Saturday, June 24, 2017

REVIEW: 'GLOW' - Ruth's Desire to Always Be Liked is Challenged by Sam's Plans in 'Slouch. Submit'

Netflix's GLOW - Episode 1.02 "Slouch. Submit"

Cherry tries to whip the final group into shape, while Sam sets out in pursuit of a star for his show. Ruth acts out an uncomfortable scene.

"Slouch. Submit" is a nice exploration and expansion of the world of GLOW. It builds on all of the necessary plot and character work in the premiere. The first episode needed to establish the dynamic between Ruth and Debbie. It needed to show how it would all come to a head in the middle of the ring. It has the potential to make both of them stars. But it also means needing to work together in this job. Meanwhile, "Slouch. Submit" does the necessary job of shining some light on the supporting characters. That's very important as well. Plus, the show finds a character in Cherry who is really engaging right away. Yes, there is an exposition dump about her backstory. She's worked with Sam on numerous occasions, she's married and suffered a miscarriage two years again. But the actual events of this episode reveal the humanity to her as well. She's a person who thrives in this environment even though it's already bringing up these deeply traumatic memories of the past. That's an interesting character dynamic. She's necessary in order for the show within the show to be a success. But she may not be able to put up with all of it because of how far Sam is willing to go to taste success again.

Cherry proves herself to already be a skilled wrestler. She knows how to fight and how to make it safe for everyone involved. She takes over as instructor. It's a little awkward that Sam already fired the man he hired to teach the ladies during the audition process. But that just leads to the rise of Cherry. Sam trusts her to do a good job. That's what she's trying to do. She's taking all of this seriously and is training the other ladies so that they can be safe in the ring while still putting on an entertaining show. It's just them learning the basics right now. Cherry has a helpful instruction partner in Carmen. She knows about wrestling as well and is useful for demonstrations. But it's just slow progress so far. The newcomers to the sport are still just awkwardly moving around the ring. Cherry is encouraging and supportive of the ladies. But she has very little tolerance for any hijinks as well. This is a serious job to her because it's the only job she has right now. She needs it in order to support her family. That's the pressure she feels at the moment.

That's what makes it so compelling when a new feud starts between Cherry and Melrose. On the surface, it could seem very superficial. Melrose just walks around with an aura of entitlement. She has never had to work hard because she's never felt the pressure to succeed. She's always had a safety net of being able to find work because she loves being sexualized by the world around her. Life has always come easy to her. She believes she knows how to fight. She doesn't think she needs this. She just walks around with total disregard for everyone else. People like Ruth are still nice to her even when she's being reckless and mean. But Cherry can't tolerate that behavior for very long. She believes she needs to prove to Melrose that she doesn't know it all. She needs to be knocked down a peg. So when they face off in the ring, it's over fairly quickly. Cherry puts Melrose in a sleeper hold. But that's not an eye-opening experience for Melrose on how her actions affect others. That would be too easy. Instead, she doubles down on her cruelty. She threatens lawsuits for that kind of behavior. And then, she pulls a big prank in the ring by pretending to have a miscarriage by using ketchup for blood. It hits in such a personal way for Cherry because she knows that Melrose knows the truth about her own miscarriage. That makes this all more than just a job. It's an action that turns two people actively against each other. The reasoning for why it all happens may be murky. But the execution in the moment is really exciting and tense.

And then, Sam returns with the star of his show in Debbie. He left to recruit her to the show. He needed her kind of star power to build everything else around. To him, that was the most important thing he could do during this day. He didn't set up the rest of the ladies for success. He trusts Cherry but he also put her in a situation that she wasn't prepared for. It went awry for her in a way that was very personally devastating. Instead of consoling her in the aftermath, Sam only adds to it. He hears about Melrose's prank and says that the story wasn't good enough. He believed the acting to be bad. It wasn't entertaining. As such, he decides to add to it. He builds an entire story for Melrose to act out in the ring. This is him in his element giving direction. He has a vision and he just wants the ladies to fulfill it. He's the man in charge and he wants people to do what he says. His actions carry some severe consequences. He's making this moment of pain linger for Cherry. He does that without even being aware of it. The tension and uncomfortable quality of that scene is so wonderful and tense. It's gripping while also being icky and exploitative. That's the purpose. It's suppose to make these characters uncomfortable as they flesh out this world of the show within the show. They are potentially building something great. But that requires more than just a basic understanding of wrestling moves. It involves character work and backstory. That's something that Ruth excelled at in the audition because she wanted to do it. But now, she's very uncomfortable because this version of herself is such a monster.

It's fascinating to see what the show is doing to Ruth throughout this episode. She is the protagonist of the series. She has a desire to be liked at all times. She wants more complex roles for women. She wants to be a part of a sisterhood that lifts other women up in this industry. She wants to stand by her fellow women in this traditionally male dominated business. She doesn't get much support with those efforts because of her own actions. She wants all of that. And yet, she also slept with her best friend's husband. That destroyed her closest female friendship. She did that and doesn't have a good explanation for why. She is now being painted as the villain of the show within the show. Debbie is Sam's hero. She's the tall, strong, blonde lead who brings legitimacy to the project. She already comes in with this backstory as well. It makes it easy to craft a new narrative around the project. It's the two of them actually acting out their own feelings to each other. They don't fight again. In fact, Debbie doesn't even want to be around Ruth. In this moment, Ruth is struggling with her own identity as well. She's so obsessed with being liked that it's hindering her ability to do her job. She wants to be the likable hero with complexity. That's not what she's being given because that's not how the rest of the world perceives her. To the rest of the characters, she's the home wrecker who destroyed Debbie's life. And now, that's only going to be encouraged even more as this world of wrestling is fleshed out. Sam is full of so much glee when he confirms to Ruth that she's going to be the villain of the story. But that's not what Ruth wants at all and is shocked by how she has gotten to this point in her life.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Slouch. Submit" was written by Liz Flahive & Carly Mensch and directed by Wendey Stanzler.
  • It seems a little incredible that someone would be able to recognize Debbie especially since she is no longer a working actress. And yet, that's exactly what happened. Jenny is apparently a huge fan of TV and is able to recite her entire story to Sam in front of the rest of the ladies. She even knows that Debbie was in an episode of Murder, She Wrote.
  • It's great that the facade of the fight being fake between Ruth and Debbie doesn't last very long. Ruth tries selling that to the other ladies to show how skilled an actress she really is. She wants to believe that she had planned all of that and was rewarded for that hard work. But it's not surprising that no one is really buying that story - especially once Debbie returns.
  • Ruth amusingly listens to Sheila's advice to slouch and submit when coming face-to-face with Debbie again too. The bonds of friendship amongst the ladies is still growing. And yet, Ruth listens because she doesn't want to fight her former best friend again and potentially lose once more which could put her job at risk.
  • The fact that Sam is willing to do anything to produce a great show is ominous and teases something very devastating will likely happen later in the season. He's already so cruel by exploiting Cherry's life to flesh out Melrose's story. But just how far is he willing to go? Are there lines he won't cross?
  • There's no way that Cherry will actually get double her original salary, right? It's something that Sam tempts her with in order to ensure she stays on the show. She'll be working twice as hard as both an actress and a trainer. But it seems very doubtful that whomever is producing this show will actually agree to such a significant raise. Will those consequences be seen this season? I hope so.

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.