Although Canada is just North of us, we can’t always see the movies and TV series, they have but thanks to Netflix, we do have the opportunity to see old series or past seasons. Such is the case with the soapy though stylish “Bomb Girls.” The show began in Canada last year (4 January 2012) and ReelzChannel in the U.S. began carrying the series that September.
The story begins in 1941, prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Canada is part of the war effort, but the U.S.A. is not. With the men away, women are needed to help build bombs at a munitions factory. The cast is somewhat standard issue: older wiser woman, rich girl slumming it, tomboy with a twist and shy girl.
We have the gruff but sincere matron Lorna (Meg Tilly) who’s married to a World War I vet and has two sons fighting in Europe. She helps manage the girls on the floor of the Blue Shift which begins when she performs an inspection to insure they are dressed for safety before they hit the floor to assemble bombs.
The rich girl is the only daughter of a snobby family, Gladys (Jodi Balfour), who doesn’t know her place or understand the privilege it gives her. She’s not under the same economic restraints of her fellow workers. She’s engaged to an American and they both have affairs.
The tomboy Betty (Ali Liebert) is a hard worker and in the closet lesbian who is rejected by the object of her affection and must deal with keeping her sexual preferences hidden while pursuing romance.
The shy one here, Kate (Charlotte Hegele), is hiding out from her physically abusive and ultra-strict preacher father. She’s also a talented singer.
Creators Michael MacLennan and Adrienne Mitchell make this clear from the beginning this isn’t a comedy or even a dramedy. From the first episode, we’re aware of the danger each day brings from working in a munitions factory. There’s the possibility of explosions should one be careless and carelessness can also cause deaths and accidents on the war front. Safety regulations aren’t played for laughs and during the first episode, one of the minor characters, Vera (Anastasia Phillips) is disfigured due to an accident in the factory. She doesn’t bounce back later in the series, but struggles with suicidal thoughts.
By the second episode, another factory worker, Archie (Billy MacLellan) is injured during testing and also ends up in the hospital.
Issues of race are brought up, but not in a major way. Lorna dislikes having an Italian-born worker, Mario (Antonio Cupo), present at the factory because Italy is an enemy, but there’s a plot twist in the first season that blurs the lines of allegiance and loyalty. Otherwise, jazz has come to Canada in the form of a black African-Canadian man, Leon Riley (Jim Codrington) who works in a warehouse and becomes friends with Kate.
So we’ve got adultery, pre-marital sex, sexism, lesbianism, racism, domestic violence and the war wrapped up in a package that isn’t always pretty, but sexy though not sleazy. The series slogan is: “Same War, Different Battles.”
Like the documentary “Top Secret Rosies,” this TV series explores the roles of women during the war beyond Rosie the Riveter. Rosie the Riveter wasn’t in daily danger like these “Bomb Girls” and it’s worth remembering. The first season of “Bomb Girls” is available to stream on Netflix.