What does GLOW’s show within a show actually look like? In season two of the stellar Netflix comedy about an all-female ’80s wrestling show, viewers finally get to see what the Gorgeous Ladies spend so much time, sweat, and energy putting on the airwaves of Los Angeles — and surprise! — the fictional show is a total delight.
“The Good Twin,” which presents an entire episode of GLOW’s local TV show, takes the soap-opera element of pro wrestling to its logical extreme with a plot involving identical Soviet twins, a whirlwind romance with a male mannequin, and the dramatic rescue of a kidnapped child from a fortress that looks suspiciously like the Griffith Observatory. For good measure, it also features two music videos, a dream ballet, an aerobics routine, and two wrestling matches, all seen through the low-budget filter of ’80s cable access. It’s 34 minutes of delirious entertainment, though it could have been much longer. “The first cut of this episode was 47 minutes long,” GLOW writer and producer Rachel Shukert told Vulture.
Shukert, a longtime Vulture contributor who co-wrote the episode with Nick Jones, described “The Good Twin” as a welcome breather for the writers after the misogyny, racism, and sexual harassment of first seven episodes of the season: “We were all ready in the room to do something that was just pure, joyful silliness.” Fun as the episode is, it also moves the story along in sly, unexpected ways, some of which don’t become clear until the season-two finale. In a conversation with Vulture, Shukert broke down the season’s standout episode, explaining the origins of Zoya’s evil twin, the “Griefercise” skit, the charity single “Don’t Kidnap,” and that sketch about the goat.
The Origins of ‘The Good Twin’
According to Shukert, series creators Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch had tossed around the idea of showing an actual G.L.O.W. episode since season one, and this particular point in season two offered a perfect opportunity. The wrestlers have just realized that, despite their best efforts to please the network’s male executives, their show is headed for cancellation. So with the blessing of director Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron), the actresses throw out the rule book and make the episode of their dreams, putting wannabe director Ruth (Brie) at the helm.
“So much of this show is about women finding their voices and finding their power, but it’s also about strange people that don’t fit into show biz, that also have their own very specific fantasies about what they would do when they became stars,” Shukert said. “It was just a lot of layers of figuring out, like, If Ruth could do anything — except she can’t do anything because her foot is broken, so she can’t wrestle — but Ruth would want to have this really complicated acting challenge. She’ll play two characters and one of them is crippled — that’s how we work in the broken foot! Just picking at the circumstances that they’re dealing with, but also what everybody’s best-case scenario for themselves would be.”
Shukert noted that “The Good Twin” comes full circle from season one, which established that “so much of wrestling is how other people see you” — the minority wrestlers as the villains, the pretty blonde as the star, and so forth. “This episode,” she says, “was really about how they see themselves.”
Set Design Déjà Vu
Watch closely and you’ll see that all of the sets in “The Good Twin” are existing locations from the GLOW set. The intention was to stay true to how the characters would make the episode, given their minimal resources. “I felt like that really put us in their heads a little bit. How do we turn the trophy case into a science lab? How would they do it?” Shukert said.
Given that the episode had to be shot in the same time frame as all the others — no more than five or six days — the decision to stay on existing sets also helped the cast and crew move quickly between scenes.
The only outside location used in the episode is Griffith Park, which includes one shot of the famous observatory. “That we actually had to go scout,” Shukert said. “I remember the day we went to go scout it, there was that insane wildfire in L.A. On one side, it looked totally fine, and on the other side, it was like the gates of Hell.”
A Double Dose of Alison Brie
“One of my favorite tropes in soap operas is when someone secretly has an identical twin,” said Shukert, whose passion for soaps is so well-known in the GLOW writers room that she was asked to give a seminar on Dynasty in preparation for season two. The identical-twins plotline gave the writers something juicy for Ruth, who can’t wrestle because her ankle is broken.
“Allie Brie is the best, funnest actress, and she’s so funny, so we thought it would be great to see her play these two characters,” she said. “But it also seemed like something that Ruth would want to do. She’d be like, ‘I can do more! I have so much range!’”
The writers reasoned that Ruth would be granted carte blanche on her G.L.O.W. episode because the producers, Debbie (Betty Gilpin) in particular, felt guilty about her broken ankle. In envisioning the scenes between Zoya, Ruth’s evil Russian wrestling character, and Olga, her good-hearted twin with a mangled foot, Shukert and Jones imagined Ruth would take inspiration from the seminal identical-twins film of the 1960s. “She probably grew up watching The Parent Trap,” Shukert explained.
