Friday 29 March 2013

Bomb Girls – Maybe we can still win this.

Bomb Girls: 2x07 Party Line.

“I meant to write about death, only life came breaking in as usual” 
Virginia Woolf, Diary, 17 February 1922.
Party Line, starting six weeks after the last episode left off, is set during the aftermath of the failed Dieppe Raid in August 1942 that cost the lives of thousands of Canadian soldiers. The people back home depend entirely on the news reports to try and figure out how the attack went, but the episode also portrays the changing nature of media, and the way the perception of war at the home front is starting to shift. Radio – now even portable and even more inescapable, ending the idea of an entire family huddled in front of it in the living room - and newspapers are the primary source for news, but as we find out from Lorna’s quest in the episode, more and more households are also equipped with telephone lines that provide a more direct connection to the soldiers away from home, and possibly stories from the front lines that aren’t filtered and provide a more immediate picture of the reality of war. The promise of it – of having this connection to the outer world, but also joining into something – makes Lorna giddy and excited (she lunges at it, squealing, once it’s installed, almost pushing Bob aside, and then talks softly to it as if it were a beloved pet – a long and two short!). 
Vera: It’s a world away
Bob: Not if you got a telephone
There are hourly news reports, and as the days progress, it becomes increasingly obvious, especially to Bob, from the wording and the tone, that the raid was a failure (his interpretation of it, after Lorna asks him to be honest – “If it was really a victory, they’d be singing a different tune. All this talk about soldiers’ bravery, nobody’s saying a word about achieved objectives, and that’s bad. It means they’re dampening our expectations, it means they are gearing us down before a steep drop ahead.”) Once they realize the seriousness of the situation, and the fact that their son Stanley who is in the infantry was most likely involved in the raid – and even more so once Stanley is listed as missing – the telephone almost becomes an instrument of torture. The immediate connection to the outer world is no longer exciting or hopeful, it bears the potential of bad news delivered instantly, after a painfully loud ring (and anyone who has ever gotten such a call knows how terrible phones can be). The situation is made even more unbearable by the fact that it’s a party line, so not only is there the possibility of bad news at any time, but the phone also keeps ringing for other people, slowly eating away at Lorna’s sanity. 
New technology is a blessing and a curse. It changes the way that the people back home participate in the war, it changes how the war is communicated, it makes victories and defeats more immediate, including the terrifying lists of names, missing and dead, read aloud – but it also brings joy. Stanley finally calls, ending all of their worries, at least for the moment. 

Party Line is also an episode about food (and vegetation in general, things that grow and nurture). That makes for a rather beautiful contrast to the brutal (and mechanical/technological) nature of war, but the relationship between the two are more complex. Food is precarious in times of war: it’s not scarce yet, but the characters have been dealing with limited choices for a while, leading to compromises like Lorna’s beef tongue and the pig ears that Bob would rather not eat in this episode. It’s interesting that the two characters most connected to food (in terms of preparing it and consuming it) are Lorna and Marco – Lorna is the one character who literally feeds a family, both by earning the money to buy food and by cooking it, and for Marco, the different food that he eats is a connection to his Italian heritage. It’s a heritage that has been a burden for the past years, but when it comes to food, it’s always been portrayed as one of the more joyful aspects of being Marco – while Bob and Lorna despair over their ersatz food, he gets secret deliveries of olive oil, while the other workers at VicMu are suspicious that their beef stew comes with a dampening dose of saltpetre (an actual urban legend), he shares his cheese and olives with Vera on the roof of the factory.  In general, it’s often how he makes meaningful connections with people, from Lorna having dinner with him and his mother, to the way it’s always been something he’s shared with Vera. Food is also a business: last season, Gladys struggled for Rollie to accept the fact that he had a responsibility to provide quality rations to the soldiers, that the business of government contracts isn’t just about profit margins – and she knows that soldiers on the front obsess about food (and now it’s a blooming business for the Withams, corporately branded with Gladys’ face). The relationship between citizens and food has patriotic connotations as well; economizing the use of food helps the war effort, planting victory gardens is one of the ways that people on the home front can participate in the struggle for victory. On a more personal level, characters share food – Lorna successfully seduces the telephone installer into connecting them after all her previous applications have been turned down with the promise of a home-cooked meal (“Juicy… chops… on the pan… tonight.”), Kate and Ivan go for pancakes (off-screen) at the beginning of the episode, strawberries serve both as an instrument of seduction and a metaphor for the growing relationship between Teresa and Betty (and as a great contrast, a basket of victory garden vegetables is Kate’s and Betty’s complicated and imbalanced relationship made visible), Lorna and Bob go for a proper romantic dinner after worrying about their son and finding out that he is alive. Finally – and this is the most beautiful way these two motifs could have come together – Bob decides to make the literal move from the newsstand (as a provider of news) to helping his brother with the harvest. 

