it was in Betty's particular huffy manner. So what I think they maybe recognize in each other is their respective loneliness? And you're so right, with all the terrible things that have happened to Kate, it's so easy to overlook how resourceful and strong she is (didn't Betty at one point mention that Kate seems to fit right in after a couple of weeks while she still feels out of place? Kate's been forced to act and pretend all her life, and I got the feeling that with Vernon, it really was a matter of life and death).
+ btw I'd be glad to type something half as well-structured on solid ground :)
@hubertpage: It seems significant that the first time we ever meet Kate is a scene where Vernon punishes her brutally for looking at a man the wrong way. I'm pretty sure he skipped over the passages referring to love (I know next to nothing about the Bible but it's really no surprise he left out those passages from The Song of Solomon!), but he seems like the kind of radical fanatist who would have been particularly keen on picking out everything that ensures his control over his family, everything that allows him to police Kate's behaviour (for Vernon, religion is a tool that gives him power). Leviticus fits right in, doesn't it? And then when Kate came back we know the kind of stuff he was preaching and made her preach against (exactly the kind of sins he saw her committing before). If he left out the passages referring to homosexuality before, he certainly focused on them once she returned - and if her mother was a source of comfort to her before she left, she wasn't around any more once Kate returned (and I think it's also important to remember that Vernon wasn't just authoritative and brutal, but capable of brainwashing Kate with the physical and mental torture he exerted).
This is speculation but I don't think that the Rowleys were ever part of a bigger religious community, Vernon was literally the only authority figure and point of reference for Kate, and they probably spent her entire youth moving around so that it was impossible for her to build up any kind of relationship outside her own family.
Gosh, I forgot that Kate took a different name and can't remember why she chose Kate Andrews.
I don't know that much about the Bible either but from what I remember there are lots of places where it talks about man-woman love and relationships (and the Wedding at Canaa being where Jesus performs the first miracle), only one place where it talks about friendship between women (Ruth and Naomi) and then the thing with Sodoma and Gomorrah in relation to male homosexuality.
Female homosexuality as a defined concept (in society and in religion) only really came about in the 20th century and even now is seen as a very different light than male homosexuality. This articles explains a little bit why:
To a certain extent, love and desire between women went deeper between 19th century women than 20th century women without it being condemned.
I might be clutching at straws here but it just seems a bit odd that of all the things Kate had been brainwashed about this should be the biggest issue. I don't remember her saying anything about Vera and her soldiers or Lorna and Marco or Gladys soon-to-be-married and men but there's a lot of smoke when it comes to Betty.
Yes, in episode 6 of the first season, when Vernon comes the second time, Kate says: 'What kind of life? I make things that kill people. I debase god’s gift. I sing and dance of sin. I drink, smoke, consort with deviants" but that's about the only time she expresses having a problem with anything else other than Betty.
Also, immediately after she says to Betty that she likes her too, at the piano, with a smile on her face and slightly confused as to why such self-evident truths (the fact that her and betty like each other) need to be said, right after that moment, her expression changes to serious and then to fearful of the ominous thing that is going to happen (Betty leaning forward to kiss her). Betty misses this because she's already gone into the moment (the massive, courageous step).
Kate, who seems SO unaware of anything to do with boys, even of the most simple of things, does anticipate this thing with Betty and for a very brief moment even responds.
And this is also the thing that makes her go back to her father's world, rather than or more than any other thing. Letting herself be photographed for other people's sexual purposes should be an even bigger sin for a religious person (lots of Bible talk on the sin of prostitution and sexual anything outside of marriage and procreation).
So it makes me wonder if Kate had the experience before, of feelings for, with, by another woman. More so, if she had the experience before and thought it was a sin, did she stay with her father as the only way to be virtuous in this respect?
Her father also seems to see rather too quickly the 'sin' inside Betty. I don't know how many fathers, religious or not, even now, second time they meet one of their daughter's friend says that about this friend if he's never had cause before to suspect anything about his daughter. I mean, ok, Betty might not be your typical girly girl (though, yeah, the mere fact that she stands up to him goes against his idea of how women should be) but does she scream gay and has Vernon had so much experience of gay women that he can spot one just by looking at her?
Kate, again, knows little about virtuous boys but knows straight away about deviant girls.
Also, I can't remember, were we ever given an explanation for the scars on her back, the reason for them?
just a correction:
Deuteronomy 22:5 says
"The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God."
But Deuteronomy is a book in the Hebrew Bible and I think even Vernon got past the women wearing trousers issue
This site goes into detail about the Ruth-Naomi story:
So I'm still wondering how the lesbian issue was so prominent with the Rowleys.
One more thing:
As Kate is about to leave with Vernon, at the end of season 1, after Vernon hits Betty and tells Kate to 'tell her, Marion, and Kate says 'I don't love this anymore... And I never wanted you' and then sweetly and in tears herself she says 'Goodbye'.
Interesting choice of words. Did she love 'this' before Vernon appeared or if Vernon wasn't standing next to her? Or did she love 'this' before Betty kissed her but not after?
By 'I never wanted you' does Kate mean the same thing that Betty says to Teresa when she says she wasn't looking for anything (but so glad that something, somebody found her because she's been waiting for a while)?
