Spoilers: Heavy Spoilers for Season 1 through Season 3
Warnings: This essay is extremely long. Consider yourself warned.
Author's Notes: Special thanks go out to the following for all of their help in the creation of this beast: artskat -for getting me hooked on this fabulous show, sparklebunny-for providing such wonderful graphics, and theholyinnocent for being the best beta a grammar gimp like myself could ask for.
Extra special thanks to stargazer1960 (aka Mrs. CB) for putting up with numerous viewings of the show, paper all over the office, and an excess number of wine bottles in the recycle bin. I love you dearly.
Bad Girls - Nikki/Helen
Induction: How I Got Hooked On Bad Girls Instead Of Painkillers
I have a bad back.
Now, you may wonder what the hell this has to do with writing a Ship Manifesto, but bear with me for a moment. I have spent the past six months recovering from yet another spinal surgery. My best friend had been trying to get me interested in her newest infatuation, the British TV drama Bad Girls, andrealizing she had a captive audienceforced me to watch her Season One DVDs. From the first moment I saw Helen Stewart's Angry Head Turn, I was hooked. In fact, I watched all ten episodes in one sitting then begged to borrow the next two seasons. This show has gorgeous women, diabolical characters, well-written plotsand did I mention it takes place in a women's prison? This award-winning British production, which premiered in the UK in 1999, is a character-driven show that takes place largely in the G-Wing of HMP Larkhall in London and effectively portrays the harsh realities of women in prison. [BBCAmerica has recently begun showing Bad Girls on Tuesday nights at 9:00 pm ET. If you haven't seen the show yet, I strongly urge you to give it a try. You will not be disappointed.]
Most importantly, Bad Girls was one of the first television shows to offer a lesbian love affair as a primary storyline. The slowly developed and emotionally charged relationship between Wing Governor Helen Stewart and prisoner Nikki Wade is one of the best-written romances, gay or straight, in television history. Not only do we get an emotional rollercoaster of an almost impossible love story, but we also see an honest portrayal of a woman's internal struggle with her sexuality.
Service Record- Helen Stewart
Helen Stewart, the new Wing Governor on Larkhall's G-Wing, is a young, educated, and idealistic fast tracker trying to implement reform in the prison system. Empowered with a strong belief in justice and a sense of empathy for the victimized women in her charge, Helen is seen as a "prisoner's friend" by the majority of the prison officers under her command. Her attempts to curb corruption among her staff and the prisoners often fail as she finds herself fighting the "old boys network."
Helen's mother died when she was young and her father, a strict minister who seldom showed affection, raised her. As a result, Helen is often unable or unwilling to discuss her feelings. At the onset of the series, Helen is living with her boyfriend, Sean Parr, a landscape artist. She seeks Nikki Wade, a prisoner serving life for killing a cop, as an ally to help in the running of G-Wing, and as Helen finds herself growing closer to the prisoner, she begins to doubt her emotional commitment to Sean. Helen struggles with not only her sexuality, but also her duty to the women in her care, especially Nikki. Considering herself a highly principled officer, Helen strives to maintain her professional integrity at Larkhall even when it results in personal loss. An imperfect heroine, Helen's professional and personal problems often result from her fiery temperament, naivety, and tendency to allow her emotions to overwhelm her intuition even when evidence suggest otherwise.
Rap Sheet- Nicola (Nikki) Wade
Nicola (Nikki) Wade is a prisoner at HMP Larkhall serving life for killing the police officer who was trying to rape her partner, Trisha Harris. Nikki considers her case to be an injustice because the police never fully investigated her victim's attempted rape of Trisha. Her conviction for murdering a cop has earned her the respect of many fellow inmates, making her life on G-Wing a bit easier, but she refuses the title of "top dog." A highly intelligent and extremely political woman, Nikki stands up against abuse from prison officials and inmates alike, often at personal risk. She has a contemptuous relationship with the prison officers and is initially reluctant to help Helen with inmate problems.
Her family disowned Nikki when they discovered she was a lesbian. On her own since she was sixteen, Nikki was a successful businesswoman before being incarcerated. Even after Trisha ends their long-term relationship two years after Nikki enters Larkhall, the two women still own a nightclub together and Trisha remains an important friend.
Nikki does not give her trust easily, especially to prison officers. It is not until they break through an impasse over a young inmate's death that Nikki gives her friendship, and eventually her trust, to Helen. When she realizes that her feelings for Helen have shifted from wariness to affection, Nikki shamelessly pursues the governor and helps Helen come to terms with her changing life. Plagued with raging jealousy, Nikki's emotional outbursts often overpower her ability to see reason.
The Ship- Helen Stewart/ Nikki Wade
When Wing Governor Helen Stewart first meets lifer Nikki Wade, she never imagines that the con will turn her life inside out. In return, Nikki would never believe that she could befriend a screw, let alone fall desperately in love with one. Yet, despite obstacles of both personal and professional making, their relationship succeeds.
The romance between Helen and Nikki is influenced by both internal and external factors. Both women have their own personal codes, which often clash, leading to heated confrontations. Helen is in a position of power over Nikki and while she often uses this power to protect Nikki, she inadvertently uses it to hurt the inmate as well. Nikki is a prime example of legal injustice; as mentioned previously, she has trust issues and is prone to emotional outbursts and extreme acts in defense of both herself and others, which is at odds with Helen's desire for order on the wing.