Finally, Party Line is an episode about death in war – it starts with James’ funeral in Massachusetts, where Gladys gets a cold reception from James’ mother, who blames her for his decision to join the military (“Yes, he loved her. He enlisted to impress her. And to think we could have kept him out of this war.”) Adele is reminded of the death of her own son (“With every death, you brother’s passing comes crushing down on her.”, explains her husband, and we see several instances of Adele’s emotional struggle over the episode). Gladys grieves his passing and blames herself for his death, both because of his physical presence in harm’s way during the phone call and because of what she still considers her betrayal of him, since she intended to break up with him. Gladys’ life has stopped, she’s a cooped up in the Witham mansion as her mother has been since her brother’s death, stuck in constantly remembering every detail of their relationship, holding on to the only thing she still has of him. Adele warns her that she will become like her if she never forgives herself (now that he can no longer forgive her). For her life to continue she has to come to terms with his death, and her guilt – and because Bomb Girls is always about friendships, about companionship, about people sticking together in trying times, it’s Vera and Kate who basically drag her out of the house and back to the factory (“You’re walking out or we’re moving in”). She successfully distracts herself from her own problems by going back to her well-established detective skills, and helps Vera investigate the curious case of the missing TNT. 
Gladys: Last time I spoke to James, I was ready to end it.
Vera: That’s not why he died, Gladys.
Gladys: I could hear these bombs falling. If I had not made that phone call he would never have been in the line of fire.
Vera: Do not beat yourself up. You fell out of love. It’s not supposed to happen during a war, but it does.
Vera Burr! It’s the first time that anyone has named what happened to Gladys – falling out of love with someone she still cared for, because she was changing her circumstances and growing as a person and discovering new aspects of herself. James’ friend, arrived to bring back his car to his family, gives her the advice to “find your horizon, something to look at, and you put one foot in front of the next, even if you’re limping.” – which in the most literal way she does at the end of the episode, find something to look at that both reminds her of James and stands for growth and change. It is “something to stand beyond him”. She decides she is ready to go back to the life she’s built (“I’ve never felt so alive. I’m not going back to drifting around the house all day” is what she said in the very first episode, after she started working at the factory). 
Adele: Are you sure you’re ready?
Gladys: If I stay here I will never be. You and I, we rattle around this house, we never talk about anything, we never look at what really happened.
Adele: What good would that do?
Gladys: We might finally get better. Try and get some fresh air.
This seems to be the first time that they truly connect, mother and daughter, over their shared loss and Gladys’ attempt to get better and maybe help her mother to finally escape the house (which has this strange doubling meaning for Adele Witham, she rules it, it’s her domain, but it also traps her) as well, to join the world outside.
The other death is the potential death, the possible death, of Stanley, Lorna and Bob’s son. It’s a harrowing portrayal of two people struggling with the horrors of not knowing, and not being able to do anything but wait for news, trying to read the truth in reports from Operation Jubilee and understand what really happened, what the likelihood of losing their son is. It’s remarkable how far they’ve come as a couple, after the tragedies of the past, and absolutely stunningly acted – the anxiety, the way they are glued to the telephone, unable to do anything else, Bob bearing the burden of his knowledge, his insight into what war does, Lorna finally realizing that in this case, her optimism isn’t a comfort, and she would rather hear the truth from him, to be better prepared. In another great scene, Betty overhears her conversation with Bob after Stanley is listed as missing – and they are both such private people, and so unlikely to be physically affectionate, and yet Betty has this instinct to comfort her, and they hug for a moment (if slightly awkwardly). It’s a beautiful parallel to Lorna comforting Gladys, and I think of all the girls at VicMu, Lorna feels most maternal about Betty (and still, they talk about work, because it’s who they both are, profoundly, proud and focused and reliable workers). 
Their relief when Stanley finally does call to tell them that he is okay, that he was adrift in the ocean after so much went wrong in the raid, is incredible, and again, beautifully acted. Bob breaks out in tears and hands the receiver to Lorna because he’s unable to speak. “Thank you god. We’ve been blessed. It’s okay.” 

