This isn’t the first time director Lynn Shelton and Marc Maron have worked together. Shelton helmed a pair of episodes of Maron’s eponymous IFC series before stepping up for “Liberal Chokehold,” an episode that asks a lot of the sometime-actor comedian and podcast host, down to dealing with the tried-and-true “that young girl you just tried to hook up with is actually your daughter” shocker.
Maron is at his series best here, saving a moment of trite drama between Sam and Justine — whom he apparently conceived with a Sacramento bartender after a long day of protesting alongside the Black Panther Party — by tapping into the shame and short fuse of being at your lowest. Sam, along with all 14 of the GLOW wrestlers, decides to crash a Just Say No fundraiser hosted by Bash’s mother, Birdie (an ideally cast Elizabeth Perkins), and they find an event so white that Birdie hired an all-black jazz band just to play Dave Brubeck standards. Sam and the miserable musicians liven up with some blow, and he finally opens up about the plot of Mothers and Lovers. One of them mercifully breaks the news: Buddy, that movie just came out, and it’s called Back to the Future.
Suffice to say, Sam isn’t in the best frame of mind for Justine to drop that bomb, though we’ll give him a pass for misreading her signs and simply appreciate the irony. He also hasn’t caught wind of the truly good news about Bash’s plan — which necessitated that the ladies flex their acting chops and impersonate crack addicts rehabbing through wrestling — and that Birdie granted them use of a family ballroom for GLOW. Not a moment too soon, since the glorified Mayan porn site Sam scouted as a venue had fallen through.
Given that this show doesn’t dwell on obstacles for great stretches, chances are Sam will sober up and come to appreciate that his weirdo wrestling project may have been the journey and destination all along, a truly pioneering vision that’s his to see through. He’ll likely make good with Justine, and perhaps he might even rekindle something genuine with her mom, Rosalee, next season. Who knows? What’s pressing heading into the season finale are the pilot’s primary concerns: rolling film on the first-ever nationally televised all-women’s wrestling promotion, and putting Ruth and Debbie on a path to patching things up.
The latter goal is looking good after Ruth publicly owns up to sleeping with Mark out of deep-seated resentment. Debbie appears eager to mend fences with her best friend, even as doubts linger about the state of her marriage. The truth is, contrary to my own assumptions, Mark is making a convincing effort at reforming. He even shows up with his Beamer at their quintessentially ’80s save-our-scrappy-endeavor car wash, which sadly grossed under $300, despite Mark paying double. But equally apparent is that Debbie may not need her husband to feel fulfilled, because wrestling is what brought her back into her body and sense of self. It’s questionable whether Mark could even handle this new, superheroic Debbie down the road. Will she ultimately call his bluff?
As for that aforementioned first episode of the enterprise they’ve poured themselves into, there are a few sticky wickets. For one, Arthie better be able to handle some serious heel heat as Beirut in the wake of the TWA Flight 847 hijacking. (Who knew Melanie was such a current-events nerd?) Also, Justine could be MIA or squatting somewhere with (the suddenly scarce) Billy and scribbling copy for his zine. Then there’s Cherry, who gets a call from our old friend Mallory, the casting agent, about a chance to try out for Chambers and Gold, i.e. “Cagney and Lacey with a black girl and a Jew.” (Ruth’s green power suit at the party is another callback to the pilot’s opening moments.) If these are Cherry’s last days with Sam and the women of GLOW, hopefully she — and the first season itself — will go out with a bang.
Apart From All That
• Sam would be tickled to know Dr. Gene Scott’s legacy has lived on.
• I kind of love the scenes detailing how syndicated-TV sausage is made.
• They really go in for the Jewish jokes on this show.
• I have total faith in Keith that he’ll reach bikini weight.
• William F. Buckley was indeed a harpsichord enthusiast.
• Who hasn’t bottomed out to Perry Como?