Is she saying 'I never wanted you' in the sense that I never wanted to have to explore that thing which I know is in me.
Like in the scene with Leon in the last episode, she does not say ' but I don't love you Betty', not even with Vernon standing next to her.
lots and lots of smoke...
@CathyLeaves yeah i love that scene where Betty softens after Kate pleads to not have her fired. And the way she places her hand over Kates to steady her while she pours the amotol. Which- actually is the beginning of their 'hand' symbolism. I remember watching the behind the scenes of Firefly and i think it might of been Joss Whedon who said that a character who uses their hands a lot or has the camera focus on their hands is meant to symbolise good/purity. I think it has to do with being open (as opposed to say, hands in pockets which is traditionally read as being withdrawn or secretive). Also, hands of a healer etc. They actually make a point of this with the character of Simon in Firefly, but anyway, i digress.
There are so many instances of Kate-Betty hand connection - the one mentioned, Kate taking Betty's hands to dance (x2), Kate rubbing Betty's sore shoulder on the piano chair after the factory incident, Betty kissing Kate's hands first before going in to kiss her, the nail polish scene, Kate tending to Betty's hand after she cut it in the Nazi cage, and probably numerous others i can't recall. I don't think this is a coincidence, especially considering the Nazi scene, Betty really could have been hurt/cut/injured anywhere but i can't help but think the hand gash was engineered so Kate could later take Betty's hand and tend to her wound.
It really highlights a level of intimacy these two share which is quite rare and meaningful for both. Noticably, in the post sex scene with theresa, watch Betty's stance/body language in relation to Theresa (closed versus open) and critically, note that Betty's hands are clasped together the entire time. Oh Betty, she's no Kate i know! Gah show - can't believe we have to wait 5 more weeks!
Thanks to the link. I was aware of the fact that there was a judicial distinction between male and female homosexuality in many countries (including Austria, where it was only abolished in 2004).
You're right, Kate does seem to feel more strongly about this issue (the "That's disgusting" reaction to the kiss) than she does about all the other things going on around her. I didn't pay much attention before because you'd expect it of a contemporary religious fanatic, but this probably wasn't as high on the agenda in 1942. I do see Vernon as the kind of person that would have been extremely troubled by the changes during the war - women working in factories, being away home, being independent, living together rather than with their families (and just a by the way, I did picture him as the kind of person that would have issues with women wearing trousers). Could it just be an issue that became more prominent with very religious people because gender roles were changing and women were taking up positions previously held by men (this is probably researchable, whether there was a surge of debate or awareness of homosexuality during that time).
How he realized that Betty was gay... He doesn't initially (the film director did, but he moves in a different world than Vernon does, obviously), in their first confrontation - and we don't see what happens between him and Kate afterwards, before Betty finds them, but I kind of thought that whatever horrible thing he did to Kate, made her tell him what happened. That whole line about "What kind of life" sounded like something he made her say, he planted in her head. The whole scene is acted so brilliantly because (at least I always got the feeling) there's this intense difference between Kate and Marion, and she switches between the two during the goodbye scene (just the change in her eyes between the monologue and the "goodbye" - Charlotte Hegele is SO freaking good).
I mean, I'd be really interested in hearing more about Kate growing up, and I like the theory that Vernon was suspicious because of how she interacted with other girls.
About the scars: there must have been a lot of off-screen conversations between Kate and Betty, but I'm not sure if we ever got confirmation that Kate outright told Betty about the abuse, or if Betty is just making a (well-founded) assumption when she says "I know he put them there" in the finale.
And some more thoughts on Kate, because it always struck me as remarkable that someone who suffered abuse and has just assumed a secret identity (and is in constant fear of being found out) would be so open and trusting with Betty. It's almost like she has this profound instinctual trust in her from the moment Betty shows her how to close the door (which is also such a great symbol for Betty creating a safe space for her). There's also the moment when she tries to fake her security papers and instead of hiding the fact from Betty she just blurts out the entire story - trusting that Betty isn't going to go to Lorna or to the police, which is such an immense step really. That in addition to the physical intimacy (yes, the HANDS - @bnofree, you just reminded me of the fact that this whole interpretation of hands very likely also applies to Tara in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, because once you mentioned Joss Whedon, a couple of scenes flashed in front of my eyes) is quite incredible for someone who spent her entire childhood afraid of an abusive father, who probably had to shut away a good part of herself just to survive in that family (there is the literal juxtaposition of Vernon crushing her hand in their very first scene and Betty kissing them in the finale).
So about Kate being aware of Betty's feelings before the kiss... I agree that she seems to know what is about to happen before Betty actually moves in for the kiss (and kisses back for a split second). I have a hard time putting this into words but there are definitely a lot of different forces at work in Kate Andrews, contradictory feelings, and as much of a mystery as she can be, sometimes things come to the surface (in her eyes, in her singing) that she isn't entirely aware of herself. I think part of her wasn't completely surprised by Betty's feelings (also, Kate isn't NAIVE. She didn't have a chance to have experiences that other girls went through growing up, but she seems to be aware of what is happening - even in that first scene, when she watching the soldiers and the girl, and also evident in her reaction to the forger's suggestion).