Marco, meanwhile, has just made precarious peace with constantly being seen as an outsider in the factory, but is brutally reminded of his position when Vera’s detective work makes him into the prime suspect for the TNT theft. He himself assumes that his friend Frankie is somehow involved, and tellingly, Akins accuses both him and Leon but not Buster, who isn’t Italian or black. This is as much about Vera’s growing affection for him as it is about Marco’s relationship with the factory – she doesn’t want him to be the perpetrator, and Gladys affirms her doubts that Marco wouldn’t smuggle and steal, and has the decisive realization that Buster is the person responsible, since he – not being Italian or black – is the one who actually leaves the factory. They catch him red-handed. Later, after Marco is freed, Vera tells him how they figured it out – and they get too close, and end up kissing. 
Vera: Kaboom.
Marco: Sorry.
Vera: Just. Don’t do it again. We’re friends, right?
Marco: Friends, of course.
This almost feels like a parallel to Kate and Betty, if Kate and Betty weren’t additionally struggling with so many other things – Vera and Marco have a difficult time creating boundaries and sticking to them, and Vera very much values her friendship with him (and assumes that anything more than a friendship would be endlessly more complicated). But it’s not like you can unexplode a bomb, or turn back the clock on feelings.

And then there’s Kate and Betty, not directly confronting what happened between them six weeks ago, stuck in a strange anxious holding pattern. They harvest the vegetables in the garden together (where Kate needs to be told to pluck the tomatoes “gently”, because for some reason she’s too agitated or nervous to focus on the work), until an hourly news report reminds Kate of a date with Ivan – who, she says, would appreciate her outfit, since he “said something about wanting me looking like a farmer’s daughter.” It’s just a little remark, but more informative in the context of the episode (also, remember who actually IS a farmer’s daughter…) Ivan is in no position to understand that any references to her father are problematic. He’ll later directly address the fact that he knows so little of her family, and she will respond with as few details as possible, but he persists. He also addresses her as “Katie”, which, considering how important names are, and how she already has the split identity of Marion/Kate, seems significant, especially if he is trying (if not for any malicious reasons) to shape her according to his idea of a normal girl. A normal girl, who speaks about her family, misses her brothers, would be delighted to have them over for the weekend – and as perfect as Kate’s mask is starting to be (it barely drops once, in this episode), it’s also becoming increasingly clear that this relationship is a ticking time bomb (and Kate’s “That’s why you need distractions like this. It’s how we start feeling better” to Gladys reveals how she feels about being with him). Ivan will never meet her brothers, because they know her as Marion Rowley. Her father didn’t just have a bad fall. There are scars on her back that come with all the stories she can’t tell him. There’s only one person who already knows these stories. The only point in the episode where Kate’s façade drops visibly is when Carol refers to them as “a good team” – at least it’s more obvious than later in the scene with Teresa, it’s a shared moment because they both think about what the remark means, and how everything else happening in the episode shows that they are currently really anything but a good team. 