As if their personal demons aren't enough to deal with, Helen and Nikki are also subjected to the evil machinations of both Helen's deputy, Principal Officer Jim Fenner, and Nikki's G-Wing nemesis, Shell Dockley. Fenner is a homophobic cad who engages in non-professional dalliances with Shell and other women imprisoned on G-Wing. He is resentful of Helen's appointment to Wing Governor and uses her lack of experience to benefit his own agenda. Fenner considers Nikki Wade an "interfering dyke" and becomes suspicious of her relationship with Helen after the Governor sidesteps protocol on Nikki's behalf.
Shell Dockley, serving life for torturing and setting a romantic rival on fire, is "top dog" on G-Wing but earns no respect from Nikki. Her liaison with Fenner allows her power plays to go unpunished, and she often collaborates with him in schemes to discredit Helen or set up Nikki. Shell is not to be trusted, as Fenner will eventually learn.
Season One "This is difficult for me, as I think you know."
From the moment they first lock eyes in a confrontational battle of wills ("Them and Us,") Helen and Nikki ignite a spark of sexual attraction that continues to burn throughout their storyline. Nikki, outraged over an inmate's nearly fatal miscarriage, tells newly appointed Wing Governor Helen Stewart that without respect from the guards, the cons will make the administration look foolish in front of their VIP guests at the Larkhall Fashion Show. Helen is aware of the failings of her officers, but needs to make a show of authority she cancels the wing's participation and sends Nikki to the punishment block.
Ordered by her boss, the Governing Governor, to reinstate G-Wing's participation in the fashion show, Helen realizes that the only way to do this without losing the respect of the prisoners is to form an alliance with Nikki:
Helen: Either we both climb down together and make something positive out of all of this...
Helen: Or we all lose out to the old boys network.
Nikki reluctantly agrees when she sees the silent plea on Helen's face. After the show, Helen attempts to thank Nikki for her help but receives an indifferent, "Don't think I did anything for you, Miss," in return.
Helen truly wants to make improvements to life on G-Wing but realizes she can't do it alone. While Nikki has no interest in being the governor's watchdog, she isn't immune to the attractive Scot. When her partner Trisha visits, Nikki points to Helen with a "check that out" grin on her face. Trish turns around in mock surprise and says, "Is that her? You never said she was a babe!" ("Drug Wars").
In "Love Rival," we see that the tall, dark lifer is starting to catch Helen's eye as well. When she accidentally bumps into someone in the cafeteria, Helen is pleasantly surprised to find that the growling inmate is Nikki.
There is an obvious sexual tension as the two women lock eyes, and when their gaze lasts longer than it should, Helen breaks it off by commenting on Nikki's reading material. Aware of Nikki's love of literature, Helen tries again to make a connection with the inmate only to be shot down.
While helping Sean with his work, Helen realizes that gardening may be the way to get through to Nikki. She is surprised when Sean mentions the prisoner by name- he thinks Helen is becoming obsessed with the lesbian lifer. Sean jokes that as far as Nikki Wade is concerned, Helen is the "right species, but the wrong variety." After all, Helen prefers male gardeners, right?
Nikki is heartbroken when Trish ends their relationship ("The Victim") and makes a passing joke about ending her life. When a concerned inmate alerts Helen to Nikki's emotional state, the Governor promises to keep Nikki under watch. Unfortunately, they are watching the wrong inmate. Rachel Hicks, a young con victimized by both Fenner and Shell Dockley, hangs herself in her cell.
Helen finally gets through to Nikki in "Tangled Web," when the prisoner is dragged to the block for attacking Shell Dockley. Bypassing an adjudication hearing, Helen orders Nikki to her office, where the distraught inmate immediately criticizes the Governor's efforts at improving life on G-Wing, triggering yet another confrontation:
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?
Telling Nikki that her only remaining option is to transfer her far from Trish, Helen officially learns of the inmate's romantic breakup. When Helen tries to convey sympathy for Nikki's feelings, Nikki thinks it is an act, that Helen doesn't take lesbian relationships seriously.
After discussing Nikki's behavior cycle, Helen decides to try a new approach and lets her off with a warning.
Helen: I'm sticking my neck out here Nikki, I don't know why, but I am.
A shocked Nikki begins to see Helen in a new light and quietly asks if she can leave. Helen, smiling as Nikki leaves, nods to herselfshe has finally broken through the con's hard exterior.
Helen tries to draw Nikki into an easy friendship through their mutual love of literature and hatred of Jim Fenner ("A Big Mistake"). When she returns from vacation, a very flirtatious Helen conspires to sneak a book in for Nikki who is obviously smitten with the governor.
Helen notices Nikki's crush and uses it to persuade the reluctant lifer to attend University classes:
Helen: I'd like you to think about it. [big smile] As a favor to me?
Nikki: [sheepish smile] Okay, for you.
Helen continues to smile as she watches Nikki leave her office. The next day, she visits Nikki's cell and gives her the university prospectus. Almost out the door, Helen returns and pulls a copy of Sophie's World from her files, smiling as she hands it to the grateful con.
Later in the episode, Helen sees Nikki in the library and comments on the prisoner's choice of reading material. Nikki jokes with her, which leads to a curious Helen asking Nikki about being a lesbian:
Helen: Have you never been interested in men?
Nikki: Not my flavor, no.
Helen: But I thought...
Nikki looks at Helen who is suddenly speechless as she looks into the prisoner's eyes.
Nikki: What? I just hadn't met the right one?
Helen continues to stare at Nikki as if seeing her for the first time.
Nikki: No, they do nothing for me.
