Hey, Uta Hagen, take some f**king direction for a minute!
“The Look” by the Roxette blares as episode two opens in the parking lot of the training gym, where Ruth Wilder almost gets run over by a white Cadillac limo. She approaches the driver, Melrose, one of the women chosen to stick around after the open tryouts, who is in every manner of disarray you can be in after an allnighter. Ruth asks if she’s okay, finds out Melrose has lost her shoes, and offers her a spare pair in her car. This ends with Ruth wearing the spare pair and giving her comfier, much better to train in shoes to Melrose. Submission is an interesting theme in this episode (and in pro wrestling, THIS SHOW IS GREAT).
Melrose is played by Jackie Tohn who expertly manages to look dead inside but with a twinkle in her eyes that comes exclusively from being an only child who has never been denied a meal in her life. She’s obnoxious, a laugher, a wanderer, who has unclear motivations for being here outside of being a thing to cause trouble because this show needs drama, but it’s delightful all the same.
Sam knows that these women can move and relatively follow instruction so asks them to showcase any special skills or hidden talents. “My special skill is that I’m not fucking boring,” Melrose says, which lets us know exactly what kind of woman she is. Be it the 80s, 90s, the 2000s, the nows… we all know a white lady with a nice car whose idea of herself means “I don’t have money problems.” She’s written well and this actor is killing. Ruth continues to be everyone’s favorite Theatre Kid (this means that no one likes her) and proceeds to do a terrible impression of Audrey Hepburn winning an Oscar despite the dead air in the room around her.
Our ensemble gets further depth in a scene between Cherry Bang and Sam Sylvia. Cherry (Sydelle Noel) is a former stuntwoman for what is heavily implied to be Blaxploitation films that Sam was at least somewhat involved with, if not the director and writer (we know he does the horror genre, vampire vibes, blood and tits). As Melrose takes a pee, proclaiming that she hears nothing while she hears everything, Cherry and Sam talk about who they used to be, people not out of work, people who had a lot of threesomes, and Sam reveals that Cherry was pregnant and miscarried two years ago. His attempts at sensitivity are pretty terrible and he ends up calling it a “womb goof”, awful, but relevant to the episode.
Cherry’s history as a stuntwoman gets her left in charge of the girls as Sam runs off with little explanation, assisted by Carmen Wade (Britney Young), what we call a legacy in the wrestling world. Carmen is comparatively warm and open, comfortable sharing her familiarity with wrestling without being cocksure. Soon Cherry and Melrose bump heads, Melrose unsurprisingly not taking wrestling seriously, and Cherry calls her number. You never had a real job, your daddy pays all your bills, but you don’t let anybody know unless you get really drunk. You drive a limo because you want someone, anyone, to think you’re interesting.
Melrose claps back with “You got this job because you fucked the director.” If this show wasn’t so seemingly meta with its take on women in wrestling and if Cherry hadn’t have immediately put Melrose into a sleeper hold (bruh, she slept), I might take issue with this. But for now I trust where the show is going with infighting among the women and have to say that this serves to cement Melrose’s character AND to lift up Cherry. At lunch Melrose refers to Cherry as a dictator and lights a joint right outside of a burger hut, “who died and made her the black Nurse Ratched?”
Carmen responds, “the director did. He said, ‘she’s in charge.’”
A little nervous about Cherry’s blackness being used as maybe a punchline, but it’s too soon to tell what exactly this show is doing, though it’s worth noting that one of the producers is Carly Mensch, of Weeds and Orange is the New Black acclaim, so I expect that while there may be steps forward there will assuredly be steps back.
Meanwhile, Sam has been trying to convince Debbie (Betty Gilpin), former Soaps star and former best friend to Ruth, to put Ruth’s husband fucking aside and return to GLOW to be his big star. It’s a bleak and stunning look at what life is really like for someone who gave up glory to be a mother. She tries to tell Sam that she doesn’t act anymore and doesn’t want it, but he calls her bluff:
“You’re pretty, you got big boobs, and those Soap writers just didn’t count on you having brains, am I right? You ask too many questions, you maybe improvise one too many lines and then, BOOM, sleeping beauty.”
It’s a truth casually stated that I don’t think I’ve seen in many nostalgia pieces with pretty actresses in the mix. He’s offering her a sort of freedom here, to be creative, to be more than a pretty face, to be heartbroken, aggressive, real, like “Grace Kelly on steroids.” Betty Gilpin is has gorgeous, soft eyes and knows exactly how to use them. She’s unkempt and near tears for most of the episode and is a stand out player this episode. Sam arrives back to the gym, his new Grace Kelly with him, just after Melrose, the absolute worst, decides to “prank” Cherry by hiding ketchup in her clothes and faking a miscarriage after she takes a bump. Cherry rushes to her aid all the same and is so even angrier about it. She wants to talk to Sam, Debbie wants to leave because Ruth is here, and it all somehow accumulates in Sam using miscarriage as a spot, both to tell a story and to define a heel: Ruth Wilder. He’s getting everything he wants, real life friends ready to kill each other and cheesy blood bits to be that exaggerated brand of wrestling humanity.
After practice, he offers Cherry double her salary, as talent and as a trainer, and we know she’s going to take it because her husband tells her they need to redo the bathroom. Ruth tries to speak to Debbie but is thwarted and tries to take it out on Sam, who explains to her that she’s the bad guy and she just needs to deal with it. “I don’t want everyone to hate me,” Ruth cries.
“Oh christ, crying, caring, the desperation… that’s what makes you unbearable,” Sam is nothing if not honest, at least with people about who they are, and I have to say that so far he’s one of my favorite characters. He closes out our show with this line, true of most media, but definitely of wrestling:
“Relax, the devil gets all the best lines.”
Episode Face: Debbie and Cherry
Episode Heel: Melrose
“She has nothing. No man, no lover, no friends. Her hair is brown, the color of shit.”
“Oh, I trust him. Who doesn’t trust a man with a mustache full of coke?”
“She’s the alpha and you’re the Omega.”
Marc Maron Moment:
“Okay, I dig it. I like the whole ‘please objectify me’ vibe, tremendous.”
Grade: Solid B