As the resident pro wrestling nerd at Off The Record, this week I’ll be taking a look at the newly-released Netflix series “GLOW.” Loosely based on the late ‘80s pro wrestling promotion GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling), I’ll run down two episodes at a time for the 10-episode first season.
For more on the real-life GLOW, check out the documentary on Netflix before checking out the series.
Today, we’ll look at episode seven (“Live Studio Audience”) and eight (“Maybe It’s All the Disco”).
Look, anyone can enjoy all the escapism they can handle. Eventually, reality comes back to knock you on our butt. Or in the case of “GLOW,” interrupt you during the climax of your big wrestling debut.
In episode seven, Debbie finally has her foil as she and Ruth put aside their personal animosity toward each other to try and make the best wrestling match they can. The two go so far as to go to Carmen’s brothers (played by real-life wrestlers Brodus Clay and Carly Colon) to learn some more advanced maneuvers than Cherry’s wrestling 101 wrist locks and takedowns. Mind you, they are learning these moves in the most ‘80s as (REDACTED) moment in the show: A training montage set to Stan Bush’s “Dare.”
The rest of the GLOW girls are jumping head-first into their first live show. Britannica is putting together a costume that draws the ire of her squeeze, Sam. “You’re going to look like that a–hole from AC/DC,” he says. Britannica also makes a tape of herself doing a GLOW rap, much like Debbie did previously.
And what is wrestling without racial insensitivity? The lone black wrestlers in the group, Cherry (Junkchain), with Tamme (The Welfare Queen), decides it’s a good idea to dress Stacey and Dawn as members of the Ku Klux Klan. The shock is at least offset as Junkchain and The Welfare Queen come out on top and play the match up for yucks.
The first show doesn’t go well for a few others, with Carmen suffering a panic attack and Debbie cutting her match with Ruth short when she sees her husband as she sets up for the grand finale. There, Debbie is given divorce papers from Mark. At least Britannica can diffuse the crowd’s booing with her rap. I’d pay a chunk of change to have a WWE wrestler try that with a hostile crowd.
And, the biggest reality check in episode eight comes from Ruth. Following a locker room conversation where the girls joke about being on the same cycle, she realizes she’s late. Going into a panic, Ruth grabs a home pregnancy tests, hides it from the rest of the girls and finds out that, yes, she is pregnant with Mark’s baby. Just a sense of dread all around as this jeopardizes her career and any chance of mending a friendship with Debbie.
Speaking of Mark and Debbie, they are having it out during this entire episode, with Mark claiming he wants to make the relationship work even after handing the papers to his wife. It was a ploy all along as he put absurd claims in the papers, like saying she was sleeping with Burt Reynolds and Mark would receive 10 percent of Debbie’s future earnings. And, we found out why Mark decided to sleep with Ruth: After the couple’s baby was born, there was no intimacy in the relationship. Hell, he says that it’s been 42 days since Debbie even asked how his day was. I mean, it’s an empathetic situation, but Mark cheated, so it’s hard to really empathize with poor decision making over, you know, talking to his wife.
The little bit of comic relief comes in the form of Sheila’s birthday, which brings the group together for a little bonding at a roller rink. For an outcast character like Sheila, it was an upbeat moment to see her with a smile on her face, letting the rest of the girls in, albeit for a short time.
Then comes the heavy: Ruth aborts the baby. She’s not ready, the baby wasn’t out of love, more out of two people making a bad decision because they felt terrible about themselves. “GLOW” doesn’t get political about the decision and it doesn’t get heavy-handed as the scene plays out. There’s some light humor and a little bit of a father-daughter sort of bond as Sam drives and waits for Ruth in the clinic. Maybe more like a big brother teasing a little sister, actually.
It’s a powerful scene by Alison Brie by playing it straight instead of what you would expect from such a taboo topic, with overly-dramatic tears and regret. She’s confident in her decision; you can tell she’s weighed the pros and cons and she’s at peace. In a way, it shows a maturity that has been lacking for Ruth, who has been a very unsure and emotional character throughout the series.
She’s taken her bump. Reality hits hard. But Ruth managed to stay up.
Episode 7 & 8 observations
- Aside from another round of cameos for Brodus Clay and Carly Colon, no new wrestlers showed up in these two episodes. One point I will make, though, is how much music and pomp and circumstance really matters in wrestling. Because they don’t have any music for the women, Sam has Sheila play a Casio keyboard. All she knows is the theme from “Exodus.” Then, when Ruth comes in as Zoya, she has Russian music playing her to the ring, which elicits an immediate response.
- GLOW callback: Ruth’s Zoya the Destroya character is a clear callback to Ninotchka, the real-life Soviet character from the show. Though, Ninotchka was more akin to Brigitte Nielsen as Drago’s wife in “Rocky IV” compared to Brie’s portrayal.
Alison Brie did pull from Ninotchka while performing this role, as she said in an interview with UPROXX.
- Sam Sylvia is a master of motivation. Before their practice show: “Uhh, I guess I should try to bolster you all. Wish I could tell you there’s a full house out there, but there is not. It’s respectable. About 20 to 30 people, freaks, some children, a homeless guy. Umm … anyway … break a leg.” I’m ready to run through a brick wall for this guy.
- Best line: Debbie, as Liberty Belle, introducing herself to the crowd, “I’d like to call on the power of my three favorite Americans: Ronald Reagan, Larry Bird and Jesus Christ himself.”
- A small sidebar in episode eight happens as Sam takes Ruth with to check out potential venues for GLOW’s first TV taping. They place they want is an Mayan temple-looking spot that used to, apparently, be an adult theater. … I would hate to see the look on the construction crew’s face to know all the work put into that building resulted in that.