For example, Betty is the one initially dragging the basket of vegetables, intended as a hostess present for Adele Witham, into the boarding house, which is heavy, so Kate helps her and they do well for about five seconds, until one Sergeant Teresa appears, and Betty is so flustered that she almost drops the basket, and then resists Kate’s attempt to have them escape the situation as quickly as possible by deciding to stay with Teresa, leaving Kate to drag the basket away all by herself. Like with Kate’s performance at the fund raiser last time, Betty chooses to walk away, and it’s almost like she is telling Kate that she has every right to do so if she does the same to her for Ivan. 
Betty: Kate, you go, I’ll catch up
Kate: Betty, we promised.
Betty: Just like you and the gardening, Kate. I’ll pull my share later.
Betty stays with Teresa, who looks at her in the most endearing and adoring way possible. They exchange an awkward but promising “hi”. 
I think Betty’s “How can this happen so fast” is still with her. A year ago, with Kate, she first started to feel like buying a house and sharing it with someone she truly cared for was a possibility – but the idea of it was connected to one person – and now, with Teresa, it all seems so very feasible, but Betty isn’t sure if Teresa is the right person. Teresa is right there, in her room, on her bed, like it’s the most normal thing in the world, and Betty sits on a chair, nervously tapping her foot, thinking about walls again, and neighbours, until Teresa magically makes strawberries appear. 
Teresa: The littlest ones are the sweetest, don’t you think?
Betty: I think it’s cause we know they won’t be around too long.
Teresa: If you want I’ll ship out right now, I don’t have to….
Betty: No. Just a different kind of miracle, I guess.
It’s an ambiguous sentence, “they know they won’t be around too long” – it could mean that their season ends, they literally go away, or that they grow bigger, and less sweet, which also works as a metaphor for her relationship with Teresa: that it may become more complicated, less easy, less giggly, if it starts being more serious. And things with Teresa move at a surprisingly quick pace (and I think Teresa cares about Betty a lot, judging by the way she looks at her) – she quite literally marches into Betty’s life. They do some processing over breakfast the next day. 
Betty: It’s just more than I expected.
Teresa: I’m a soldier, Betty. I could be shipped out at any time.
Betty: So we make hay. I know the drill; every girl here’s doing it. I just never thought I would.
Teresa constantly reassures Betty that she could disappear at any moment, but I think Betty, by the end of the conversation, is looking forward to seeing if this will work – it’s her piece of the cake, doing what every other girl there is doing, “making hay” (again with the vegetation metaphors), turning the situation to her advantage, even though she’s lived all her life thinking that the world was geared against her. 

They all come together in the end. Vera told Gladys that the thing she values so much because it’s the only thing she still has of James is nothing but a hunk of metal, an inanimate car – so instead, she brings them a tree, a living growing thing, which they plant in a communal effort, to commemorate James’ death, in the victory garden. 

Random notes: 

Beautiful scene with the tree aside, I still want to know how that worked: did Gladys and the Captain randomly come upon a full-grown tree (“yes, that one”) while driving and then dig it up in broad daylight? (or more realistically, Gladys would have “coordinated” the digging up of the massive freaking tree). That maple was hardly a sapling…

Same with the strawberry hat trick. HOW DOES IT WORK?  (unless Teresa is actually magic, which I would also be absolutely fine with, explanation-wise).

Nothing greater than two people comfortable enough with each other to giggle over boner jokes.

VicMu has a really suspicious number of detective clubs, I’m starting to feel like any one of them is eventually going to breed a caped crusader, investigating crime in the streets of Toronto (It’s VERA. I’m talking about Vera. And her side-kick Frowny Frederic).

And talking about the latter, Carol had a really fantastic run this episode. From her passive-aggressive way of trying to diminish Betty and Kate’s relationship with Gladys while at the same time asking them for help (“She needs her friends. Not that I’m not her best friend, and she has plenty of friends at the tennis club and such, still… […]She’s stuck in that house with her mother with no plans to leave. She needs help. She needs you.”) to revealing that she will be performing the role of Frederic in the Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance (scandalizing Kate in the process, because of course any breaking up of strict gender roles would be problematic for her), to trying to save the tea party from gloom and doom, to the delivery of the final complimentary insult to Vera (“I’m so happy for you Vera. You need that extra dollar much more than I do.”) You’re growing on me, Carol Demers, well done.

Adele Witham is more emotionally accessible this episode, especially her loving (for once) exchange with Gladys, but she’s also fantastically entertaining when she’s drunk – WHAT SPLENDID GOURDS! And she came armed! With vodka!

