Friday, June 30, 2017

REVIEW: 'GLOW' - Ruth, Debbie and Sam Have Surprises for the Big Show in 'Money's in the Chase'

Netflix's GLOW - Episode 1.10 "Money's in the Chase"

On the day of the big taping, Sam attends to unfinished personal business, while Ruth scrambles to make last-minute changes to the lineup.

This was such a fun first season for GLOW. It's honestly one of the most fun and exciting new shows of the year. It's been such an easy show to binge - even though it's taken me a little under a week to get through it all. It could easily be done in a day. It's just that much fun to watch. The characters have been dynamic and the worldview has been so interesting. The structure of the season is very conventional though. It shouldn't be surprising that the finale is set at the first big live taping of GLOW. All of the hard work of the season is finally about to be paid off. The show did a number of smart things this season. One of the best was in showing the actual wrestling sprinkled throughout the year. It wasn't all saved until the very end where the ladies finally got to showcase these new skills. Instead, it was clear from the very beginning that the show planned on showing the wrestling and the wear and tear it has on these women. It showed it in order to prove that it could do it well. That's been true of the entire season. Whenever the action centered around the storytelling of the show within the show, it was so dynamic and compelling to watch. The outside stories were great too and served as great fuel for the individual character beats. But it was just so easy to get swept up in the experience of making this show. The audience is right there alongside these women as they risk it all for potential glory.

And of course, everything is seemingly going wrong during production of the show's first episode as well. It would be too easy if it all worked out perfectly fine for the cast and crew. Problems were bound to arise. How everyone reacted to them would determine whether this was a success or a failure. Every single character has a strong moment in this finale. It's a lot to juggle such a large ensemble and make sure that they each have a distinct moment that pays off their entire arc for the season. And yet, this show does it with ease here. It's so impressive to watch. Most of those moments come from the title matches. But it's also fun to see the ladies outside the ring doing everything it takes to make this show a success. The stage is literally being built two hours before the big performance. Costumes were ripping. People were quitting. It was complete chaos. And yet, everything seems to come together in the end. It's not surprising that everything works out for the characters. But it's so deeply rewarding as well. Plus, the show throws in a couple of twists that surprise both the characters and the audience. Those are a ton of fun as well.

It's particularly rewarding to see Carmen overcome her stage fright after seeing her father cheering her on in the crowd. Carmen is such a nice and warm personality. She genuinely does care about everyone else. She wants to help. She wants others to succeed. But she's also been estranged from her father because she wanted to enter the family business. She wasn't living up to his expectations for her. That's what bonded her to Bash. They could both relate to that feeling of disappointment. That's what makes it so moving and important that her father is the one who ultimately motivates her into action in the ring. Sure, it's a little problematic as well. What motivated this sudden change of heart for her father? He wasn't happy about her doing this. It was a story that largely happened offscreen. And now, he just shows up and is completely supportive. It's a strong moment in the finale because Carmen deserves to have a win. The underlying motivation is just a little murky. That's perhaps my only problem with this finale though. This story needed just a little bit more time and attention in order for it to land even better. It still works because of how great a character Carmen is. It's still rousing to see Machu Picchu defeat the Welfare Queen.

All of the success of the show happens largely without Sam as well. Marc Maron has been so terrific on this show too as the sleazy producer. He's been particularly shameless in his manipulation of the ladies in order to create the most entertaining show. And yet, he's still largely just spiraling from the reveal that Justine happens to be his daughter. It's information that keeps him from being an active part of the story for a long time. He has no idea how to be a father. He believes that's what Justine wants from him. When he finally does confront her about it, she says she just wanted to meet him. She wanted to see her biological father. That's all that she had planned. She didn't care about wrestling - nor did the show particularly care about her as a wrestler. And yet, it's still rewarding when the two of them are watching the show from the balcony and being really critical about each other's actions as of late. It's a sweet bonding moment between the two of them - even though it's still awkward when Sam tries to embrace her. It's a moment of inspiration. It opens a line of dialogue that could be very beneficial to the two of them in the future. It also allows them to worry about things other than their own problems in this world.

