Four episodes in, GLOW would do well to hasten some of its character development and, to invoke Axl Rose’s immortal words, get in the ring. Oh, if only there were some vintage Guns N’ Roses on the soundtrack so far, but this week’s selections of Dream Academy and Elton John will have to do for now. We do know that Sam and his crew (whomever they might be) are five weeks out from filming, and that he’s urgently concerned with the women’s training. So after binging on blow for a weekend in Palm Springs with Bash, the duo decide to uproot the entire roster and move them into a Van Nuys motel for the foreseeable future, as a sort of bonding process. As any present-day reality producer will tell you, close quarters leads to high drama, or in this case, people who identify spiritually as wolves leaving dead squirrels to rot in their roommate’s bed.
That is Sheila’s way of telling Ruth — who’s oblivious and insensitive to her cohabitant’s deadly serious canine fixation — to buzz off, though not shockingly, it doesn’t work. Ruth may have no idea who she is or what her character might be (though didn’t we establish the homewrecker angle?), but getting rid of her is nearly impossible. No one knows this better than Debbie, who can’t seem to evade either her cheating husband or betrayer best friend. After Mark shows up unannounced to their house, declaring his intentions to move back in on account of paying the mortgage and utilities, Debbie takes Randy down to the Dusty Spur and settles in poolside for a snuggle. Alas, her nemesis Ruth, exiled by Sheila, is catching winks on the opposite lounge chair. As the translucent water between them would suggest, they both have plenty of reflecting to do.
As it turns out, Sam has been doing some soul-searching himself. After inadvertently loaning Tameé a copy of Blood Disco interrupted by his ad for a matchmaking service (only women under 30 who don’t nag, please), the ladies get a glimpse of their director’s soft side. Stacey even warms to his gentleman appeal, noting, “He’s cute, he’s lonely, and his cock works great.” Following an earlier pair of scenes during which Sam good-naturedly strips down to join his cast for a dip and stands up to Carmen’s disapproving father, he’s increasingly positioned as a trustworthy ally. For now.
Carmen’s father, stage name Goliath Jackson, is a very big man with very traditional ideas about what’s best for his daughter. (Not the most original backstory on the books, is it?) That’s why she’s been lying about working a job at Macy’s, and why she tries the ol’ Ferris Bueller/dummy-in-the-bed approach when sneaking out to stay at the Dusty Spur. Her dopey, Star Wars–loving brothers (one of whom is played by former WWE flameout Brodus Clay, a.k.a. Impact Wrestling’s Tyrus née George Murdoch) have her back, but dad’s got some baggage after his wife left and mistakes being overprotective for nurturing. But just when it appears Carmen’s future as Machu Picchu is toast, Bash swoops in, planting a big kiss on her and announcing they’re in love. Although Goliath doesn’t buy it, he apparently relents and lets her off with a warning: “You wanna wrestle, you gotta learn how to sell.”
When Goliath cautions, “Nobody respects the lady wrestlers,” he’s addressing a general obstacle for GLOW that indeed dogged the real-life stars. Circa the mid-’80s, most promotions featured their female talent as novelty warm-up acts or eye candy, a bias that became undone by the late ’90s and has largely leveled out today. Sam and Bash can brainstorm and snort lines from now till show time, but the onus really is on Ruth and everyone else to get a bit method about their gimmick and create some kind of chemistry with one another. It’s far from an easy task when you’re also up against wrestling’s conventional dilemmas, like satirizing stereotypes versus reinforcing them, something Tameé struggles with as the Welfare Queen. Ditto Jenny as she attempts to filter out crude Asian clichés while masquerading as Fortune Cookie. Debbie may have a lot on her plate personally, but at least Liberty Belle’s biggest conundrum is whether or not she merits a male valet.
All of this brings us back to Ruth, GLOW’s lackluster lead character who’s most likely to come to life when the cameras finally roll. She continues to stumble around for inspiration, offering up embarrassing dinner theater in lieu of anything with an edge. She’s neither comfortable in her spandex skin like Rhonda and Melanie nor as preternaturally born for this opportunity as Sheila or Cherry. And she definitely isn’t ready to cultivate a finishing move à la Arthie’s Lebanese Cannonball. She is simply Ruth, which as she acknowledges, is a given name — not an anointed, otherworldly identity. Here’s to hoping that light goes off before the opening bell.
Apart From All That
• Were I Sheila, I would have smacked Ruth after her condescending anecdote about playing 10-year-old dress-up.
• The show feels like it’s sacrificing a bit of humor for authenticity.
• Love that Arthie’s mom is the wrestling nut. Eager to see more of that backstory.
• Ah, so Rhonda is more of a Nick Rhodes gal.
• It’s only a matter of time till the women turn on Debbie.
• Was that motel owner not Ravil Isyanov, recently of The Americans?
• I really do wish the soundtrack were a bit more left field.
• That cameo by Brodus Clay (a.k.a. Impact Wrestling’s Tyrus) would have been more fun if not for this.