There’s always that double meaning of “our boys”, which is a good way to think of the war – as both a greater political struggle that involved the entire country, and a very personal one for the families and friends of the soldiers fighting it. 
Bob:  I’m doing this for myself. Some time apart could be good for both of us. I’m playing the long game here, Lor. I’m hoping that we maybe, maybe we can still win this.
Another example – the “we” is both the country as a whole, and the extremely intimate “we” of them as a couple that has survived a lot and still loves each other very much and is constantly figuring out how to be happy. 

I really like the contrast between the Withams house having this connotation of a prison, almost, containing severely emotionally damaged people hiding from the world, and the Corbett’s apartment, now even more open and connected to the world with the new telephone. 


During the conversation about family between Ivan and Kate, it almost seems like about halfway through they start being out of synch with the other dancers, and regardless of whether that was intentional or not, it works fantastically with the dialogue. Once Ivan starts pushing Kate to reveal more about herself, and stumbles on all the things she can’t tell him (and doesn’t trust him to know), she starts losing her footing. 

Also, of ALL THE POSSIBLE PET NAMES, to go with Ivy. Oh Kate.

I’m still giggling over the “morning after” scene – Betty discovering that all the girls are wearing their best dresses and hats for the “army boys” only to discover an army of women, led by Sergeant Hill. A thrill and a half indeed…

Also Lorna’s struggle with correctly addressing Teresa as “Sergeant” and accepting that these women really are soldiers. Times are changing.

The visual quote of that famous picture in the last scene is brilliant, but it’s also interesting to think about the fact that it ISN’T a flag, but a living tree, something that will grow bigger and stronger if it’s properly cared for. 


Anonymous said...

Excellent as usual, I've missed these.

Anonymous said...

This was just mesmerising to read. Please, keep writing these, I was overwhelmed by the beauty and your skills in analysing the episodes objectively, and still maintaining its strong emotional content. Deep admiration, thats all.

cathy leaves said...

Oh gosh, thank you so much. One of my biggest fears is taking out all the emotion and joy by over-analysing the episodes, this really means a lot to me!!
And I've really missed writing about Bomb Girls, so glad that it's back!

Multitude of Geek said...

I have a strawberry patch and can add a little insight to the strawberry dialogue.

Tiny strawberries don't continue to grow. They develop quickly, contained a condensed amount of flavor, but also spoil very fast.

The show creators love to throw in the occasional foreshadowing statement and my theory is that the strawberry line foretells of things to come in the McBond relationship.

In many ways Teresa is a rebound for Betty. All of the love, affection and hope that Betty had towards Kate has been transferred to Teresa.

On the other side, Teresa is living with the soldier mentality. Soon she will be sent overseas to face any number of unknown dangers. She has more than once hinted at this. Her pick-up line to Betty was "life is short, why not make it a happy one?" Teresa has jumped impulsively to be with Betty.

While their attraction is mutual and they get along well now, they don't actually know anything about each other. Betty has not been honest with Teresa about her feelings for Kate or that little matter of a dead reverend.

What does Betty know about Teresa? The audience didn't even learn Teresa's name for a full episode.

Their relationship has developed fast, it is incredibly sweet and lovely, but something is going to happen to spoil it.

I can't wait to see this storyline (and others) play out.

PS I look forward to your analysis after each episode. I have cited your blog when discussing show with RL friends.

PPS I'm hoping this show isn't a tiny strawberry. Fingers crossed for a third season renewal.

cathy leaves said...

Thank you!
Your interpretation of the strawberries makes a lot of sense, and I think it's likely that this is foreshadowing what's going to happen with Teresa and Betty.
It's also interesting that Teresa is "using" the soldier mentality whenever Betty seems hesitant to go along with the pace of their relationship: I might have returned earlier than you expected, but I could be gone any second! I might have just moved in with my army of soldiers, but I'll go overseas if you want! It's a really interesting dynamic, and it makes me wonder how much of Teresa's side of things we'll get to see in future episodes.

