‘Smash’ Season 1 Finale Recap: ‘Bombshell’

by Erin Strecker

It was the moment we had all been waiting for: The curtain finally rose on “Bombshell” last night, and we discovered who would be Marilyn. And to the surprise of no one, it was Karen.

How we got to Karen singing in “Bombshell” was a bit more complicated. Rebecca, still sidelined from her poisoning, was out of the show with just one day to go before another preview performance. Everyone assumed that the last-minute role would go to Ivy, who already knew most of the plot. But last night proved to be a cautionary tale as to why no one (especially Ivy) should ever partner up with Ellis.

Ellis confessed to Eileen that he was the one who poisoned Rebecca—gasp! He tried to leverage that into letting him run the show as a producer, who would then also allow Ivy to star. Instead of this nutty—pun definitely intended—plan working, Eileen fired him on the spot. I have to say, although Ellis may be temporarily gone, it was a rather unsatisfying ending for a character who’s caused so much trouble. I predict he’ll make an encore performance sometime next season right around opening night on Broadway.

After that fiasco, Derek made an executive decision (thanks to another of his creepy Karen-as-Marilyn fever dreams) that Karen would be Marilyn. Everyone disagreed and thought she wasn’t ready, but Derek insisted this was how it would be. Ivy was devastated—even more so when mom Bernadette Peters showed up—and forced Derek to tell her why she wasn’t selected. Derek said Karen had “It.” Back to that in a minute. This brutally honest assessment obviously hurt Ivy, and she lashed out wanting to hurt Karen as well. So backstage, Ivy gave Karen back the missing engagement ring, and told her that she and Dev slept together. She wanted to get inside her head and mess with her, and also lately, apparently just felt like being a horrible person.

Karen was understandably crushed, and ran off to hide in a costume closet. Derek found her, and, despite not knowing exactly what was going on (classy points to Karen for not telling him), managed to be a decent human for a few minutes and say that now that she’s got the heartbreak, she knows Marilyn better than ever before, and was going to be incredible. In one of the best moments of the episode, Karen picked herself up, went on stage and informed Tom and Julia—who had been about to give the part to Ivy because Karen was MIA—that she was all set to go on. Point Karen.

The season ended with Karen going through all the numbers we’ve seen throughout the show, culminating in new song (with that new ending Tom and Julia wrote just in the nick of time!). Intercut with Karen giving it her all onstage was a sad and alone Ivy backstage with a handful of prescription pills, which she presumably was going to take. Thereby becoming Marilyn after all. She didn’t actually take the pills on camera—so it’s very possible that next season will kick off with Ivy putting the pills in the trash or some equally tossed-off twist. But for now, regardless of how it ends, it seems like a cheap trick, Marilyn parallels or not.

Starting out the show, one of the things I liked best was that you could vote for Ivy or Karen. Either of those ladies could be your star. Now, after the last couple of episodes, when Karen just gets “goodlier” and Ivy gets meaner, it isn’t a fair competition. Sleeping with Dev? Downing pills? But during that last number, when Karen was supposed to be blowing everyone away; where everyone should discover that she has “It,” all I could think was how much more I would have loved to hear Ivy perform. I’m sure she would have hit it out of the park.

What did you all think: Was Karen the right choice to play Marilyn? Where does the show go from here? Anyone else crossing their fingers that Karen and Derek don’t become an item? Have we seen the last of Ellis? What do you hope “Smash,” and “Bombshell,” focus on next season? Sound off in the comments and on Twitter!