GLOW Recap: Missed Personality

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Photo: Erica Parise/Netflix/Erica Parise/Netflix
Glow

Glow

Episode 3 Season 1 Episode 3
Editor's Rating 3 stars

We’re all in agreement that the twin icons of ’80s culture were Michael Jackson and Dolph Lundgren, right? Bash and Flor certainly think so, and no one working for GLOW is really in a position to question Bash’s tastes. The 25-year-old canned-food scion hatched the idea for GLOW (the real-life mastermind, David McLane, is still at it by the way) and pulls all the strings. It’s his family money, the same cash that bankrolls his butler robot, his butler BFF, his never-ending bowls of Lucky Charms, and his helicopter rides from his Malibu mansion to the squalor of Chavo’s gym. It’s also his vision, as he makes clear to Sam, who just walked the women through an impromptu reading of his first script for the promotion, which amounts to a series of misogynist sci-fi metaphors for how much he hates his ex-wife.

In Bash’s brain, wrestling is a parade of stereotypes, and GLOW has an opportunity to sex up those personas and sell them to millions (okay, thousands) of viewers. During his coke-fueled house party, he lectures Sam and the ladies about grapplers of lore like former WWF champion Iron Sheik, who in Bash’s mind was a cut-and-dry Middle Eastern baddie with a turban and bad attitude. (The real Sheik, incidentally, is a piece of work and notorious Twitter troll.) Stymied, Sam counters that what’s missing from Bash’s simplification is backstory and context.

The notion that Sam’s fantasy of plot-driven combat sport would somehow be novel in the ’80s is a bit ludicrous, of course. Pro wrestling, even as presented by the tiniest backwater promotions, had long married soapy imagination and raw conflict. But in the world of GLOW, Sam is something of an underdog innovator, so he and Bash find begrudged compromise between traditional and outrageous. Nor does it hurt that Bash consented to finance Sam’s personal opus, Mothers and Lovers, a Seinfeld-universe-worthy movie title if there ever was one.

It’s a big episode for Sam, and thus Marc Maron, whose schlubby likability goes a long way to atone for any shortcomings as an actor of range. This third episode opens with Maron banging away at his typewriter on what we assume is Mothers and Lovers, interrupted by his ex stopping by for their dog, who, Sam muses, has actually been dead for a week. (The dog is fine.) They trade barbed remarks, with Sam hurling insults about castration and lechery, as down-and-out divorcees are prone to do. But their confrontation also inspires him to crank out what’s left of his initial GLOW script, a narrative he lauds as “the ultimate catfight,” starring postapocalyptic emasculators like Carmen’s Ogress and Ruth’s Kuntar. (Yes, Kuntar.) Ruth, still absent self-awareness, shouts out stage directions with undue gravitas and mopes when Bash cuts the proceedings short before Kuntar’s big monologue.

Later, as the women rehearse their first real in-character promos, Sam is dead-on to want more out of Ruth’s home-wrecker alter ego, asking her, “Who do you think you are?” with utmost sincerity. That discovery will apparently play out over the season, steadying Ruth as the show’s ostensible lead, but any insight into how this earnest, aspiring thespian is the same impulsive person who got drunk and slept with her best friend’s spouse would be useful for both her wrestling future and our attachment to her. In a sense, Ruth is a through-and-through heel right now, whether she’s in the ring or not. But life will reflect art soon enough, and the more we learn about what motivated Ruth’s choices, the less one-sidedly sympathetic Debbie will probably be.

Until then, Debbie’s woe is ours, and even Flor gets a heady dose after she has a few too many glasses of Bash’s rum punch. It’s only a matter of time, however, till her co-stars grow weary of playing second fiddle as she rides choppers with Bash and steals Sam’s attention as Liberty Belle. It’s doubtful Ruth will ever be some golden-slippered princess, but maybe Melrose will at least give her those white sneakers back.

Apart From All That

• It’s fun watching Kate Nash play around with her image as Rhonda, a.k.a. Botanica.

• Salty, we hardly knew ye.

• Justine Punk T-Shirt Watch so far includes Angry Samoans and Dead Milkmen.

• Glad that Flor didn’t creep on Debbie. Ditto Bash on Ruth. But how long will that last?

• Machu Picchu isn’t a far cry from Mt. Fiji (and on and on).

• How there isn’t already a Blood Disco is beyond me.

• For all you Lake Charlevoix lovers.

GLOW has got some growing pains, but should really hit its stride once the TV cameras roll.

• The show is funniest when silliest, e.g. “I’m like a good fiber cereal/I’ll make you shit your pants.”

• To that end, this is a breakout comedic role for Sunita Mani.

GLOW Recap: Missed Personality