Helen: How can you be sure?
Nikki: The same way you are, if you are.
Helen: [laughs uncomfortably] I'm not interested in women. Not in that way.
Nikki: [flirtatiously] You should give it a go sometime; you don't know what you're missing. [hands Helen a copy of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and walks away]
In a further attempt to encourage Nikki, Helen promotes the prisoner to Enhanced status- the highest grade under the Incentives and Earned Privileges Scheme. Nikki will now have a cell to herself, earn a few extra quid in her personal spends and gain more freedom of movement throughout the prison ("Playing With Fire").
The growing closeness between Helen and Nikki takes an awkward turn when Helen invites Sean, who has recently proposed marriage, to give a gardening lecture at Larkhall. After the lecture, Helen walks in to the classroom as Sean is thanking Nikki for helping maintain control of the group. When he possessively wraps his arm around Helen and announces their engagement, a visibly troubled Nikki leaves in a huff. The next day, Helen finds Nikki in the potting shed:
Nikki: Here comes the blushing bride to be. Kept that quiet, didn't you?
Helen: Sean has just asked me to marry him, not that it's any of your business actually.
Nikki: Well, why you telling me then?
Helen: I really don't know, but I certainly don't have to explain myself to you.
While Helen can't justify why she feels the need to smooth things over with the inmate, she is curious to know why Nikki seems bothered by the engagement. Unable to believe that Helen can't see how she feels, Nikki answers, "It's about this!" as she grabs the governor's hand and presses it firmly against her own breast.
Helen, horrified by Nikki's act, struggles free from the con's physical grasp only to face the strength of the emotional hold Nikki has over her as well.
Helen tries to work, but can't shake the earlier events from her mind and has Nikki brought to her office. Interrupting the apologetic inmate, Helen asserts her heterosexuality as well as her plans to get married. She admits that Nikki often makes her feel uncomfortable and assures the con that everything she has done for the inmate has been for professional reasons only. Nikki takes it all in stride, but her interest is peaked when Helen inadvertently gives herself away:
Helen: Nikki, even if I were attracted to you, which I'm not, there is no way that we could have a relationship! For a start, I'd be sacked!
Nikki realizes that Helen does have feelings for her but is refusing to acknowledge them.
At home, Helen is still preoccupied with what happened in the potting shed. When Sean expresses concern, Helen reassures him that she wants to get married and kisses him, trying to convince herself he is the person she truly loves.
Helen's disinterest in planning the wedding is evident in the beginning of "Pay Back Time." Hung-over after seeking solace in a bottle of Stoli, she admits to her fiancé that she hasn't even told her father about the impending nuptials. When Sean offers her the chance to back out, she refuses.
Still reeling from her hangover, Helen runs into Nikki in the library. Initially concerned with the governor's health, Nikki quickly uses the opportunity to press a confused Helen about her feelings:
Nikki: You can't have it both ways.
Helen: [with a pleading look in her eyes] This is difficult for me, as I think you know.
Nikki: [invading what remains of Helen's personal space] So, what do you want? [Helen nervously steps back] Sorry, am I making you feel uncomfortable?
The sexual tension between the two women proves overwhelming for Helen and she walks out as a faint smile forms on Nikki's face. Helen may be unable to admit to her growing feelings for Nikki, but that doesn't keep her from touching the inmate's arm and staring deeply into her eyes when she asks Nikki to talk to Monica Lindsey, an inmate who is depressed after the death of her son.
When a drug scandal hits G-Wing, Helen is unable to find support from either her co-workers or her fiancé and turns to the one person who is always there for her. Letting herself into Nikki's cell after lockup, Helen silently begs entry with tear-filled eyes. She sits on the bed next to Nikki and begins to breakdown as the inmate offers words of encouragement and a comforting embrace. When Helen begins to talk about giving in, Nikki kisses her.
Helen responds, leaning into the kiss until she realizes what she is doing and breaks it off. Nikki tries to apologize:
Nikki: Sorry! [slams fists on bed] I shouldn't have done that!
Helen: No, you shouldn't! [leaves Nikki's cell]
A shocked Helen pauses outside of Nikki's door and lets out a small sigh of realization as she gently touches her lips with shaking hands. She has crossed the line, physically and professionally, and can no longer deny her feelings for Nikki.
In "Love Hurts," Helen reacts badly when Sean mentions their honeymoon. Refusing to discuss her feelings, Helen turns down another chance to stop the wedding.
On top of her problems at home, Helen, needs to call a meeting with Nikki to discuss university exams. When Nikki pushes her to talk about the kiss, Helen tries to convince Nikki that her interest is purely professional. Nikki gives the Governor an "oh please, you aren't fooling me" look and becomes angry when she is accused of taking advantage of Helen's emotionally vulnerable state.
As Nikki begins to storm out of the office, Helen tells her to stop and meets Nikki at the door. Looking directly into the prisoner's eyes, Helen tells Nikki that if she doesn't stop her pursuit, one of them will have to leave Larkhall.
On the eve of her appeal, Monica attempts suicide. She is revived by Nikki and two other inmates just as Helen walks in. Realizing what has happened, an angry Helen goes to Nikki's cell and demands to know why the inmate didn't call for help:
Nikki: I did it to protect you.
The report of another attempted suicide on her watch would have no doubt resulted in Helen being fired. Helen is stunned when she realizes that Nikki not only took it upon herself to save an inmate, but did so in order to protect Helen's career.
