Smash “Bombshell” Review

Smash Season Finale (NBC) "Bombshell" Episode 15 (10)

Smash wrapped up its first season with a preview of “Bombshell,” a musical centered around the life of Marilyn Monroe. The battle of the Marilyns had been a driving force for Smash for most of the season, and tonight, Karen finally landed in the spotlight, leaving Ivy quietly in her shadows.

Smash set out to be the story of a girl from the Midwest making it as a star on Broadway. With this in mind, Karen was inevitably going to end up in the Marilyn role. We were constantly being told that Karen was an underdog, that she possessed some hypnotizing star power, and that the was meant for this part. I never saw that in Karen myself, but I heard all the other characters buzzing about it, so I understand that this was what we were supposed to believe. This is exactly where this arc was intended to end – I had just hoped that Karen would have had to work so much harder to earn it.

Karen was given the challenge of learning the show the day before she had to perform it. No one believed she could do it, but that’s probably because this was the biggest challenge of her career to date. Officially, she had been in one preview performance as a chorus girl before being promoted to stardom. Her personal life took a nose dive in recent episodes, but even Dev’s betrayal seemed tame compared to a lot of the drama going on in the personal lives of the other characters.

That’s not to say that McPhee didn’t sing the heck out of the songs tonight. I do love her voice and the musical numbers tonight were great, but my favorite Karen numbers this season were actually not ones that had been written for Bombshell. Karen steals the show where the pop covers are concerned, but in my book, the Broadway numbers just belong to Ivy. The scenes where Ivy and Karen’s performances were inter-cut with one another simply highlighted that fact for me. Karen performed the socks off the numbers she was in tonight, but after all was said and done, I really wanted to see Ivy’s version of Marilyn.

In the same way that Smash has been trying to make us believe that Karen is a superstar, they’ve been trying to take Ivy farther down the dark path of villainy. The problem is that Ivy doesn’t make a very good villain. Even if it doesn’t stop her from being underhanded and manipulative, Ivy doesn’t seem to take pleasure in ruining Karen’s life. In fact, I found Ivy so sympathetic tonight, that the most emotional moments for me were all Ivy centered. Watching Ivy tell her mother about not being picked, being told that Karen was back after getting into full Marilyn costume, and then watching Ivy step into the shadow box at the end were all really heartbreaking scenes.

Had Ivy been a real villain, I would have been cheering her downfall the way I cheered when Ellis was fired. Ellis boldly admitted to putting peanuts in Rebecca’s drink – essentially confirming that he’s a psychopath. I think I would have preferred that Eileen have Ellis arrested for attempted murder, but for now I’ll take him being fired.

As Tom and Julia were scrambling to write a new ending for Bombshell, Julia vomited up a painfully obvious hint at a potential pregnancy by telling Tom that she hadn’t vomited since she was pregnant with Leo. Really!? I don’t know why they needed to be so heavy handed with this “hint” about the next challenge Julia is going to face in her personal life. It would have been better to simply have her get sick without saying a word and leave the speculation to the audience.

The finale ended with a distraught Ivy gazing down at a handful of prescription pills. I appreciate that Smash left Ivy’s last moment open ended and that it is equally possible for Ivy to attempt suicide as it is for her to decide to give up her pills and start over. Karen stopped being the underdog when the universe started handing her record deals, commercial gigs, and lead roles in Broadway musicals. Ivy’s the new underdog, and I’m hoping the second season of Smash will show us how she’s going to claw her way back to the top as they take Bombshell to Broadway.