Disclaimers: The Bad Girls recaps are based on the original (U.K.) episodes. Any divergence from the U.S. broadcasts should be considered a peek at the real thing. Conversely, the recapper is American, so any failure to comprehend or incorporate British culture should be considered an accident of birth.
THIS WEEK’S RAP SHEET:
The revolutionary: Nikki Wade instigates an insurrection and piques Helen’s curiosity.
The reformer: Helen Stewart just wants to be caring and fair. Has she forgotten she works in a prison?
The rake: Jim Fenner has his eye on the women. Especially the pretty ones.
The lineup — We hear the familiar beats of “Stayin’ Alive,” and we see women in costumes, dancing on a stage. “Wait,” we say, “I thought I was tuning in for a gritty prison drama. ” And that’s the first thing you learn about Bad Girls: It’s rarely what you expect.
So this is a fashion show, and the models are prisoners at HMP (Her Majesty’s Prison) Larkhall. It’s a fab way to introduce the characters, actually. The ones with the silver wigs are the two Julies, harmless working girls. The one with the face paint and the attitude is Denny, who prefers the company of other women. The preening, gloved one is Shell, and she’s even more trouble than she looks.
Oh, and the one screaming and bleeding in her cell during all of this is Carol.
But let’s take a closer look at this unruly mob:
Nikki Wade (Mandana Jones): A lifer with a strong sense of justice. Nikki’s locked up because she killed the guy who attacked her girlfriend, Trish. It’s more complicated than that, of course, but one thing is beyond question: Nikki’s gorgeous. Plus, she’s popular with the other inmates — she pretty much rules G-Wing, which is the only part of Larkhall we care about.
Helen Stewart (Simone Lahbib): The Governor of G-Wing. Helen is young and idealistic. She actually cares about the women’s welfare, even though she sometimes wishes she didn’t. Like Nikki, she’s gorgeous and complicated. She’s also Scottish, stubborn and short-tempered. Swoon!
Jim Fenner (Jack Ellis): A senior guard with a giant forehead who knows just how to work the old boys’ network — so he’s none too happy that there’s now a woman at the helm of G-Wing. Jim uses the prisoners for his own nefarious purposes. You’ll hate him. And I don’t mean “love to hate” — I just mean hate.
Sylvia Hollamby (Helen Fraser): Another guard who’s been in the prison service too long and is just waiting to collect a pension. She’s the definition of “sourpuss.” The prisoners call her “Bodybag” behind her back — and sometimes to her face. She probably has a good heart in there somewhere, but she also loves her little bit of power and abuses it regularly.
Shell Dockley (Debra Stephenson): A blond, curvy lifer who’s as immoral as Nikki is moral. She uses Jim just as much as he uses her, and she vies (usually unsuccessfully) with Nikki for top dog status.
Denny (Daniela) Blood (Alicya Eyo): A small-time crook with curly hair and a killer stare who has worked her way up the Larkhall ladder by aligning herself with Shell. And by “aligning,” I mean getting horizontal. Um. They make out, OK?
The two Julies: Best friends Julie Saunders (Vicky Alcock) and Julie Johnston (Kika Mirylees) have been in and out of prison several times for prostitution. They’re simple and sweet and in their 40s, and just want to have as much fun as they possibly can. They’re also just plain loopy sometimes.
Monica Lindsey (Jane Lowe): A new arrival who’s rich, polite and appalled.
Rachel Hicks (Joanne Froggatt): A new arrival who’s shy, scared and doomed.
Zandra Plackett (Lara Cazalet): A junkie who has a history with Denny. Zandra’s hard on the outside but easily hurt on the inside.
Carol Byatt (Ashley Miller): The one who’s bleeding in her cell during the fashion show. Don’t think about her for too long: She’s only there to move the plot forward and help us realize that Nikki likes the ladies.
Lorna Rose and Dominic McAllister (Luisa Bradshaw-White and Joe Shaw): The younger guards who are usually addressed by their first names, mostly because that’s the level of respect they get. Dominic is sensitive and wants to help the women. Lorna is a Hollamby in training.
Simon Stubberfield (Roland Oliver): The governor of the whole prison. He’s smug and smarmy and wants the prison to run itself.
Now, where were we? Right: the fashion show. The lights go up. It seems this was just a rehearsal for an upcoming show. Jim Fenner tells the girls not to get stroppy because he’s already let them go on longer than he should have. Because he’s their friend, see? Such a kind, concerned gentleman. Obviously. He might even be so concerned, he’ll need to express his concern physically. He can’t help it he’s a toucher by nature. OK, now I’ve made myself sick.
As the performers protest, we get a glimpse of someone who’s been watching from the sidelines. That’s Nikki Wade. She’s raven-haired, and she looks good in red. And yes, she’s wearing makeup, because Her Majesty allows her prisoners to be human. What a concept! They even get to wear their own clothes, which actually doesn’t sound like a positive thing to me: I mean, orange jumpsuits are a great equalizer. Allow them to wear designer labels and the next thing you know, they’ll be having a fashion show. Oh, wait.
As they all troop back to their cells, Denny stops the quiet, slight Rachel Hicks. Denny gives her a message from Shell: “She says she hopes you haven’t forgotten what you promised her. She’d hate to have to remind ya.” Ooh, from disco to threats in the space of two minutes! Life in prison isn’t for the slow.
Rachel looks scared. I guess. Actually, she just seems sort of dim. So does Denny, but in a fiercer way.
Nikki’s on the second floor. She shouts down to the Julies, “Nice outfits!” The Julies are busy flirting with Dominic, and the handsome young guard doesn’t quite know what to do with their teasing. The Julies tend to speak in unison and/or finish each other’s sentences. I want to be their friend, and it looks like everyone else does too.
HMP Larkhall is huge and intimidating. It’s based on HMP Oxford, which is now a luxury hotel should you get the urge to play lockup.