At home, Sean continues to babble on about the wedding. Desperate to talk about anything but that, Helen tells Sean that she is having problems with Nikki Wade and adds that Nikki dragged her into a cell and tried to kiss her. By lying, Helen is putting all of the blame for the kiss on Nikki so she won't have to face responsibility for her own participation. However, when Sean seems more concerned with Helen being grabbed instead of the attempted kiss, she simply assures him that the inmate won't try it again.
Helen finally admits to Sean that she doesn't love him and breaks off their engagement. In retaliation, Sean humiliates Helen by burning his wedding suit in full view of her coworkers and the inmates.
Helen picks up the keys he has thrown at her feet and looks toward G-Wing, locking eyes with a stunned Nikki. As Helen leaves Larkhall that evening, she sneaks a look toward Nikki's window.
Season Two- "And remember, we're gonna make this work. I promise."
Nikki is depressed when it appears Helen is not returning from leave, especially when Stubberfield, the Governing Governor, promotes Fenner to acting Wing Governor ("Tug of Love"). When a travel-delayed Helen does appear, Nikki asks to speak with her. Helen refuses, saying, "When I'm ready."
Eventually, Helen calls Nikki to her office and tries to keep the discussion professional, but Nikki can't resist bringing up the broken engagement:
Nikki: So it had nothing to do with what you felt for me? Why can't you tell me I mean something to you?
Helen: Of course you mean something.
Nikki: Say that again!
Helen has taken a huge step by admitting that she does have an emotional interest in Nikki, but makes it clear to the inmate that her professional responsibilities prevent her from acting on them. She can't show her feelings to Nikki but she still asks for help in changing things on G-Wing. An incredulous Nikki scoffs at the suggestion and Helen dismisses her with a nod of the head.
Later in the episode, after bravely talking a suicidal inmate down from the prison roof, Helen is surprised to find Nikki waiting for her at the gate:
Helen: What are ya doing here?
Nikki: I thought you were absolutely fantastic up on that roof and I'm sorry Helen, I've got to tell you. You're gorgeous; I'm totally in love with you.
Helen: [staring into Nikki's eyes] Nikki
Nikki: There's nothing I can do about it.
Helen: [sighs and puts on stoic face] Well I can. [walks away as a besotted Nikki watches]
In "Shit Happens," Fenner provokes Nikki into striking another officer and once again, the lifer is thrown on the block. Trying to keep her desire for Nikki buried, Helen comes down hard on the inmate who in turn lashes out at the Governor's motivation:
Nikki: You're only behaving like this because you can't handle it. So why don't you give in, miss, and stick your tongue down my throat?
The next day, Helen arrives on the block to find no change in Nikki's attitude. Visibly struggling to maintain her composure, she begs Nikki not to make her decision any harder, but all Nikki can think about pushing Helen into acknowledging her feelings:
Nikki: I want to make love to you all night long.
At an impasse, Helen has no choice but to send Nikki to another facility. When Shell, who has been severely beaten by Fenner, corroborates Nikki's claims of provocation, Helen calls for the inmate's return to Larkhall as well as an investigation into Fenner's activities.
No longer able to deny her feelings for Nikki, Helen goes to the confused inmate's cell to apologize for not believing her. When Helen adds that she has resigned, Nikki is devastated:
Nikki: Helen, you can't do this to me, this isn't fair.
Helen: Listen, I've just suspended Jim Fenner when I'm guilty of the same offense - in thought if not in deed.
Nikki: So what now?
Helen: Well, I'm not your jailer anymore [pause] which means I can do this.
Taking Nikki's face in her hands, Helen kisses her deeply. When Nikki pulls away and begs Helen to visit her, Helen tells her it would be too hard.
Nikki: [tearing up] Helen you can't leave me like this. This is shit.
Helen: [caressing Nikki's face] Shit happens.
Helen walks out of the cell, leaving Nikki alone with her tears.
Nikki is depressed after Helen leaves and only cheers up when she receives an unexpected letter from Helen ("Visiting Time"). Another letter arrives a few weeks later ("Mistaken Identity") with a postcard that says, "Have V.O. Will C U Soon." Still on Fenner's shit list, Nikki loses her Enhanced status when she defends herself from a psychotic inmate and gains a new cell mate- Barbara Hunt.
Helen gives in to her growing feelings for Nikki and puts herself in the difficult position of being an ex-officer visiting a prisoner in "Losing It." The two women gaze longingly into each other's eyesthe only contact they are alloweduntil Helen finally says, "I missed ya, Nikki." When Nikki brings up the amount of time she has to do, Helen asks her to consider appealing her case. Nikki, not wanting to get her hopes up, is less than enthusiastic. Nonetheless, Helen extracts a promise from Nikki that she appeal her sentence while Nikki gets a promise from Helen that they will make their relationship work.
Helen more than keeps her promise a few weeks later when she sneaks up on Nikki reading in the library and announces that she has a new job as the Liaison Governor for the Lifers Unit with Prison Services, working with women serving life sentences. This position will allow Helen to assist with formulating Nikki's appeal.
In "The Set Up," Helen returns to Larkhall and talks to Nikki about the appeal, begging her to stay under Fenner's radar. She also reminds Nikki that while she is no longer in charge of G-Wing, Helen still works for the prison system and they will have to be careful about hiding their relationship.
Helen's excitement over starting the appeals process is tempered when she reads Nikki's file. She finds Nikki in the library and tells her that it will be ten years before Nikki is considered for parole and even then, it doesn't look hopeful. Wanting to take advantage of every moment with the woman she loves, Nikki gets Helen to follow her into an abandoned art room and they kiss passionately.
