(This video is a compilation of scenes involving the characters Kate and Betty, put together by a fan of that storyline. But it offers a good glimpse of some of the stronger aspects of the series.)
I came to Bomb Girls through the same friends who sent me to Downton Abbey, displaying the fine range of taste of those close to me! A Canadian series set in 1940s Toronto, it debuted as a mini-series of six episodes following about as many major characters, as they assist the war effort by manufacturing bombs in a West End munitions plant. The show focuses on the lives of the young women who work the assembly line and their supervisor, played by Meg Tilly. While it could never be called a feminist polemic, the show is attentive to gender issues in all the social strata represented. Lorna Corbett (played by Tilly) is working class poor but many times her challenges are ethical ones - always the best way to do character development. Her challenges as a wife and mother are intersected by the internal stigma she feels at being drawn to a young Italian worker; her betrayal is not just about adultery but about 'fraternizing' with a perceived enemy nationality. There is a lesbian character (played by Ali Liebert) who falls for a colleague on the line who has changed her whole identity in order to escape the punishing restrictions of a lunatic pastor father. (These are all season 1 realities which, if the promos are to be trusted, may shift dramatically in season 2.) The irony is vivid and rich: the women who are making powerful weapons of mass destruction are themselves completely powerless to make change in their own lives but continue to try with everything they have.
Though everyone is good, the real revelation of Bomb Girls is Tilly. Returning to performing for the first time after an eighteen year break (other than two brief appearances on Caprica), the Agnes of God star brings to Lorna a quiet dignity and careful nuancing of pain and pleasure largely through her beautifully expressive face and her truthful pace as an actor, which is slightly slower than tv pace usually is. That's an important detail. Tv pacing often forces a tightening of emotional line so that characters appear to have covered emotional distance in faster time than would be truthful in real life. Tilly lives into Lorna's victories and the character's costly mistakes in a way that is heartbreakingly measured in nuanced and subtle silences and reactions. She holds the bar up for the others, and the show's strong narrative takes care of the rest.
(Season 2 debuts on January 2, 2013. If you want to catch up, go to Global TV and watch the first six episodes for free entirely online --- here's the link.)