Betty in the scene with Teresa - you're totally right about Betty's body language in the scene. Teresa is the one reaching out, touching her face, rubbing her feet, caressing her shoulder, etc. If I was predicting the rest of the season, I'd say Teresa has probably found something she wasn't really looking for as well.
So I watched again all episodes (s1 and s2). I wanted to see if there were more clues with regards to Vernon and religion.
I've not done this before so this is only my second viewing. And the conclusion? I have no doubt about Kate having romantic feelings for Betty.
I didn't watch looking for this, but I did pay more attention to what was happening with Betty and Kate than I did when I first watched the show as it happened, one episode a week and taking in the whole ensemble of characters and stories.
When you focus on Betty and Kate it is really very obvious that Kate is into Betty. From the first episode, with no going backwards. It's wonderful! But it's not a coming out story, it's a falling for somebody story (for both Kate and Betty).
I didn't think it was possible but having seen it again I have an higher appreciation for the show. If you take just episode 1, it's a masterpiece, everything is set in play there, the themes, the characters, the times and with such clarity and attention to detail. From the very first scene (when we see first see Kate, smiling, looking at a woman with red coat and red shoes getting into a truck with soldiers) to the very last, at VicMu, Gladys walking onto the factory floor for the first time, with 'A hundred years from Today' (published in 1933) playing in the background:
'life is such a great adventure
learn to live it as you go
no one in the world can censure
what we do here bellow'
oh and yes, Charlotte is soooo freaking good!
Before I delve into that though, a bit about Vernon, religion and homosexuality in Canada at the time.
Well, there's very little evidence about homosexuality in Canada before ...as late as the post WWII period. Sure, Canada had some legal provisions about 'buggery' in the body of laws that in inherited as a colony. Sure, religious people in Canada had the same biblical references about male homosexuality being one of the reason for the wrath on sodoma & gomorrah. But these are things in the background.
There are a handful of scattered mentions in papers/writings of male homosexuality, but these are also in the background. None about female homosexuality. Not even a bit of what was happening in Victorian Britain.
The timeline of homosexuality (as a concept in popular culture, society and laws and as a rights issue) in Canada seems to start around 1960 and to be part of the emancipation movements of the period.
So yeah, a bohemian like Russell Joseph, the guy coming to VicMu to film 'Betty the bomb girl' (as recruitment newsreel), does look at Betty and sees somebody who does her share (of lies) every day. But he's a guy with three former wives (well, actually 2 since wife number 1 and 3 are the same person). And he's a girls' guy who responds to a guys' girl like Gladys. He's not homophobic or anything, just that he will sense any woman who doesn't flirt with him or with whom there is no potential for flirting and assume that it is because she is interested in women.
Besides, he exists in a permissive bohemian world. And Betty does accuse him of lying (in his work and about her specifically) and punches him with quite the hook.
But where would Vernon have experience of gay women, I don't know. Ok, the Rowleys probably hanged out preaching damnation outside bars, clubs, etc so he would have seen some drunken sexual shennigans and possibly cross dressing women. Also, Vernon, like other men then and now, would not like any woman that stands up the him, questions his authority, especially over something like his daughter (which he believe to be owning, body and soul). And Betty doesn't pull her punches with him. When he first comes to the house, he's in the room with Kate and Betty comes back from the movies. Vernon is close to the door, Kate is on the other side of the room, Betty walks past Vernon towards Kate asking if there's a problem here, Kate responds 'it's my father, he was just leaving' and Betty says, incredulous and annoyed says 'Your father??'. Vernon smiles/smirks and says to Betty 'It's a pleasure' and Betty responds 'Not for me mister!'. So before Betty stood up to him Vernon was not against Betty, did not see the sin in her. But the minute Betty stood up to him and did this to protect Kate, she became the sinner, the deviant. Vernon judges the world in Biblical terms, friendship, sisterhood or just general human kindness are not concepts he accepts or understands so Betty's protection of Kate must come (in his mind) from a sexual possession. I think Betty would have stood up for any woman that she felt she needed to protect not just one that she in love with.
Yes, like you say Cathy, in times of big social changes, religious preachers up the ante with their preaching. We start the show with Vernon preaching 'sinners, our war is not merely a fight against hitler. It's our path to deliverance
untold demons, they lie in wait for us overseas'. His natural instict and desire for wrath and upheaval is well served by the actual war going on and the uncertainty that comes with it. We always see Vernon and the family at night. Try to imagine Vernon on a sunny day, in a pastoral setting, it just doesn't go, does it?
There's another thought that crossed my mind, though it's probably far fetched. He comes looking for Kate when her mother is sick. Kate offers to send money but Vernon is not after the money. He punishes Kate even for looking at another man (he sees that as the 'beast within' that she must vanquish - or that he will by brute force: crushing her hand, lashing her). When Kate wants to run, one of her brothers starts screaming for Vernon. The question is does Vernon want Kate to come back to take her mother's place, including in his bed?
