I made a valiant attempt to write about the first two, but after that I could not stop. Now I only have the final two episodes (or 2-hour finale?) before it's over forever. It is SO GOOD, and I am SO UPSET that I was not able to slow myself down enough to form words about individual episodes, so now I will not be able to relive all the glorious memories in nearly as much detail as I like.
That said, because my brain is literally overflowing with love for this series right now, and I'm not sure but it's possible I liked season 2 even more than season 1 (or maybe they were equally great), I want to get generally chatty about my intense love for it before I have to watch its series finale. I will hear no serious criticisms! It is a wonderful piece of television and we will celebrate it.
[edit: the wall of text was hurting my eyes, so I threw in some headers after the fact to break it up a little. So now there's some organization, but not much]
So, season 2's big thing was splitting the focus between the original "Bombshell" (look at that, I got used to the title after all) and the quirky new indie musical "Hit List." I was more accepting of the latter than I expected to be, but by the end, I was head over heels with them both. On the one hand, it is a little sad to see the broken home that Bombshell became, literally divided in half and looking very much like the product of a divorce (somewhat literally, where Tom & Julia are concerned!), when it was such a struggling underdog in season 1 that only survived on the strength of everyone banding together to save it. But on the other hand, in spite of everything, it has triumphed all the way to Broadway!
And Hit List is a great story, too. I love how, without ever making a concentrated effort to compile all the songs/scenes in order, the show is able to create such a complete illusion of a story within a story that it almost feels like you've watched a new musical. If you ask me to provide a synopsis of Hit List, I will probably struggle with the exact wordings, because it exists only in the abstract - and yet it is such a clear and vivid set of visuals in my mind. (also, Ana as The Diva is clearly the breakout star of this hit, sorry Karen!)
Like, I'm actually peeved I can't celebrate the end of the series by buying a ticket to see each show live. I'll take different actors, even, I don't care.
Karen + Relationships That Involve Derek
Sadly, Jimmy's ugly personality never stops reminding me of a curmudgeonly bulldog, and not the homely-cute kind with a heart of gold. He's still not good enough for Karen. Nobody on this show was ever good enough for Karen*, which is one of its bigger failures. He just gets moderately more tolerable by the end, that's all; I can offer him grudging respect for being ashamed of his past, but that's not enough to make him a viable love interest. Friend zone for you! (He had me at "abusive father + dead mother = homeless," then lost me at "did + dealt drugs & watched people OD because LIFE ON THE STREETS IS HARD WHEN YOU'RE NOT A PIMP.")
*Um, I am kind of sad that I finally started to dig Derek/Karen a little bit. I am downright enamored of Derek this season, not least because of how he stuck with the kids and did the theater equivalent of going back to high school no matter how obnoxious and juvenile and immature they were (not that he didn't box a few ears along the way, which was great). But watching him lost and wandering between Karen and Ivy was kind of...sweet.
I still like Karen better as his hands-off muse, but their almost-night was the first time that I didn't feel a layer of slimy sleaze behind his intentions. It certainly would have upset me less than her hooking up with Jimmy. (That said, pretty sure I am more delighted with the idea of him willingly staying on the couch instead of either following through or leaving.)
But the lost-puppy routine of trailing after Ivy and showing occasional signs of having Feelings about her has also been really enjoyable. At least, until her depressingly accurate "you'll always have a Karen."
(did I kinda love it when he was warning Jimmy to step off and Karen stood up to him in a huff? YES I DID. I feel like he wasn't even consciously trying to be possessive, he just recognized Jimmy as trash and thought Karen deserved better. Better maybe being "him," sure, but mostly he's just really protective of his naive starlet. Whom he does sort of think of as being his as in "under his protection." Maybe hopefully in an eventually more physical way, whatever, shut up. JIMMY'S A DEADBEAT, is the point. Oh hey Karen, really wish you hadn't heard that; was hoping for you to reach this conclusion on your own if I warded him off long enough.)
On Kyle Bishop
I'm actually glad I was spoiled on Kyle's death and got to feel upset out of context, because it turned out to be a lot less sad after they turned him into a cheating, skanky ho bag first. Why would you do that to Blake? Blake is adorable, based on the like, 3 scenes you had together, and I realize Tom is a famous composing genius at all, but he's kind of a horrible person to become physically involved with. There was nothing to enjoy about that "I've never been serenaded before" scene that probably looked really cute on paper, because a) THIS IS A FULL-BLOWN TWO-TIMING AFFAIR, and b) you're literally in one-night-stand territory; it's not romantic or emotionally involved, he just sings and plays piano out of habit the way some people make coffee in the morning. Ugh.