I know nothing about strawberries. Who would have thought that spending my entire youth avoiding working in the family garden would come to haunt me because of produce metaphors in a tv show. They do grow on trees though, yes? :)

Btw, it's endlessly frustrating that all that I can do is write to Global, tweet about the show and keep my fingers crossed. I still hope that it eventually gets picked up by a German network so I can share it with my whole family - it definitely has the potential to be a much more widely-received show than it currently is.

Lady Canuck said...

Strawberries grow on the ground, low-laying plants. They do spoil easily, and the season is short. It is interesting foreshadowing I hadn't considered..
Asa soldier, who's moving around and probably because she's a lesbian (even though the word didn't exist yet). Teresa is interested in getting what she can, while she can. Making hay while the sun shines - making use of a opportunity before it passes.

-Lady Canuck

Anonymous said...

Edit - Very few CWACs were sent overseas. Many worked in Canada and if they did go over seas they were shuffling paperwork for the war effort. They were non-combative.
Teresa is unlikely to be shipped overseas, and even more unlikely to die. She *has* to know this.

hubert said...

god, how I missed the show and this blog!! cathy, please never worry.

I liked how the show creators are playing the long game with Betty and Kate. The subtle (as always) hint on Kate's face when Carol calls them such a good team is awesome. I almost feel mean for enjoying how serious the whole Betty issue is for Kate. In contrast, thing with Ivan is as learning to sing with Leon, something that animates her but doesn't get to her. Betty's swagger of 'yes, princess, what did I tell you, we are a good team' is great as well. Post Teresa Betty is not ashamed of being gay, having feelings for Kate.
When they later meet Theresa, Kate is all eager to keep moving (the giggling from behind the door is not easily forgotten). Betty gets in the game and responds by making sure that it's clear to Kate that Teresa is not just a friend (by using the 'excuse' that Kate used for Ivan).
Love this long game and can't wait to see Kate's continued annoyance of not being the (sole) recipient of Betty's attention / affection.

Betty-Teresa is soo sweet and fresh (like a bunch of freshly picked strawberries) but I'm starting to dread the moment when Teresa's feelings are going to be hurt. So far Teresa seems to be taking each day as it comes, satisfied with making Betty get over her 'I'm the only gay in the village' thinking, one kiss/visit at a time.
For the moment though, seeing Betty happy and Kate having to fight for her is great. And it's fresh to have a bit of sunshine in that garden, a bit of respite from all the tension.

The scene with Lorna & Bob in the living room listen to the radio broadcast of list of people dead or missing is harrowing. How horrible it must have been, sitting there, fearing that your loved one's name will the next one they read. Thankfully they don't do that anymore, but it speaks of the strength of character that generation had. Nowadays it would cause shortages of anti-depressants.

Loved how Lorna pulled all the stops (including the sexual overtones) when it came to getting her telephone. Mama bear again and again.
I was struck by her reaction after the false telephone call, about her being the fool and being tired of doing this (being married? being married to Bob? being the bread winner? having to worry about loved ones?) because post dalliance with Marco she seemed resigned/content with her life as mom, wife, factory supervisor. When she entered adult life (at 17) marrying was the thing to do but the wars and the changing times have given her different challenges and opportunities than she ever envisaged. But is she saying that the family she has with Bob is the only thing that kept her in the marriage? Interesting to see what will Bob's temporary absence will do for her/to her.

Finally been able to enjoy Adele Witham (and I've been waiting for this as I like strong 'damaged' characters). If they ever remake Dinasty they ought to give Kate Hennig a role that pits her against Alexis. She's got such a physical presence, it would be fabulous to watch. Was she different to Gladys because she stopped seeing her as a spoiled little girl (unlike her who lost a son) or because now they have something in common (they both lost their boy)?

hubert said...

I'm still annoyed a bit at Gladys' meaningful moments with yet another man. yes, detective work with Vera cheers her up a bit but it's James' colleague who has an impact.
It just feels like she always needs a man to move her in one direction or another. I just wish she could just once be by herself, with herself, for herself. Vera is, Lorna is, Kate is. With Gladys it's always because of a man, for a man, with a man. Even her insight into the social injustices of the time is via a man (Marco).

oh and nice attention to detail having Lorna wear the same dress at her dinner with Bob that she wore at the party for Gene (and I think one time before). It's a war, she's a struggling provider, she wouldn't have money for loads of fancy dresses.

cathy leaves said...