When Kate is about to run away, she wants to, but she's still afraid and her mum encourages her and is the one who has arranged the papers (which, as we see later on when Kate has to obtain a forged security clearance, is no small task - what did her mum have to do and how did she manage to do it). This is the scene with her mum:
Her mum gives her an envelope, tells her the she knows the address, that her new name is Kate Andrews and that the family will be going up north the enxt day
Kate is fearful of Vernon finding her
her mum counters with 'we talked about this, there's no life for you here'
Kate gets ready to go when one of her brothers appears and starts screaming for Vernon
Vernon appears, grabs Kate and tells her 'though shall not...' (I don't understand the word he uses, it seems 'strain')
Kate pushes him over in a quite remarcable scene (even Vernon is shocked by the force with which Kate pushes him out of her way) and runs.
The second thing that struck me on second viewing: how horrible people were to each other (in varying degrees, but still), everybody trying to put and keep everybody in their place. Gladys' father to her, Gladys' mother to her, Lorna to her daughter, Lorna to Marco, the boys to the girls, factory manager to employees, authorities to Marco, Vernon to Kate, rich people to everybody else and so on.
Also was struck me and was HOW brave Gladys has been and how many things she pushes against. She tries to be decent, to do the right thing, to make other people see and do the right thing, she's progessive, wants more rights for everybody, pushes for barriers to come down. Over and over and over again, risking everything in the process and never bowing: her status, the relationship with her family, her fiancee, her friends, her position at the factory, her livelihood, her safety, everything. I am in complete AWE of Gladys and kept wanting over the episodes to give her a hug, to tell her what a heroine of feminism she is. You could write a book just on Gladys!
ok, now onto Kate and Betty and why I think there's no doubt about Kate's feelings for Betty. I mean, once they meet, these two are hardly apart from each other. The only time Kate is not with Betty is when she's with Leon (so the singing) or with Vernon, but not because she's with other people.
1st scene that stuck to my mind, apart the one with Kate just arriving at the house and Betty helping her with the door, is the one outside the factory, the girls (Betty, Kate, Vera, Edith) are smoking before shift, Gladys arrives, they're making conversation and Vera says 'soldiers all want a factory girl' and then we cut to Kate looking at Betty..
2nd scene (still first episode, so not even a few weeks there), at VicMu:
Kate asks Betty if she wants to the party that night
Betty: 'I don't go anywhere near the ocean...there's german submarines, don't you read the papers'
Kate, really sweetly, trying not to upset Betty, 'except I think it's not the ocean, just a big lake'
Betty: well, it's still water.
And then of course she goes, like she will go all the other times with Kate, after Kate. And she does this because Kate keeps wanting her everywhere with her.
The only time Betty says no is in the last episode.
3rd scene, girls talking in the canteen:
Kate: so...do soldiers dance with all the girls?
Vera: you'll go home with as many requests for marriage
kate: oh, I hardly think
so Kate is interested as she always is in the dancing (hence Betty's use of 'find yourself somebody else to dance with' as substitute for breaking up)
also Kate is not after marriage with a soldier
4th scene, at the party, Betty and Kate standing next to each other, everybody else further away, dancing, drinking, etc:
There's some guys passing by, Kate makes some dancing movements
Betty's all swagger, just sittin' and watchin' and she asks Kate: 'you dance much?'
Kate: 'oh lots ...by myself'
5th scene, same party, later on
Two women step onto the dance floor for a slow one and Kate's eyes, as she follows the women, get bigger and bigger (it's really quite funny). She then turns to Betty, not hesitant at all and says: 'Do you want to try a twirl?'
She says this in exactly the same sweet, enthusiastic, matter of fact tone she talks about the jitterbug in the last episode.
Betty looks at her surprised (it might have been the first time a girl has asked her to dance, it doesn't seem she's surprised that it's Kate asking) but excited at the idea as well
Kate continues confidently and takes Betty's hands and spins her and then continues to lead whilst slowly getting closer to Betty
6th scene, at the photographer:
Kate doesn't know what to do with herself, is embarrased, tries to cover her body with her hands
Betty says 'don't look at him, focus on me'
And hello kitten! Kate opens up, knows what to do, just like later on, when Marco tries to teach her how to flirt, she can't touch him or laugh normally at his jokes but when Marco asks her to do it with Betty she's fine, no problem
There's a minute at the photographer when they're having FUN, just like later on Kate responds to Betty's kiss for a moment
The hotographer ruins the moment by saying that 'Kate Andrews is gonna be comforting a lot of lonely servicemen'
the look of embarassament on Betty's face when he says that, knowing what that would do to Kate...
7th scene, Kate and Betty at the photographer again, this time to collect the security clearance:
The photographer gives Kate a copy of the final photos, the ones that will be published, Kate is horrified again at the thought but then they're off to the party. After the party they're sitting on Betty's bed admiring how good Kate looks in those photos.
Kate almost can't believe that's her in the photos
betty remarks that 'that's the new you'
and says 'this is for you'
and gives Kate the hairpin Kate was eyeing earlier at the party but didn't have the money to buy
Kate is all excited about the hairpin
and tells Betty 'I am soo lucky I met you'
so Betty sees an opening and says
you know those nightmares you're having
if you ever want to sleep over here
and Kate responds, still smiling that that's so kind,
but she thinks she'll be having better dreams now
ahh, Betty in this scene, poor soul, she retreats and just says well, that's grand.