But of course, the show is all building up to the title match between Ruth and Debbie. One would think the audience would grow tired of that conflict once again being used to the benefit of the show within the show. And yet, a new spin is found on it that makes it completely unexpected and surprising but still very rewarding in the execution. Yes, it is manipulative to have the audience believe that Debbie has quit the show in order to try to make things work with Mark. It's a believable moment because of the amount of time she has been spending with her husband. Plus, Sam gets to call her a quitter at the event as well. But it's also terrific once it's revealed that it was all a part of an elaborate plot by Ruth and Debbie to make for one powerful story for the show. Debbie quit so that the final match would have to change. It had to become a tag team match with Ruth and Jenny partnering up to take on Dawn and Stacey. It's an amusing concept but one that isn't exciting enough to be a closer for this event. But it's a match filled with deceit and double crosses. It's thrilling to watch Zoya and Fortune Cookie defeat the Rosenblatt sisters only for Zoya to betray Fortune Cookie to get the crown for herself. It's also inspiring to watch Debbie get her moment out in the stands to be plucked from obscurity to defeat the Soviet villain. The match is largely the same routine from earlier in this season. But this time it's even more powerful and engaging because Debbie gets up on the top rope and gets airborne doing her final takedown move. That's a rewarding moment that shows how much trust the two of them now have. It's fun to see both of them celebrate that in the aftermath while still playing their respective parts.

It's the ending that has been scripted for most of this season. USA defeats the Soviet Union in an epic final battle. The crowd goes wild. Debbie gets her applause while Ruth gets her boos. They get what they wanted. And then, Sam completely changes things up. It's surprising to see him have his own twist ending as well. He's told Tammé to rush the stage as the Welfare Queen to steal the crown from Liberty Bell. It's completely unexpected. It takes Debbie by surprise and she loses right away. It's chaotic and feels like one additional twist on top of an ending that already has too many twist endings to it. It's Sam's way of leaving his mark on the final product. He doesn't want things to be too derivative. He wants to shake things up as well. There is a time and place for that. The first episode may not be it. But it sure is entertaining to watch. It feels great in the moment even though the aftermath is a little awkward and uncertain too. Ruth and Debbie want to celebrate together but their friendship isn't quite there yet. That's totally fine as well. They have an appreciation for each other while knowing they can't just go get a drink now. They'll still be there for each other as a team. Whether or not the show is ultimately any good doesn't matter. Right now, it's just a bonding experience for these women. They don't know what the future holds. But they do stand united to see their big debut together. That's empowering in all the right ways.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Money's in the Chase" was written by Liz Flahive & Carly Mensch and directed by Tristram Shapeero.
  • There are so many cool and deliberately '80s moments in the direction of this finale as well. I really enjoyed the glimpses of the match between Zoya and Liberty Bell as they would be seen on '80s television. Plus, it's great that the credits roll over the chaos that has hit the ring just like Sam wanted - only for the show not to be quite done telling its story yet.
  • Cherry had a very good audition for the lead in a police procedural on the same network as GLOW. That's exciting for her on a personal level. She and Keith are thrilled to celebrate it. And yet, it will also mean she'll have to leave GLOW should the deal go through. So, her future is bright even though it may no longer include wrestling.
  • Rhonda doesn't get her horse for her big entrance as Britannica but she does get to walk out with Bash's drug robot. That's great too. The robot likely isn't caring drugs but it does fit her wrestling persona much more than a horse would.
  • It's a little surprising by how taken aback Arthie is about how much the audience hates her wrestling character. She was always presented as the villain. But the stereotype may hit too close to home after what's been going on in the world. Plus, she and Rhonda are the victim of some pretty obnoxious and drunk guys in the audience.
  • Mark still sees all of this as incredibly silly. He just doesn't get how anyone could be entertained by this. It's also important that Debbie doesn't let him in on what's actually going on. She always planned on being a part of the show. But it also comes as a really aggressive move against Mark. She's strutting her independence and no longer cares what he thinks about her life choices.
  • The show definitely teased sexual chemistry between Ruth & Sam and Carmen & Bash this season. And yet, now I'm wondering if Bash is actually gay? His mother's opinion of him, his attractive male butler, plus the moment where he puts the makeup on his eyelids would definitely seem to suggest so. But that's all perfectly fine too. It doesn't need to be commented on in a big way. Plus, he makes for one incredible announcer because he's as into the event as the audience is.
  • No renewal announcement has come yet but I'm very certain that Netflix will order more of GLOW. Yes, the streaming service is being more cutthroat with its original programming lately. Shows are no longer guaranteed a second season on this platform. But the critical response has been great. Plus, it comes from a creative team that the Netflix executives obviously love working with.

As noted in previous reviews from this show, every episodic review was written without having seen any succeeding episodes. Similarly, it would be much appreciated if in the comments, the conversation would only revolve around the show up to this point in its run.