Just to clarify: I think the way Teresa offered to leave at the breakfast table was meant to be both reassuring (that things won't move more quickly than Betty is comfortable with) and teasing. She's not expecting to leave Canada, and "shipping out" is just soldier speak for leaving that doesn't necessarily involve any actual ships.
Also, thanks LadyCanuck for making a connection between the strawberries and "making hay" - I think strawberries do need a lot of sunshine to prosper as well? So both metaphors serve to remind us and the characters that their happiness is potentially short-lived and that they might quickly fall apart (and "spoil" is a really great way of putting it") under stress.
And then Kate and Betty are in many way the opposite, aren't they? Their relationship is fraught with complications, they are both (Kate more, but it's not like Betty wasn't involved) recovering from trauma, they've hurt each other and still care about each too much to avoid each other. This is maybe a sappy way of putting it, but they are looking for their sunshine (but a more permanent and reliable kind)- both individually and in their relationship with each other.

cathy leaves said...

@hubert: I think the central question that Lorna asks is "What's all this been for?" She's struggled to build a life for them (bread and a roof over their head), she's put her family over her own happiness. It was a harsh thing to say (it was also a bit painful considering her daughter is doing very well, and probably has a splendid career ahead of her) - and I think at that moment, the many years of misery, which we've seen hinted at, weighed more heavily on her shoulders than the recent change. Bob has evolved so much since the show started, but I think when Lorna considers everything that happened since she was seventeen, the bitterness is still there. I thought this was beautifully resolved in the end, and I love that Bob is the one admitting that he has to work and grow, even after so many years of being married, to save their relationship (even though it's very sad to lose Peter Outerbridge halfway through the season, I hope it's just for a few weeks). Also, Lorna has worn that one dress quite a lot! It's fantastic and realistic, this is just the go-to item of clothing for special occasions (But did you notice that Betty has been donning a wide range of new outfits lately? My headcanon is that Gladys dragged her out shopping a lot while Kate was gone, to distract her...).
Also, and this is maybe taking it too far, but it's something that just occurred to me: Bob and Lorna confront their potential loss as a unit, it's (I think) the strongest we've ever seen them as a couple, even though they are so helpless and so miserable in waiting for the phone to ring, for news to come. If I imagine the Withams, after the death of their boy, I can't help but believe that Rollie and Adele had a very different way of dealing with it (even though we don't know if their marriage was difficult before the loss of their son or if it all started with it). I think theirs is mostly a political marriage now more than anything, they don't seem to share any love or devotion.
I think Adele's reaction, and their moment of connection, was maybe pride over how quickly Gladys picked herself up, her resolve to go outside and back to the factory and get better, since it's the one thing Adele hasn't managed to do. She doesn't seem to understand what Gladys gets out of working the floor, it's too far from her own world, but she does respect her strength at that point.
Gladys & men: I agree. On the other hand, it feels like Gladys is in part just trying to access experiences that are closed to her, that she is constantly trying to understand the war (it's almost like she's gathering intelligence any way she can). But yeah, it is frustrating. I hope we get more Vera/Gladys...

hubert said...

Yes, both Lorna and Bob have evolved a lot over the episodes. I was surprised by Lorna's reaction only insofar as I believe her (mistakenly) to be somebody who chooses duty (the right thing to do) over happiness. Some people (especially when parents) would always choose duty, partly because they don't understand the concept of happiness. I love that Lorna thinks that it should be about happiness too (changing times?), though I do think that she still thinks that happiness comes from the kids.

Yes, I've noticed Betty's new clothes. I thought her dress the day Teresa came to work at VicMu was quite fetching (choice of dress was incidental as she didn't know Teresa was going to be there but it suited her). I think it's the effect of being pursued and also of being wanted.