Kate gives her a warm hug, I think even a kiss on the head whilst she's hugging her, says 'hmm, it was a fun dance'
they say goodnight, Kate walks out, leaving Betty on the bed looking at Kate's pictures (which interestingly Kate left there) all smitten and falling in love with Kate
I think this is the first moment when Kate knows and half of me even thinks that there is a moment of lingering on her part in this scene, waiting to see if Betty does do something. But Betty doesn't and it's totally understandable, poor soul, she's struggling as well. There's the tiny bit of awkwardness in Kate voice wheh she says about better dreams, it's different than before when she said that she's so lucky to have met Betty. There's also a very very subtle hint of something on Kate's face when Betty makes the sleepover suggestion. BUT, Kate is not scared by the realization and she doesn't run away. All the other scenes, the more clear cut ones of Betty's love for Kate and Kate responding follow after this one.
8th scene, filming for the newsreel, at the imaginary house
It's just Kate there with/for Betty, in a nice parallel to the scene at the photographer
Betty is uncomfortable with the set-up for the scene as the one that people will see
Kate comforts her: 'they're all going to see what I see, a hero'
later on, after the viewing at VicMu, Kate and Betty in Kate's bed (cause, you know, these two are made to be in bed together!), in a nice parallel to them looking at Kate's photos, Kate being upset with them and Betty comforting Kate;
Betty is all upset about the film
Kate: I don't care what other people think, I thought you were great
Betty: I know I'd never be that girl onnscreen
Kate: you wouldn't want to
Betty: thing is, sometimes I would, make so many things easier
Kate: (admonishing her) betty...(stop with the nonsense)
Betty: look at you, you're here a month already and you fit right in
Kate: (very sure of what she says) you don't need everybody liking you, just the ones that matter
10th scene, at the factory, after Gladys' father comes in and causes an incident on the line at VicMu
Kate: when i saw those projectiles swinging at you my heart stopped
and then they rub each other's hands
11th scene (last episode at the first series and when series two was not yet a given), at the bar, Kate singing with Leon at the piano, Leon probes her about her singing a happy song with a sad voice, Kate offers that she's thinking of the American sailors, Leon blasts her excuse with 'it seems to me that your battles are a lot closer to home', Kate responds 'You're just like Betty'
Betty's, who has been in the background during the song (and importantly she was there, cause like I said, these two are always together) says 'except that he's prettier'. Leon goes to the bar up to get some drinks, Betty comes from the bar to the piano to sit next to Kate (god, this show is so perfectly theatrical)
Remember that what follows happens after Vernon appeared, so Kate is already taken back to Marion's world.
Still, when Betty sits down at the piano, Kate moves closer to her, tells Betty that she should be lying down, starts to massage her sour shoulder and asks if it hurts (projecting, because she is hurting inside, hence the sad song)
Betty says nah, it feels good... (referring to everything about her and Kate)
She takes Kate's had, kisses it (in the palm, the same palm that Vernon tried to crush in the first episode) and tells Kate that she really likes her
Kate, with the same slightly awkward look on her face that she had when Betty suggested the sleepover, responds that she likes her too
And then Betty, unlike in the scene with the sleepover, in private, the first time, this time, in public, she is ready to come out with her love for Kate, this time Betty leans over and kisses Kate.
Kate for a brief moment responds and then she freaks out
And then later on she leaves with Vernon, back to the world she said she was never going back to.
I think Kate wouldn't have freaked out had it not been for Vernon appearing. But credit to the writers for playing this right, for not making this a happy end because life doesn't work that way. When you live in the environment that Kate lived in, it is a long long long struggle to free yourself. You struggle even when you've got a 'hero' like Betty struggling there with you and for you.
The writters could have, not knowing at that point in time whether there will be a second series or not, to give a happy ending. But again, they kept the writing tight and said no, somebody like Kate would not yet be ready, it's just the second step. Kate needed to kill the Vernon in her head and this is not easy. This is still a struggle even after he's physically dead so she certainly wasn't going to be ready while he was alive and the fear of having been found by him had just been confronted only days before. Vernon finding her and Kate confronting that fear is step 3.
Step 4 is Kate coming back to Betty, step 5 is Kate dealing with Teresa being there, step 6 will be letting the thought of her love for Betty exist in her head and step 7 will be her being with Betty. And that's how the world was made in 7 days, the seventh being the one when God rested and admired his creation.
ok, final thoughts on Kate and the boys:
In the first episode she knows how to look after the man that nods at her, so much so that it sets Vernon on fire
When it comes to getting her security clearance and betty tells her that the man she knows might expect pay in something else other than money Kate has no qualms about that and she says 'let me worry about the price' (that's kinda brave)
She knows what the photographer is going to do with the pictures, she calls him a pornographer.
