The first season of the show deals with the issue of sexuality within the confines of prison life, and does it pretty well, too. The major storyline between Simone Lahbib, who plays the idealistic and fast-tracked wing governor Helen Stewart, and Mandana Jones who plays the hard-headed but intelligent lesbian Nikki Wade, is a perfect example of a genuinely written and sensitive portrait of a straight wing governor who falls in love with a lesbian prisoner.
This storyline, which is followed up in later seasons, is part of the show from the word go. When Helen as a new wing governor takes a tough stance on the inmates in the first episode, she is immediately opposed by Nikki Wade, and there is chemistry in abundance. Their friendship is cemented when Helen Stewart seeks to make an ally of Nikki but ends up depending on her a lot more than she would initially like to:
HELEN (walks into cell, closes the door behind her and sits down next to Nikki on her bed): What you reading?
NIKKI: Little Dorritt, it's a story about a terrible prison.
HELEN: Thank goodness we got rid of all of those! (sarcastic)
NIKKI: You're doing your bit Helen, most of the girls in here know that deep down.
HELEN: (In tears) Yeah? But for how much longer?
NIKKI: Hey, come here! (puts her arm around Helen)
Helen who sees herself as completely straight and is indeed engaged (to a rather geeky looking gardener) begins to realize that she has feelings towards this woman, who is a prisoner in her care. Obviously thinking that denial is the best way to go, Helen tries very hard and unsuccessfully to concentrate on her insanely boring boyfriend instead.
Their relationship is not only well-portrayed and well-explored, but it manages to combine issues of sexuality with issues of morality. The very thought of a relationship with Nikki goes against every rule that Helen has followed and must follow. For such an idealistic woman to have feelings for an inmate, no less a female inmate, itâ€™s no surprise that she is confused and dejected.
The on-screen chemistry between these actresses is wonderful to watch, and the power battles in the early episodes are not only true to character, but are portrayed with real intensity and sincerity. And, man, can Nikki give some cheek:
HELEN: I'm not having this Nikki, you're not going to undermine the good order of this wing.
NIKKI: So transfer me, put me on report, I don't give a shit!
HELEN: When are you going to grow up and stop all this macho crap? Why did you attack Michelle Dockley?
NIKKI: I dunno, touch of PMT. (Nikki stands up to leave the room)
HELEN: Sit in that chair!
NIKKI: (Sitting down) Don't you wish it was electric?
Needless to say, this is one relationship you donâ€™t want to miss. It will make you fall in love with the characters, it will leave you frustrated, and it may even make you cry. But it will definitely make you smile, too.
There are other lesbian/bi-sexual storylines in season 1 of Bad Girls, but the only one worth mentioning is the rather strange and un-explained entanglements of Shell Dockley (Debra Stephenson) and Denny Blood (Alicya Eyo). Shell Dockley, who likes to set fire to peopleâ€™s hair and is just generally a psycho, is neither straight nor gay. In fact, her sexuality is never really explained and even though we see her involved with men and she never makes any declarations of bisexuality, we see her sexually involved with her side-kick, Denny. Again, it seems that writers perhaps find it easier to write the lesbian storyline more than the bisexual one, for their relationship is never fully explored or even understood.
Shell is the kind of character that will use sex to influence people, in fact, sex is all sheâ€™s ever known and perhaps that can go a long way to explain her relationship with someone who is technically just her best friend, her side-kick.
SHELL (to Crystal, after kissing Denny): Enjoy that did you? Crystaaal?
CRYSTAL: Will you two be so hot for each other when you're burning in hell? I'll ask God to forgive you.
SHELL:: Bollocks! In here, I'm God. Remember it!