I mean, I tried to appreciate the flashbacks in the subsequent episode, but I ended up feeling hollow. The best ones were with Julia, who might have had a wonderful protege, and maybe that anvilicious discussion of how Amanda has to die in Hit List so the hero can learn a lesson. (not that I really saw Jimmy learning a significant emotional lesson in real life, to be honest)
Although I continue to really love the explicit validation that Kyle was all the way in love with Jimmy, and may have whooped at verification that the latter was aware of it, even if he only used it as a knife twist. You know, this is the kind of stuff that makes me want to find all the fic that exists of Kyle dragging Jimmy out of Drug Life. I can't imagine that was the only time he confronted Adam in Jimmy's defense...or if it was, then it's certainly not the first time he's harbored an intense and burning hatred for the guy.
In other words, I still really loved Kyle until I abruptly didn't. As it...should be?
Speaking of fic! Another thing that really struck me about this season is how much more effort they put into the timeline to clarify that quite a lot of time is supposed to be passing between episodes. It's awkward at times, but it really does help. Between that and the way they keep throwing in real-life media people (and the way I've spent more time in this world than the real one in the last 2 days), it's starting to feel real. In a way where I am curious about the fan base of both musicals and their stars.
This sounds weird, but honestly, I keep imagining Tumblrs devoted to Ivy Lynn, Karen Cartwright, TomandJulia, etc. I imagine message boards flying with rumors about what kind of person Ivy is and whether any of it matters. Feverish anticipation from people who saw early previews waiting for the real opening, and dedicated fans of Bombshell who've been tracking its progress since the Boston days. I imagine speculative RPF fic and straightforward fanfic for the leads in Hit List, which has such an intentional Rent theme to it that sometimes I think I actually prefer the little indie theater baby to the glossy Marilyn story I've loved since day 1.
I don't know anything about theater culture (I can't even imagine why you would care about seeing a "new" play - who would ever take a chance on something that hasn't been playing for at least 3-5 years and come on tour so you know everything about it? Movies are for discovering stories; plays are for the experience of seeing a story you love live - in my experience they're near impossible to follow without a detailed synopsis in your head, given the limited nature of stage props and scenery), but I enjoy thinking of its younger fans being as into it as I am about scooping all the earliest news on upcoming TV shows months in advance.
This might just be due to the really intense amount that I love Karen and want to stan for her. I have never used stan as a verb, for the record. That's how much I like her. (as well as Ivy! THEY ARE BOTH GREAT. The women are still the glue holding this show together.)
Let's see, trying to ride herd on the 10,000 stories...oh! I appreciate the way "Liasons" closed - I like that they didn't have time to fix its trainwreck problems after all, and that everyone was basically relieved when it was over, out of work or not. While bittersweet, I enjoyed the last-minute role swapping that went on. Honestly, it's just been incredible watching them fast-track both of these shows all the way to awards season.
Loved the return of Bernadette Peters, always, although their "I'll Hang the Moon" duet bored me to tears.
Generally enjoying her whole turn in the spotlight. It's about time...even if she's now the subject of mass criticism. I liked the part where she was being the spokeswoman everywhere.
Hit List & Miscellany
Let's go back to Hit List, because I really love that little underdog. I love how Ana's role expanded near the end of the season; I actually got chills at the way Derek re-imagined the opening scene, because while normally I'd be on the side of YES THAT SPOILS THE ENDING, the fact that we don't know who she's aiming at definitely amps up the interest. And I bet that once you got into the story, you'd forget it was coming until you were back in that scene.
I've definitely been enjoying what's-his-name, Jesse L. Martin's character. His relationship with Julia is by far the least aggravating romantic one she's had yet, although I'm also not sorry it's over.
Eileen also continues to be the best, I love her tag-teaming with her daughter to take down Jerry (plus one last drink being thrown in his face; YES!), and I'm really enjoying her busybody publicist, too.
Oh! I'm also really happy that Jennifer Hudson disappeared after episode 4; I didn't realize how boring she was until she was gone.
I have cried twice so far this season: once at the end of the post-Kyle's-death episode after trying really, really hard and finally succeeding in projecting the scenario onto characters I care about and thus bawling my eyes out at the lights being dimmed...and again when Karen was watching the opening of Bombshell and the role that was once hers. It wouldn't have been the production it was with her under Tom's direction, but what if nothing had changed and Derek had stuck with it the whole way? As a fan of Smash, I intellectually know that Ivy is better for the role in every way...but at the same time, these were Karen's songs. She once knew them intimately, and gave all the heart. It is way sadder than watching your ex get married.