Admitting that she is still coming to terms with her sexuality, Helen stops Nikki when the inmate tries to advance the relationship. Nikki comforts her and assures her that they can lead a normal life. The fact that Helen can discuss her feelings with Nikki is a measure of her devotion to the relationship considering her inability to do so with Sean.
Now that she is working on her appeal, Nikki needs to avoid trouble ("Babes Behind Bars," "The Leaving"). Helen receives permanent assignment to Larkhall ("Rough Justice") and starts a Lifers Unit dedicated to helping women serving life sentences. After the unit's first meeting, Nikki and Helen discuss the appeal. Nikki promises to show Helen a good time after she is released and they move in for a kiss only to be interrupted by PO Dominic McCallister. A frustrated Nikki glares at Dominic as she walks out of the room. When Helen comes to her cell to collect a survey, Nikki hands her a love letter as well.
Nikki meets Claire Walker, her new lawyer and an old friend of Helen's. Excited when Claire gives her new information about her case, Nikki can't help feeling a little jealous over the hug and kiss Helen gives her friend as she leaves. Helen assures Nikki that she was never interested in women before meeting her, but Nikki brings up Helen's relationships with men.
Helen: Stop being jealous. Look, that letter you wrote me. I feel exactly the same. Trust me.
Nikki tries to smile, but she is still worried. Her concern seems well placed when she overhears Dominic telling Di about his plans to meet Helen after work. What Nikki doesn't realize is that while Dominic may have romantic hopes, Helen only wants to discuss the Lifers Unit with the young officer.
Nikki's jealousy threatens the relationship when she confronts Helen about spending time with an obviously love-struck Dominic. After Helen explains that meeting with Dominic was necessary to her plans for the Lifers Unit, Nikki still questions why she wasn't told about it.
Helen: Probably to avoid a reaction like this.
The argument continues in the garden until a fed up Helen finally has enough of Nikki's insecurities and tells her to sod off ("Facing Up").
Later that day, Nikki catches Helen on the wing and apologizes for her behavior. The two women struggle to keep the discussion, taking place in a public area, on a private level. Nikki admits that she is jealous and insecure-after all, Helen may decide she'd rather have a man, but Helen sets her straight:
Helen: I won't be dictated of when and how I can see my work colleagues, so you better stop thinking I'm so fickle about how I feel about you.
That evening, an uninvited Dominic arrives at Helen's flat. When the phone rings, he tries to pass the phone to Helen, but drops it. Nikki, who has called to talk about their earlier fight, hears him apologize as he hands the phone to Helen and, heartbroken, hangs up. Helen is upset when she realizes it was Nikki calling. Dominic, misreading Helen's emotional state goes in for a kiss only to be stopped when Helen firmly informs him that she is in love with someone else-another woman, more specifically, Nikki.
Dominic is shocked when Helen tells him she is love with Nikki Wade, but promises to keep their secret. Telling someone that she loves Nikki is another huge step for Helen, but she still hasn't been able to say those words to Nikki.
The next morning, Nikki refuses to listen to Helen's explanations and calls her a two-faced tart. When Helen pulls rank and demands respect as a prison officer, Nikki smarts off. Helen breaks off the relationship and storms away After Dominic sets her straight, Nikki tries to apologize, but Helen won't hear of it. She tells Nikki to find someone else, but has second thoughts when tearful Nikki calls her at home that evening.
Helen reaches for the phone just as Nikki hangs up. She replays the message, tears forming in her eyes as she hears Nikki's voice.
Desperate to win Helen back, Nikki stumbles upon a way out of Larkhall, for one night, when a gardening injury allows her to meet a debt-ridden nurse. Nikki calls Trisha and arranges to pay the nurse three thousand pounds if she will help Nikki escape during the party. Desperate to be with her boyfriend, the nurse agrees and provides Nikki with a disguise. Taking advantage of the lax security during a PO's party, Nikki, dressed as a nurse, walks out of Larkhall and catches a bus to Helen's flat ("Oh, What A Night!").
Torn between her responsibilities as a prison officer and her love for Nikki, Helen refuses to allow the prisoner in until Nikki threatens to break the window.
In Helen's living room, the Governor rages at Nikki for escaping and putting her in such a situation. By allowing Nikki to enter her home, Helen could be charged with harboring a fugitive. Nikki assures Helen that she won't get caught but Helen thinks Nikki is completely mad. Nikki pulls Helen into an embrace and they stare into each other's eyes.
Nikki: I love you. When I thought I'd pissed you off, I didn't know how I could live. And then I got this chance, I just want to make the most of it. We've got a whole night together.
Helen: [tries to pull away from Nikki] No Nikki, this is not the way.
Nikki: Tell me you love me.
Helen: [barely audible] Oh, Nicola!
Helen's resolve crumbles and she and Nikki finally make love.
Sharing a tender moment afterward, Helen tells her lover that she needs to get her back to Larkhall, but Nikki reminds her that she can't go back until morning shift change. Helen turns over and tries to hide a letter, but not before Nikki sees. It's from her solicitorthe appeal has been denied.
Later in the living room, the two women are drinking vodka as Helen begs Nikki not to give up and finally tells Nikki how she feels:
Helen: I love you, Nikki.
Nikki: Enough to give everything up for me?
Helen: You know how much.
Nikki: I'm not going back to that prison, Helen, not after this.
