Let’s not kid ourselves—throughout Smash’s first season, despite the worrying lack of investors, the Julia/Michael Swift affair, and Ellis becoming the most hated character on TV, the dramatic thrust never wavered from the eternal question: Ivy or Karen? Who would take the stage as Marilyn Monroe in Bombshell? Last night’s season finale “Bombshell” answered that question, but in such a way that was anticlimactic and brought out the worst in both women.
The decision came down to director Derek, who in an unintentionally hilarious scene rips through the costume rack comparing outfits and which girl filled them. Ultimately, however, it’s because he can see Karen in his head as Marilyn—a discovery that was revealed three episodes ago—that he chooses her. Of course, no one seems happy about this since Karen doesn’t know Act II and they’re still waiting on a new ending song from Tom and Julia. It makes much better sense to choose seasoned Broadway ensemble member Ivy, but no, that would be too easy.
The problem here is that by the end of the season, I almost didn’t want either girl to get the part. (Although it was really laborious to pretend like I took the whole Rebecca Duvall plotline seriously.) I was really peeved to see Karen get Marilyn, but the guy I was watching the show with quickly said, “Oh no, I’m Team Karen again. Ivy used Karen’s engagement ring to try and get the part.” Which is a good point: She manipulated Karen’s stress about stepping in as Marilyn down to the perfect moment in which she could reveal that she had slept with Dev and insinuate that he intentionally left the diamond ring with her.
And yet, even though she tore off her wig (blasphemy!), Karen didn’t crumble. She went up on stage and sang the new finale number, “Don’t Forget Me.” It was saccharine and further illustrated how much Karen is not Marilyn, but the preview audiences seemed to love it. And of course, that success was enough to make Ivy be the one to succumb to pressure, as she contemplated a bottle full of pills backstage. (Of course, we won’t know til season 2 if she actually went ahead with her Marilyn-esque cry for help.)
The rest of the episode was loaded with blanks. Julia inexplicably starts throwing up while rushing to finish this musical number with Tom, and even though that’s an incredibly stressful situation, she recites one of the most overused pieces of dialogue from a TV series: “The last time I threw up, I was pregnant…” Could this mean that she and Frank will get a cute little baby brother or sister for Leo? Or more likely, it’s Michael Swift’s illegitimate baby! But really, I couldn’t be bothered to care.
Then you have Ellis, who has graduated from the hipster-y vests to a crimson three-piece suit that makes him look like even more of a kid, demanding that Eileen treat him like the producer he is! Because, he tells her, pausing for dramatic effect that no one but him notices, he was the one who put peanuts in Rebecca’s smoothie. Huh? “She couldn’t carry us to Broadway,” he says in defense—but wasn’t he the one who brought her in? So really Ellis was just trying to get rid of his mistake, and didn’t even have a minion to do his dirty work.
But thank God that Eileen knocks him down several pegs. I’ve been waiting for that all season!
And like I said, Ivy with the pills. Ivy’s obsession with Marilyn has become extremely unattractive. It’s one thing to study the icon—like that scene in the pilot where Karen and Dev made love while watching one of Marilyn’s films—but to force comparisons with your own life and stop making smart decisions, is just stupid. This season Karen came across as grating and ungrateful, but now Ivy’s maliciousness and self-pity have made her just as unlikeable.
I’m going to bet that she will come back next year, but this could be the final nail in the coffin for her Broadway career. And she deserves so much better than that, if only she could go back to being the girl in the pilot who knew she deserved it.