I don't know about the Withams, I think they loved each other once (before Rollie's infidelities) and they are still quite devoted and protected of each other. In many ways, they both do their bit for the Witham brand (and associated commercial interests). More so than Bob does for the Corbett household. That one seems to be almost a one woman show.

I sort of understand why Gladys is like that: she grew up as daddy's girl, she's conventionally pretty and feminine (so there's always going to be some man or another around her). She went from daddy to James. But she did want to be independent from both (hence moving in with the girls) so I'm hoping that the silver lining from James' disappearance is that she doesn't need to be anybody's girl, just her own.

I hope too that we get more Vera/Gladys and also that we get Vera to do more things with the team (Betty, Kate, Gladys). I love her with Marco but I want Vera independent still.

Can't wait for tonight's episode.

MultitudeofGeek said...

As I was watching Teresa/Betty friction in episode 8, I thought I was right about my strawberry interpretation. Then Teresa called Betty a "hero" and now I hve no idea what to believe. This show, one I think I have it figured out, keeps surprising me.

Anonymous said...

MultitudeofGeek, I hear you. But there's a line there. Teresa is only kind like that in private... And she's made no secret of that fact she will choose her job and reputation over Betty everytime.

cathy leaves said...

To be fair, even though her wording was surprisingly harsh, she is also protecting Betty. As much as I am rooting for romantic happiness for Betty, I'm also quite fond of her actually getting that house of her own, and she would certainly (and at least, if not worse) lose her job if she were outed.
And not that I often comment on an episode before writing the review, but I think the "line" is (and I really enjoy Betty and Teresa together, they are great) that Kate and Betty share much more than just romantic feelings. They are friends, they have a history together, Betty KNOWS Kate (and is the only one who really does). It makes their relationship much more complicated. I also don't feel like the show is moving away from them - I think they are just growing a bit as individuals, figuring out how to be themselves in different contexts.

MultitudeofGeek said...

I agree on your point about Teresa.

As for Betty and her house, I doubt she'll be able to get a mortgage. The expectation is that the women would stop working once the war is over, so there is no way they'd lend to a single woman. They've mention her desire for a house enough times that I suspect it's a storyline they'll touch on.

I'll leave you alone now so you can write :-D

Anonymous said...

In those days it wasn't unusual to buy a house outright.

hubert said...

I would tend to agree with anonymous. Canadian authorities (like those from other countries) were keen to avoid the disasters of post world war I.
So there was a huge housing boom (construction, subsidised/affordable mortgages, home ownership) across the board. This had a special emphasis on returning veterans and their families and it most certainly included those fighting on the home front (like girls ar VicMu).
Munition factories around Toronto were a big part of the war effort (not a marginal one) because at the time Toronto was made up 85% of people of English descent so they were very invested in the war, they saw it as their war.

Here's some links that talk about home ownership:

I'm sure that there are studies relating specifically to women housing & general life in Canada post war and those would be interesting to see. But I just can't believe that somebody like Betty would have had problems obtaining a mortgage after the war ended.

I also doubt that the women were expected to stop working. On the contrary, both business and governments quite liked the idea and benefits of women working and indeed many houses / families depended on that (and not just after WWII but even after WWI - as Lorna does) because a lot of families lost the men of the house in the wars. Also, a lot of families became urbanised during this period so the women had to work to put food on the table (in the rural areas you can feed your family off the little land you have - so you only work for yourself), but in urban areas you have to work in some job or another (usually for somebody else).

Sure, some women went back to being housewives (like for example Don Draper's wife Betty) but she was part of the percentage of women that exists even now that do not have an active working life (so not related to post war period necessarily).

cathy leaves said...

Thanks for all the research on the subject (and also I'm just really excited over the fact that people sincerely debate 1940s real estate!) Just my two cents: I think there's a difference between working class women and the middle/upper classes - a lot of women who worked in factories didn't stop working after the war ended but were forced into more badly paid labour when the men returned from the front.
And about Betty buying a house - I'd imagine being acquainted with Gladys might actually help her in that respect if she has trouble getting a mortgage (if she doesn't pay outright - I think a house would cost her roughly 2-3 years' wages).