Nikki tells Helen that she can't take the chance of being locked up forever after everything the two of them have been through in the past week, not after they have finally slept together. She begs Helen to go to San Francisco with her, but Helen refuses. Helen tries desperately to change Nikki's mind, but Nikki simply asks for her trust before going off to get dressed. Failing to convince Nikki to return to Larkhall and continue tying to gain her freedom the legal way, Helen has no choice but to turn Nikki over to the authorities. Picking up the phone, Helen trembles as she dials "999"-Emergency Services.
Season Three-"Until we meet on the outside"
Helen can't go through with her call to the police and hangs up ("Back From The Brink").Unable to persuade Nikki to change her mind about fleeing, Helen decides to take her back to Larkhall.
Nikki freaks out and grabs the wheel, nearly causing an accident and catching the attention of the police, who pull them over. When a smirking policewoman guesses that it was a lovers' quarrel and recommends that they "get back to their bed," a relived Helen gets back into her car. As they continue to argue, Helen's cell phone rings. Karen Betts is requesting her immediate presence- Shell has stabbed Fenner and is holding him hostage.
Helen realizes she can use the incident on G-Wing as a way to get Nikki back to her cell undetected and admits she thought they would have to drive around all night waiting for the morning shift. An angry Nikki pulls away from Helen's caress:
Helen: Nikki, if we want a future, the only chance we've got is to keep fighting for your appeal.
After getting Nikki back into Larkhall, the two women share a brief moment before Helen goes to unlock Nikki's cell. When the Fenner situation is resolved, Helen goes to a raging Nikki's cell and is shocked when she sees Barbara standing beside the lifer. She had forgotten that Nikki had a cellmate. Inside the office, Helen softens her tone and nervously asks Nikki what Barbara knows. When she realizes that Barbara knows everything about the escape, Helen begins panicking. Nikki says that telling Barbara is no different from Helen telling Dominic.
Helen: I told Dominic about my feelings; you told a prisoner I broke the bloody law.
Nikki assures Helen that Barbara won't say a word. Besides, Nikki told her it was over. Helen turns tear-stained eyes toward Nikki and tells her it is over.
Helen: I can't hold it together anymore Nikki and neither can you. It's too strong, what we feel and what we need it's impossible, we've got to let go, we have no choice.
After witnessing the result of Fenner's affair with Shell, Helen has no choice but to end the relationship. Nikki has already risked both of their futures by escaping once, what will she do the next time they argue? Nikki chalks Helen's actions up to cowardice, and Helen, not wanting to admit that she is actually protecting them both, doesn't correct her.
In "The Turn of The Screw," Nikki is so broken over the loss of both Helen and her appeal that she has given up on everything. Helen comes to her cell and sitting on Nikki's cot, begs, the inmate to keep trying "for us," but Nikki tells her, "There is no us." Helen assures her there will be when she gets out, but Nikki explains to Helen that prisoners focus on their release dates. THAT is what gets them through. When Helen reminds Nikki that she didn't have a release date before and she still made it, Nikki tells her, "I had you before."
Nikki: You know, I could get through a whole week just waiting for one look from you. And when I got that, that'd get me through another week. You see, you're making me remember and I just want to forget!
Helen is willing to keep the relationship going, but on an emotional level only. She can't allow her physical desires for Nikki to compromise either her career or Nikki's chances with the Criminal Cases Review Commission a panel that has agreed to review Nikki's case.
Regardless of the status of her relationship with Nikki, Helen always feels confident asking for the inmate's help. When the guards stage a sickout to protest Shell's return to the wing, Helen persuades Karen and Stubberfield to let the women run G-Wing themselves. She asks Nikki to keep an eye on things and while not happy playing "head prefect," Nikki does realize that if they remain locked up, she will continue to miss meetings with Claire ("Chains Of Freedom").
Helen is finally able to give Nikki some good news about her case in "Blood Ties." Claire has uncovered a witness who can validate Nikki's claims that the officer she killed was a rapist. Helen cautions Nikki not to get too excited, but admits that the situation is looking "very positive."
Nikki now realizes that Helen made the right choice when she forced Nikki to return to Larkhall and gently thanks her.
In "Do or Die," Helen has found a new cause in Pam Jolly, an emotionally disturbed prisoner convicted of murder and arson. She persuades Nikki to help Pam get used to G-Wing, but once again, Nikki is hurt in the process when her cell is set on fire. Nikki loses most of her possessions in the fire, including the treasured copy of Sophie's World that Helen gave her, and blames the fire on Helen's decision to bring Pam to the wing. Helen switches to professional mode and reminds Nikki that everyone on the wing is a suspect, including Nikki herself.
Helen meets Dr. Thomas Waugh, an independent psychiatrist, and is impressed when he diagnoses Pam as schizophrenic and offers a treatment plan. When Nikki sees the difference in a medicated Pam, she apologizes to Helen for her doubts.
Helen admits that Nikki was right about putting her career at risk for a prisoner, again. She takes the opportunity to hand Nikki a new copy of Sophie's World and smiles as Nikki reads the inscription:
Until we meet on the outside
Nikki smiles in return and watches lovingly as Helen walks away.
Later that night, Helen enters the office and asks a jittery Fenner for Pam's file. When she asks if he is okay, Jim responds by grabbing Helen and pinning her against the filing cabinet. Fenner sticks his hand between a terrified Helen's legs as she fights him off and flees the office.