She has a problem with what he's doing but more so with the fact that she's helping him do that
When she is curious about the man that sang with her in the store room, she has no hesitationin wondering around the canteen looking at the men there and then going to a group of men and initiating a conversation with one of them (that's kind of brave for a girl who wasn't allowed to talk to the boys). Perhaps she's in her element here because it's about singing (which is the definition of pure in Kate's mind, 'God's gift') and she only gets awkward when it comes to boys and sex.
and about Kate, Vernon and religion:
After Kate comes back from the the photographer, her internalized guilt is expressed as a vision of her father drowing her while reciting the passage from Deuteronomy 22:13-21 which talks about stoning a woman for not being a virgin:
When Vernon finds her, he scolds her for the same thing, the photographs because in Vernon's world having any sort of sexual desires (actually any sort of desires other than the one for singing with him and obeying him) is equal to being a whore.
So deep in Kate's mind there's this ingrained belief that sex is dirty. Is that why she is for all intents and purposes in a loving relationship with Betty and it's only when sex comes into it that there is a problem? (not because it's sex with Betty, just because it's sex). She has no problem with the intimacy with Betty, the more of it the better, just with the physical expression.
Furthermore, is this because the relationship with Vernon, due to his abuse and his paranoia (for being totally in control of Kate's body and soul), was as close as a sexual relationship would be and it was just the abscence of sex that was keeping it from veering into the 'abomination' of incest? Is Kate scared of sex because of this as well?
Ah and forgot to mention something important, in the 8th scene, at the filming of the newsreel, when Betty says that she wants a house like that for herself (so not for herself and a man) to share with housemates, Kate says 'you're on'
So Kate has said that she is so lucky so have met Betty, that she sees Betty as a hero, that she likes her, she wants to dance with Betty, she spends almost all her time with Betty, her heart stops at the thought and sight of Betty being hurt, she considers Betty her true family, she wants to move in with her, live with her.
I don't know about other people, but even I wouldn't say, do, feel all these for a friend, much as I love them.
APOLOGIES for the long posts! This is what happens when you watch a show as rich and perfect as BG, you keep finding meaning in it
I think Kate's and Betty's story is, plainly and simply (as said by the creators, repeatedly) a love story. You've perfectly recounted all the little moments that show how much they care about each other. I'd maybe argue that the falling-in-love part of the story already happened in the first season. It's hard for me to understand how their relationship can be read in any other way. It's astounding when people claim that Kate is straight, when both of their stories is essentially about the fact that they live in a society that makes the statement "I am gay" impossible to say out loud - even for Betty, who is better equipped because she's lived with the certainty for a while now - even with Gladys, she can't communicate about it clearly, even with Teresa, she speaks in code. Not that there's much point in trying to define Kate's sexuality when she doesn't have the tools (or the freedom, rather) to do it herself.
Regarding Vernon... it's maybe not even that important to think about what the bible says specifically, someone like Vernon would use whatever reason he can find to remain in complete control of his daughter. We already know he was selective. And again, this is pure speculation, but I don't think he would have ever married her off, he had the idea that she would just stay with him forever (I don't think we'll ever know what form his abusive took exactly, but the thought of a father whipping his daughter, which the scars on her back indicated, is harrowing enough). Religion is a tool that he uses to gain power. Losing his daughter to another man was the thing that he feared the most, so he took the necessary steps to make that as impossible as he could. I also have to relativise the "Kate isn't naive" statement because I just remembered how she approached the guy who pretended that he sang with her - and that seems surprisingly confident and forward for someone who was punished so cruelly just for looking at a soldier (and she doesn't have any issues talking to Leon - it's really only when there is a romantic context that she doesn't know how to handle herself, Gene was the first example, or maybe the way she freaked out on her first day when she dropped the amatol). It would be interesting to see her interactions with Ivan (Isn't it peculiar that Kate would ask Betty to be there for a date with him, even though it was under the pretence of balancing guys/girls? We know that they've been on dates without Betty being present, but we've never really seen any of them. Have they even kissed yet?)
"Everybody trying to put and keep everybody in their place"
YES!! There's that, and then the contrast of the growing camaraderie between the women. It's a constant struggle, and it's not just women vs. men, rich people vs. people, it's way more complex (just the mere fact that Mrs Witham and Lorna would find common ground to keep Gladys in her place!), which the show portrays beautifully. Gladys constantly pushes the boundaries but the show also calls her out on her privilege, which I admire - she learns that the thing that she's taken for granted all her life aren't a reality for everyone (even though that's mostly done as comic relief, it's still great - the hot water, the telephone, not being able to make omelettes because they've always had staff to do that). I'm imagining how her story will continue. She had this idea of not repeating the mistakes her parents made in their marriage, to live a different life with James, and now all of that is gone, and worse, her mother just told her that she WAS repeating her father's mistakes by cheating on her fiancé. That's gonna have some tough fall-out. And then there's VERA!! That's the most literal attempt of breaking social barriers, isn't it? If you'd told me that I would have so many feelings about Vera Burr after the first episode of the show...
I also recently had a discussion with someone about Bob, because the Corbett marriage fascinates me to no end (and the ability of the show to attract such a diverse audience - I managed to get a really good friend into the show and now her mother is also watching!), and isn't the pure symbolism of Bob, who's been bound to a wheelchair since the war and retreated from the world, working at a NEWS-STAND (the most exposed you could be to what happens in the world, probably), just amazing? And the contrast between Bob, following events in the gloomy living room (for some reason they always made the Corbett's house seem so dim, until this season) and him handing out newspapers outside. Layers upon layers.