The songs really haven't been hitting me past episode 7, unless I'm just watching too fast to remember, but "Original" definitely grabbed my ear and wouldn't let go. Super catchy; I've been playing it on repeat and singing it to myself constantly, along with going back to episode 1 and finally getting to fall all the way in love with "Broadway, Here I Come" in literally every variation that exists.
(Speaking of which, I love that they finally got their acts together and released a proper and complete soundtrack for the Marilyn musical - that's what we wanted last year, except that there weren't enough tracks to do that, especially when it wasn't yet complete), but am sad that they didn't also offer a second CD for Hit List and/or general covers. I guess that's what my eMusic subscription will be for; hope the tracks are still there in September when it reactivates.)
EDIT: OK, yeah, I mostly forgot the songs, so I'm looking up all the extra Hit List tracks on Spotify right now. This takes them out of context so I can't remember when they were introduced or where they take place in the musical, but they're giving me quite the rush of feelings anyway.
-I Heard Your Voice In A Dream - very music-from-a-band generic, but in a way where the music might worm its way in after three repeats. The title phrase has a really addictive lilt, and the chorus kind of reminds me of a Kris Allen or Phillip Phillips song (those two sound the same, right?).
-Rewrite This Story - didn't love at first, but I am always more amenable to Jimmy songs when Karen duets, and the fast guitar intro is definitely memorable. Favorite line: You work at a bar where all that you are is everything you're not
-Reach For Me - I must have been dead-tired to think this was boring when I first heard it, because NO, THIS IS PRETTY GREAT. Very intense, mysterious and darkly pretty, as the Dance Of The Acrobatic Ropes suggests. Seriously, watching her elegantly twirl on the ribbons made my jaw drop.
-I'm Not Sorry - ah, yes, there's the fun techno dance number I've been waiting on.
-Bonus: Bittersweet Symphony is not my favorite song, lyrically, but I liked Ivy's sad performance of it.
A Few Sad Things
The breakdown of Tom & Ivy's friendship was probably one of the worst things to watch*. Thankfully, Tom The Painfully New Director was only at his worst for an episode or so, but the way she told him they can't be friends while she works for him was...ouch. (I also could have done with 100% less Liza Minelli; I don't know what crypt factory created her but I genuinely cannot imagine a time where she seemed like a sane and balanced and/or talented human being. She's like the female Michael Jackson).
*That's a lie. The breakdown of Tom & Julia's partnership has been much worse. I AM GETTING WILL & GRACE FINALE FEELINGS AND I DON'T LIKE THEM. The worst part is they're not even viciously fighting, they're just...alternately dismissing one another, either drifting apart, or one getting offended while the other is just bewildered about why they're being demonized (Julia is usually the one being demonized, and no matter how many bad choices she makes, I still want to defend her from bad things happening to her).
I wish Sam had never come back; ugh, what a giant waste of time. But that's pretty much the biggest complaint I have about the season other than Kyle being a dirty rotten cheater. Also, on the plus side, can we talk about the show's significant dearth of filthy scenes? Like, I don't think there were any that seared across my brain the way they did in season 1.
Except I get sad-faced when I remember that they left the accidental nudity in Bombshell, because... :( It feels like that'll be the reason it gets Tony nominations. That IS the reason ticket sales are up. What happens to the next actress who wants to take over the role, but doesn't want to take part in (gratuitous and unnecessary, SORRY EILEEN) nudity, who is now locked out of what was a wonderful, meaty role?
In Conclusion: I still can't pinpoint what general changes the new showrunner made make it better than season 1, besides firing a bunch of people & adding a new musical, but it has been an intense and wonderful joyride. I love everyone in this bar. I want to live in their world. And I'm going to be singing songs from this show for the next week straight, probably.
Now: just the last 2 episodes left...and the real reason I couldn't move forward was "Congratulations, you're pregnant!"
I stared at the screen for about 5 seconds with my jaw hanging open, and then followed it up with an even louder "WHAT?!" and kept shaking my head really quickly, like that would somehow change things. I did not sign up for this! Explain your nonsense immediately! Two episodes left does not give me hope! I heard a little bit about what happens with the Best Director Tony, but I didn't hear anything about this.
And now that I've had fun babbling about that for hours and listening to great music, WOO-HOO, SIBERIA'S ON!