It has all been leading up to this one moment, as Smash finally concludes this week the series long battle of the Marilyns is revived for a final run to the finale.
Karen finally steps into the breach and gets the part that she has been dreaming of since the series began. However, even as her star begins to rise, her lack of experience and the lack of rehearsal time is showing itself and she begins to buckle under the pressure of the role. Meanwhile, Ivy herself is hurt by being side-lined by the new talent even though she has the talent and the experience to back it up. In many ways it’s a bookend to the first episode where the same duality between the two actresses was noted, and the question of who would get the role has been asked again and again all series long. Ivy however, has one thing that Karen does not, and that is the hunger to claim the role for herself, even if it means breaking a young ingénue to do it.
The loss of their movie star has also left the production team in an upheaval and opinion over who should get the starring role is divided between Team Karen and Team Ivy. With Tom in Ivy’s camp and Derek in Karen’s, there is a deadlock in ideas even while Karen is rehearsing her heart out to get her unpractised role under her belt. There is one final twist to come as the hateful Ellis manages to reach a whole new level of manipulation as he reveals he was the one who poisoned Rebecca last week. We must admit we had our money on the ever so unstable Ivy as the culprit, and when Eileen finally fired her we almost cheered. Strangely enough it’s up to our lothario director Derek – who even while panicking throws himself into the work – to make ‘Bombshell’ into the masterpiece we all hope it will be.
There are many twists and turns along the way and a lot of almost moments where Ivy nearly gets the part she has lusted after for so long. There are also painful moments where we see Karen break apart under the pressure of the role of a lifetime, and a production team that seemingly has no faith in her ability to pull this off. However, as our new talent reaches the stage, she manages to own the role in such a triumphant way that it puts many of our doubts about her experience away. Of course, the rub is that we have also been rooting for Ivy in our own way, and as much as we thought we wanted to see Karen in the starring role, it’s poor Ivy who is left alone and unloved. Throughout the series she has been so in tune with Marilyn Monroe, that it was almost frightening to see her slip into the character so easily. This made the final few minutes of the finale all the more poignant when we see her alone in her dressing room with a handful of pills, while Karen rises to meteoric stardom on the stage.
Sadly the most damning thing about this episode in that it does not play as if it was a series finale. Aside from the age old battle of the Marilyns, which has always been a motif in this series, the episode ends seemingly too quickly with far too many unanswered questions. We understand that they want to leave a lot of items open for a second season, but we were expecting more from a series we have watched so faithfully for so long. There was also that strange feeling that even though Karen performed as Marilyn, that the fight for the role does not feel concluded and just pushed away for a while. Don’t get us wrong, Ivy and Karen have great chemistry as frenemies, but if this is a question that pervades all of next season as well we may become a little disappointed.
So the first season of Smash ends not so much with a bang but with a longing sigh, and we felt as though so much more could have been done. Still, it has been performing well all season and if they are able to put in as much love and attention when Smash returns, we will be sat in front of the TV with bated breath.