When Fenner tries to apologize the next day, Helen accuses him of sexual assault ("The Great Escape"). Fearing no one will believe her because of her past conflicts with Fenner, Helen goes to the garden to see Nikki. When the inmate realizes that something is wrong, Helen admits that Fenner sexually assaulted her the night before. Helen has to calm down an enraged Nikki and explains why she can't report the incident.
She sadly stares into Nikki's eyes, silently pleading for the physical comfort she knows she can't have.
Under the pretext of filing a complaint against a visiting film crew, Nikki gets Fenner alone in the PO's office. In a very intimidating manner, Nikki reminds Fenner of her own prowess with a jagged bottle until Helen interrupts and takes Nikki back to her cell. Infuriated, Helen reams Nikki for putting her appeal at risk and tells her that anger, jealousy and violence are not the qualities she generally looks for in a person.
Fenner, worried that Helen will report his assault, decides to take her out first. Still traumatized by seeing his attacker on the wing, he offers to help Shell escape if she will help him discredit Helen in return. The escape is successful, but Fenner's efforts to set up Helen fail. Concerned that he will now take the fall, Fenner is only slightly relieved when Stubberfield, the Governing Governor, is blamed and forced to resign.
Nikki is less than thrilled when Helen announces her promotion to acting Governing Governor, as it will mean less time for them to see each other. Helen reminds her that this new position will help Nikki's case, as well as getting rid of Fenner ("Common Criminal").
Helen asks Thomas to become the new Senior Medical Officer for Larkhall Prison. They are discussing changes they want to implement when Claire interrupts with news for Nikki. Sitting in Helen's office, Claire tells Nikki that the Home Office has submitted her case to the Appeals Court. When they are alone, Helen grabs the inmate's hands in celebration and pulls her closer.
They are seconds away from a kiss when Thomas interrupts.
In "Battle Lines," Nikki and Helen again find themselves on opposing sides when Nikki expresses concern over the mistreatment of a new non-English speaking inmate and Helen refuses to discipline the guards involved. Nikki organizes a peaceful protest, but it quickly escalates into a full-blown riot when Maxi Purvis, a troublemaking new inmate, gets involved.
Nikki tries to resolve the situation and in the process meets new inmate Caroline Lewis who wastes no time in disclosing her attraction to the dark lifer ("Tough Love").
Nikki finally convinces top-dog Yvonne Atkins, a tough-as-nails Mafia widow, to help end the crisis and sends a message to the Governor that the riot is over. Nikki returns to her cell and tries to apologize to Helen, but Helen is furious. Nikki betrayed her and she has had enough:
Helen: It's over Nikki.
Helen: You and me. I don't want to have anything more to do with you. Do ya know something? I don't even feel sad about it! Now get back into your cell!
Despite the end of their relationship, Helen is dismayed as Nikki and Caroline continue to grow closer. After catching the two inmates kissing, Helen decides to ship Caroline out. An irate Nikki goes to the governors' office and calls Helen on her jealousy, but Helen won't have it:
Helen: Look Nikki, I've got no more to say on the matter!
Nikki: And that's what you always do Helen, isn't it? You play the power game on me. Have you ever considered therapy? Christ knows you need it.
Helen remains stoic throughout Nikki's tirade but nearly breaks down when the inmate storms out.
Nikki finally understands that Helen was trying to protect her, emotionally and physically, when she learns that Caroline's conviction was for child pornography and not embezzlementas Caroline had told her.
Helen sees Fenner getting close to Maxi Purvis and thinks the sleazy officer is up to his old tricks ("Standing Up"). Having developed a strong friendship with Thomas Waugh, Helen decides to show him the report she wrote detailing the events of her sexual assault. Thomas is livid and agrees to help Helen get Fenner out of the prison system for good.
When she learns from Yvonne that Fenner is running brothels for new prisoner Virginia O'Kane, Helen starts watching massage parlors hoping to catch Fenner in the act. Thomas joins her and when their stakeout is a bust, they go to the races and then back to his place. They talk easily until Thomas starts to tell Helen how he feels about her. After failing to change the topic, Helen admits that hearing what he has to say may be a bit too much, but kisses him anyway.
Helen and Thomas, now a couple, sneak a kiss not realizing that Fenner is watching ("Cat and Mouse"). Fenner, always willing to burst Nikki's bubble, volunteers to escort her back from her exams and expounds on the value of knowledge:
Fenner: For instance, did you know that your girlfriend, Miss Stewart, is shagging the new SMO?
Nikki confronts Helen with this information and angrily says that she would have thought Helen would tell herself instead of letting Fenner do it. Later that day, Helen comes to Nikki's cell and apologizes for not telling the inmate about Thomas herself. Struggling to keep the tears from her eyes, Nikki asks about Thomas.
When Helen admits that it could be serious, Nikki chivalrously claims to have a new life waiting for her on the outside and lets Helen go.
Helen finally catches Fenner collecting from a brothel and demands his resignation. He uses the grace period Helen allows to find Barbara's diary, which documents the governor's affair with Nikki as well as the inmate's escape, and turns the tables on Helen.
In "Coming Out," the final episode of the third season, Helen calls Fenner's bluff and refuses to resign until he threatens to de-rail Nikki's appeal. Even though their relationship is over, Helen still cares enough for Nikki to sacrifice her career in order to protect Nikki's chance at freedom. Nikki begs Helen to reconsider, claiming that Barbara will lie for them, but Helen refuses to compromise her principles any more than she already has. Helen tries to comfort a sobbing Nikki, urging her to win her appeal, but Nikki can only cry, "What if they send me right back here?"