(oh, I see, there's a character limit with comments. Well that's brand new information...)
Totally agree. People watch Mad Men and judge it according to the mores of the times it portrays but then watch BG (happening 30-40 very important years before) and somehow expect it to be the the real l word. But even if you forget about that, one's sexuality and love for another person are intimate things, poetry and symbolism rather than arid prose, no matter when they happen. So I can only think that people who deny Kate her feelings for Betty are so stuck in sexual identity politics that they have lost sense of what it's all about.
Same her about Vera, never would have thought after first episode that I would grow to like her so much. We might not get to see what happens with the VicMu girls after the war is over but I'd bet that Vera would be running the factory, now producing parts for the nuclear industry or something.
It's interesting with Bob how he's past many of the silly things that people around him worry about (Lorna about her sons being heros, Lorna about Marco being 'foreign', Gene about killing 'the enemy, Sheila dating a 'foreign' guy) because Bob has seen what matters and what doesn't, war has broken down those barriers for him. But he did resist initially Sheila's becoming a doctor. Advancement of women still needed to happen for him as for the others.
Of course, he's not the sexist/misogynist that Gladys' father is (at least initially) and not just because he's in a wheelchair (and gosh, what a rudimentary one!). Lorna is much more his equal than Adele ever will be to Rollie. I doubt that Lorna would have put up with Bob's infidelity the way Adele seems to have done with Rollie's. Adele is Rollie's wife much more and before she is Gladys' mother.
Another layer in this show, the parallel between the Corbett marriage and the Witham one and how they react to the changing times.
Yes, this second war brings Bob into the light and into the world, brings the times in line with Bob much as it pushes Rollie into the background, consigns him (and Vernon) to history.
Bob is part of the first minority that the world at the time doesn't have a place for: that of the disabled. He's kept in his place by this until he decided to turn the table on the world/society and make his place, just like the girls are doing. In a way, it's the women's struggle and progress that saves Bob as well..
Shows that portray this interwar period usually concentrate on the Withams of this world and it's nice to have the Corbetts at centre stage as it was them indeed to changed the times much more than the Withams. We start with the Withams and their large, open surroundings and with the Corbetts and their small, dim surroundings and as we progress it's the Withams' world that becomes smaller and smaller and the Corbetts who make the kite fly.
We still need Marco to break through and Leon to move from the shadows of the store room, but we've come a long way.
That's a great point, the comparison between the Withams and the Corbetts. There's also the fact that Adele and Rollie are so concerned about how things appear to the public in terms of what Gladys does (and I'm pretty sure that Adele never considered a divorce because it would have been scandalous for someone in their social class), while Lorna and Bob simply don't have that luxury because they would have no roof over their head and no food on their table if Lorna didn't work. Gladys revolution against her parents' world is a brave choice, but Lorna probably couldn't help but break some social conventions when she became the breadwinner of the family. I am assuming she must have been working somewhere else before the war - or maybe Vic Mu produced something else before since she's already risen so high in the hierarchy? Adele is similar to Lorna inasfar as she's mastered her particular sphere perfectly - quietly manipulating Rollie to get what she wants (what's that line about Versailles in the first season?)- but it comes at a price, and it certainly isn't what Gladys wants.
Regarding Bob's reaction to Sheila wanting to become a doctor: I think on the one hand he is a pessimist, and he only sees the obstacles in her way and how hard she'd have to struggle to make it, on the other hand, it's all connected to his disability and feeling of inadequacy.
I'm really hoping for Leon to get his very own story at least in the third season. They didn't really tackle the issue of racism with Reggie, since the discrimination she suffered from that landlady was only hinted at.
Hi there; I don't know if you're still interested in Bomb Girls and/or willing to discuss it (particularly Kate and Betty), but I just discovered the show a few years ago and I am absolutely fascinated by Kate, and her and Betty's relationship. However, I find myself torn between viewing her as a possibly-not-straight character, as you all have so eloquently elaborated on, and as entirely straight (which is more annoying, to me, considering her actions toward Betty). I really relate to Kate and see a lot of myself in her, including realizing, slowly, that I'm not straight. I would love to hear your interpretation and analysis of Kate as a character (and Kate and Betty's relationship) from the beginning. What conclusions(s) have you come to, and why? Would you be willing to discuss this?
I've really enjoyed your great analysis, and thank you!
Thank you so much for such a thoughtful response and being willing to discuss this so many years later. I dearly wish there had been more seasons. I found it quite easy to see Kate as not straight, too, but as I read others' reviews and thoughts, I could also see her as just a straight woman who unknowingly flirts with other women but doesn't want anything sexual with them--someone who is lonely, searching for a best friend but nothing more. However, I don't think her romantic inclinations toward women can be denied. Yet, I still find myself wondering, sometimes, if she really is just straight and confused (because of her upbringing). Would you be willing to detail why you see Kate, from the beginning of the series, as not straight? Obviously you and others have made great points above, but I'd like to hear your specific thoughts as to why she's not just a flirty straight woman. :)
I've watched that first kiss over and over, and I still have trouble seeing that Kate reciprocates, as some have said she does. Betty does seem to come on quite strong.
I will say that seeing so many LGBT reviewers call Kate straight and get so upset at her and the storyline makes me sad.