But that doesn’t mean it was easy, even if Brie pulled off both characters without breaking a sweat. “Having to switch Allie back and forth between her makeups in that episode was probably the most stressful thing about shooting the show,” Shukert added.
Introducing Black Magic
“The Good Twin” introduces a new wrestling character for Cherry (Sydelle Noel), who formerly played the rapper Junkchain. She becomes the voodoo priestess Black Magic, who faces off against Rhonda’s nerdy genius Britannica (Kate Nash) in the ring.
“Science versus magic was an idea we had in the room from the very beginning, when we first started thinking about Cherry needing a new character and what that could be,” Shukert said. “And Sydelle wound up being so great in that character. She’s from Grenada originally, so she really tapped into something very deep and cool in herself.”
A Real Live (Mannequin) Boy
Britannica’s story takes a Weird Science–style turn when she attempts to bring a male mannequin to life. When she fails, she gives her smarts to Black Magic, in exchange for turning the mannequin into a real boyfriend who’s played by Bash (Chris Lowell).
“The idea that you had to give up your brain to get a boyfriend felt very funny to us. But we also liked the idea that science is this orderly force and magic is the elemental force, and I feel like Ruth could have a very pretentious explanation of why that would be so powerful to see,” Shukert said. “We were just like, It’ll be funny. I do remember that we named the mannequin Thomas because Kate, in real life, is dating a guy named Thomas. She wanted to name it after her real boyfriend.”
The Art of ‘Griefercise’
Debbie’s character Liberty Belle is the ’80s ideal of an all-American girl, so what better icon to channel than Jane Fonda? In the sketch “Griefercise,” Liberty Belle works out her despair over her kidnapped daughter by leading an aerobics class, grinning to the camera with tears streaming down her face.
“Griefercise” was originally a much longer scene where Debbie, who spends most of the season in the midst of a breakdown, would use Liberty Belle to make fun of her own unhinged emotional state. “And then we also thought a lot about Tammy Faye Bakker in the ’80s, the power of sobbing with the eye makeup running,” Shukert said. “The iconography of that is so crazy and funny and powerful, like the beauty queens weeping and weeping when they became Miss America and they’d ugly-cry wearing a tiara. I feel like that was in the Pinterest board in my head about that scene.”
GLOW Gets Musical
Shukert and Jones had written musicals together prior to working on GLOW, so the opportunity to write songs for “The Good Twin” was one they welcomed. For the episode’s two music videos — the Madonna homage “Makeover” and the mock charity ballad “Don’t Kidnap” — they wrote lyrics and turned them over to composer Craig Wedren. “He’s got such an incredible sense of pastiche,” Shukert said. “We could say, We want it to sound like ‘We Are the World,’ and then it comes back and it’s exactly what you want it to sound like, but better than we could have imagined.”
The musical numbers also gave GLOW an opportunity to use the cast’s singing talents, most notably British pop star Nash and American Idol semifinalist Jackie Tohn, who plays Melrose. “At the same time, we also wanted it to not be too good,” Shukert added. “Being able to make it incredibly great but also terrible in the right way, that was the real sweet spot that we were trying to hit.”
The G.O.A.T. Goat
A live goat makes several appearances in “The Good Twin,” most memorably in a scene where he goes on a date with Sheila the She-Wolf (Gayle Rankin). So, how did this particular farm animal end up in the episode?
“I have a weird phobia of goats,” Shukert said. “It dates back to my very early childhood when I was attacked by goats in a petting zoo. I felt like this goat could be a way to sort of get over that.”
Shukert personally cast the goat, choosing one whose picture she felt had “a very handsome, masculine energy” — only to learn on the day of the shoot that the goat was a female. “We had to shoot around her udder,” she explained. “But she was a great goat. She was so sweet and gentle, and really could sit still, and she ate the paper when we wanted her to eat the paper. That goat was a great actor. I would work with that goat again in a heartbeat.”
As for the scene in which the goat gets a little too fresh with Sheila, those goat paws were maneuvered by co-writer Jones, whose puppet work was previously seen in his Off Broadway musical Jollyship the Whiz-Bang. “It was amazing to watch because he was so serious about it,” Shukert said. “It was really choreographed.”