Nikki: Knowing I'll never see you again. I know we're only friends, I know that [lip begins to tremble], but you were always more than someone I just fancied, you were my hope.
Helen: [tears up as she reaches for Nikki] Shh, Nikki
Nikki: How could I face another ten years in this place with no hope?
Thomas interrupts, and Helen asks him to wait a moment. She turns back to Nikki and tells her goodbye.
Helen tells Thomas that she is leaving Larkhall; when he asks why, she evades him and does not give him a reason. When he continues to pressure her for the truth, she admits that she doesn't know how he will react to it.
Fenner tells Thomas that the real reason Helen resigned was because she had been sleeping with Nikki and it threatened to come out. Thomas responds by punching Fenner in the face. Later, when he meets Helen for dinner, Thomas tells her he knows about Nikki. Realizing that Helen still cares for the inmate, Thomas gets up to leave:
Thomas: I've been hurt before because someone wasn't honest with me, but you, Helen, you're not even being honest with yourself.
Nikki is stunned when she wins her appeal. She embraces Trisha, who is now single and clearly continues to carry a torch for her, but when it comes time to speak to the press, Nikki can only think of Helen:
Nikki: I was one of the lucky few inside to get access to some real education and there's one woman I've got to thank for all that, because she always believed in me no matter how tough things got. I owe that woman not only my freedom, but also my life.
Helen is sitting in a pub watching Nikki's speech on the television, tears forming as she listens to Nikki thanking her.
At the club, Trisha and Nikki discuss the potential for a new beginning together as well as Nikki's feelings for Helen. Nikki is surprised when Helen shows up to congratulate her and takes the opportunity to thank Helen in person:
Nikki: I'd never have done it without you Helen, you know that. You stood by me when no one else gave a damn. If you knew how much that meant
Helen: I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
Helen is about to say something when she makes eye contact with Trisha and changes her mind. She smiles and tells Nikki she has to go. Realizing that Nikki's heart belongs to someone else, Trisha pushes her to go after Helen. Nikki runs out just in time to see a cab leaving. Disappointed, she begins to go back in when she hears a familiar voice:
Helen: Ya looking for someone?
Nikki nervously makes small talk until Helen admits that she and Thomas have broken up:
Helen: I've been such an idiot, Nikki.
Nikki: I know what you're saying.
Helen: No, let me say it. Thomas is gorgeous; he's everything you could want in a man. But I want a woman.
Nikki: [smiling in relief] We'll take it slow.
Helen: Yeah, dead slow.
They kiss passionately on the sidewalk until they realize they are blocking the way, and then move to a doorway, slowly making up for lost time.
The love story of Helen Stewart and Nikki Wade is like none I have ever seen: A smoldering romance that burns white-hot with passion, this is a relationship that never should have thrived, especially within the confines of a prison. Each woman has a strong ethical code that more often than not conflicted with the other's, even though they both had the best of intentions. Regardless of how many times they hurt each other, whether intentionally or not, they always held on to the hope that one day they would be together. Despite the impossibility of their situation, their love survived. The story of Nikki and Helen is not a simple romance between a female screw and a lesbian prisoner. It is a tale of untold devotion, undying love and unrelenting hope. We should all be so lucky to find a love like theirs.
Cabenson's Helen and Nikki Episode Guide
***Please note that this ep guide contains my personal commentary which is normally RRR-Rated.
Helen and Nikki: Season One
Helen and Nikki: Season Two
Helen and Nikki: Season Three
Fan Fiction Recommendations
It is not surprising that a lot of the Helen/Nikki fanfic is AU, after all, the pairing is canon on the show. There are some wonderful canon and post Ep.3.16 fics as well. I am only about halfway through some of the archives, but here are some that I have really enjoyed:
Private Sessions by Canada Bad Girl-**read everything by this author
A wonderful peek into the psyche of Helen Stewart during her time at Larkhall.
The After Larkhall Series by G.L. Dart
An honest character portrayal of Helen and Nikki as they adjust to freedom, both Nikki's and theirs as a couple.
Swimming Lessons by fewthistle
A short and sweet post 3.16 "Coming Out" fic
A Pragmatic's Approach to Falling in Love by random_flores
Helen has some thinking to do after leaving Larkhall, and Nikki behind.
Transitions by cabenson
A missing-scene fic that fills in the time between Monica's speech and Helen's trip to the tailor shop.
Oh, What a Connection by artskat
A re-imagining of the events that take place after Ep. 3.1
Smokey by Raindrop
Abeautifully written AU that is rather smokin'.
And for multi-fandom fun,
The Not-so-Plausible Adventures of the Slash Supergirls by theholyinnocent
Mere words cannot describe this all to0 short adventure of our favorite girls.
Fan Fiction Sites
Helen and Nikki Fan Fiction
Passion and Perfection Be sure to check out the fan videos in the multimedia section as well.
the_pottingshed - a drabble on-and-on community for Bad Girls that has produced some wonderful shortfics.
badgirlsslash - a fiction site for Bad Girls
Bad Girls Fan Sites
The Official Bad Girls Site
Helen and Nikki FanFiction
Ceri's Bad Girl Collection
Fascination Street Videos
Larkhall Projector Room Can't wait for new eps? Download ep clips here
Helen and Nikki.com
Meitals Bad Girls Site
Screen caps courtesy of:
The Official bad Girls Site
Helen and Nikki Fan Fiction
Return to 'Ship Manifestos
Return to Main Page