As someone who has a lot of experience with asexuality and the split attraction model, I can't help wondering if Kate is asexual but romantically attracted to women. Just my thoughts, since I see so much of myself in her. Of course, she could be very sexually repressed, too, and the odds of that are likely better.
Yes, that slow journey was so wonderful! I would have loved to have seen it continue, and discover where it ended up.
Thank you so much for your thoughtful response and being willing to discuss this after so many years. I'm quite late to the party, but I find their relationship so, so satisfying (especially pre-kiss). I've always found it easy to see Kate as not straight, but the more I've read others' reviews and thoughts, the more I can also see her as a straight girl who just unknowingly flirts with other women--someone who is lonely and desires a best friend but nothing more. Seeing so many LGBT reviewers express anger and frustration at Kate, and not like her character (seeing her as the straight girl leading Betty on) really makes me sad. Would you be willing to explain just why you see Kate as not straight, from the very beginning of the series? Obviously you and others have made great points above, but I'd like to hear your thoughts specifically.
I've watched that first kiss scene over and over, and I just can't tell if Kate reciprocates for a second, as many seem to see. Betty certainly comes on strong. And yes--Betty is so easy to love. :)
As someone who has lots of experience with asexuality and the split attraction model, I sometimes wonder too if Kate could be asexual and romantically attracted to women. Just my thought, since I see so much of myself in her. Of course her sexuality could also be repressed, which is probably statistically more likely.
Yes, that slow buildup was so great! I would have liked to see how the writers/producers would have handled it in later seasons.
One day I’ll go back and watch the whole show again, but I haven’t yet so this response is based on what I remember. The main reason why I’ve never read Kate as straight is because of different her relationship to Betty is to every other friendship she builds on the show. She is new to all of it – it’s obvious that’s she’s never had any kind of relationship before that was outside of her father’s world. Every interaction with Betty is full of intimacy and trust. One of the first thing they do together is dance – and I think Kate knows about Betty fairly early on, and understands more about her than she ever voices. I’ve been wondering about what kind of preacher her father was, if he would have raved against homosexuality (I’m not sure if historically, that would have been something that a religious extremist would have thought to rave against in the 1940s), if Kate would have learned early on that being gay is a sin or if the concept of being gay just didn’t exist in her world. Her father seems to resent any kind of desire she expresses, regardless of who it is directed towards. I think what Kate has been taught is a very narrow understanding of what kind of life is acceptable for her to lead, and pretty much everything she does on the show transgresses this understanding – running away, working a man’s job, reclaiming music. I don’t think that she would even have the concept of thinking of herself as “straight” in the sense that we mean it today, where it exists in relation to being queer. Kate’s binary is her dad’s version of her future and a very hazy idea of what she wants for herself, that grows and grows as the series progresses.
I’m trying to find the right words to articulate this, but in a way Kate can’t be the straight girl who inadvertently flirts, because she approaches every new experience that she has with complete emotional authenticity (until she panics, and everything with Ivan happens). She’s not trying to mislead Betty to assure her support, she’s not flirting as a thrill, or because it makes her feel wanted. When she sings to Betty, it’s because she is expressing genuine feelings that she has in that moment in a medium that she has just reclaimed (and we know how difficult that is for her) – and the scene is downright romantic! Especially in the context of how Kate is only finding a language to express romantic feelings. What she has with Gladys is a friendship (even if Gladys is closer with Betty than with her), and I think it’s pretty clear on the show that there is a difference between the closeness she has with Betty and the easy rapport she forms with Gladys, and even Leon (there’s no subtext there, no physical affection). It’s a disservice to her as a character to read all of her previous interaction with Betty from the perspective of the non-reciprocated kiss. Betty doesn’t ask for her consent, it’s in a public place, and I think it comes a little bit out of nowhere for Kate – transgressing a boundary, if you will. She’s not there yet. And part of learning about the world is unfortunately also finding out that her dad isn’t the only one with really strict ideas about the kind of life that a woman should lead – her whole relationship with Ivan is out of panic, and she never ever seems as comfortable or as intimate with him as she is with Betty.
It's an interesting point you make about the possible asexual reading – it’s a possibility, but maybe, considering how much physical abuse Kate has suffered, it would be impossible to disentangle that trauma from how she reacts to physical intimacy (noteworthy that when she does have sex with Ivan, it’s blessedly off-screen).
If you’re reading the reactions to her character at the time (which, as I’ve said, were often frustrating to me, and sometimes I still stumble over people whose opinions I otherwise respect expressing their hatred for Kate and I still don’t get it), it’s maybe important to keep in mind the context. I remember that Bomb Girls was released at a point in time where a lot of people felt let down by other shows with queer characters, and there was definitely a feeling that these stories weren’t necessarily safe with the writers who created them (Skins especially, gosh). Or maybe a more generous read would be that some fans wanted Betty to be happy a lot more quickly than the show was allowing her to be. It would be an incredibly cynical read of everything that happens between Kate and Betty to think that it was anything but a slow-burn love story, and I’ve not once felt that anyone who was part of the team there had the intention to be cynical (even though what happens with Vera in the film is cruel).
Post a Comment