Sunday, June 25, 2017

REVIEW: 'GLOW' - The Ladies Explore Identity as They Go to a Hollywood Party in 'The Wrath of Kuntar'

Netflix's GLOW - Episode 1.03 "The Wrath of Kuntar"

Sam's flashy young producer drops in and whisks the girls off to Malibu to party. But artistic differences soon threaten to spoil the fun.

Identity has proven to be a major theme of GLOW so far. It's an exploration of empowerment vs. exploitation. How do the ways the characters see themselves clash with the outside world's perception of them? Are they happy with those view or do they strive for something better? "The Wrath of Kuntar" deals with how far these characters are willing to go in order to create a successful show. It tackles the stereotypical racism that defined wrestling in the 1980s as well. These women are given the opportunity to be a part of a show that they have never seen before. And yet, they are also asked to play into the stereotypes. Parts of their identity that are more nuanced and complicated the more the audience gets to know them. But only small details will come to define their entire wrestling personality. It's really quite interesting to watch. "The Wrath of Kuntar" is essentially about the vision of the show within the show. Is it trying to rewrite the genre? Or is it just going to be an exciting wrestling show with female stars? Everyone has to decide what they are comfortable with in regards to this job. Those are decisions that need to be made now because future episodes will only expand on those concepts even further.

This episode also does a really interesting thing by taking the characters out of the wrestling environment for a little bit. The opening two episodes were strong but they were all about the training for this job. The ladies were learning the skills that would be necessary in order to enter the ring on the show. It was them figuring out what exactly this job would be. And now, they are removed from that environment for a little bit. They are still struggling to put everything together. They aren't suddenly great wrestlers who know what they are doing. But they have the opportunity to go to a Hollywood party. Their big-shot producer, Bash, shows up to see how things are going. He decides to invite everyone back to his house for wild adventures because he doesn't like what he sees so far. It's a distraction. But it's a powerful one as well. He has big ideas about what the show should be. Those ideas clash with Sam. And now, Bash is making his influence known. He can give these women so many opportunities. But he can oppress them as well. He's the one who encourages the racial stereotypes of their new alter egos. That's a decision he makes in order to produce the best possible show.

That moment comes after the episode seems to depict Bash as someone who looks at these women beyond their defining traits. It's so special to see him look at Carmen and believe that she should be a good girl in the ring because her smile is so stunning. That's a wonderful moment. He lets all of the girls into his extravagant closet to try on lots of different clothes. It's such an '80s thing to do. But it's really special because it allows these women to try on different personalities. They are going to play dress up for the show. But in this moment, they are doing it for themselves. Bash does it in order to reveal to them their own true essence. What he's actually trying to do is pull out the personalities they'll ultimately play on the show. He still has an effective eye for what will pop onscreen. He knows that Melrose is a powerful women who'll look good with a whip. He agrees that all it will take is glasses for Rhonda to conceivably play the smart woman. He's encouraging all of this but he's also proving to be a hands-on producer who cares about the outcome of the final product. He can convince everyone to do this with very little effort. That's a little scary and horrifying but it's very effective by the end of the episode as well. Most everyone is able to find the personality that will come to define their careers as wrestlers here. That's a huge moment.

Things are more complicated with Sam though. He has had a lengthy career. He believes that when he gets hired people know what they should expect from him. They should know that he isn't going to do something traditional or conventional. He's going to subvert expectations and do something completely different. That's the energy he has thrived on for many years. His films are polarizing. Justine loves them and can talk about each one at length. But Bash doesn't even know that they aren't suppose to be comedies. That's a massive criticism. It's almost a slap to the face for Sam. The two men in charge have clashing ideas. It seems unlikely that they'll be able to work together. Sam wants to produce this post-apocalyptic send-up of female empowerment while Bash wants as much wrestling as possible with clear and simple storytelling. He doesn't need all of the production and scripting that Sam has. If these two can't get along, then there is no show. So, it's not surprising that Sam is convinced to return. It doesn't take all that much from Ruth either. But he returns under the assumption that he will produce the show exactly how Bash wants it in exchange for Bash financing his next feature film - which has been sitting on the shelf for awhile. That's the trade they make. It should be fascinating to see if they stick to those deals or if something new will arise to complicate things for both of them.

Meanwhile, Ruth continues to be the odd woman out in all of this. She has somewhat accepted her position as the villain. She understands that that is how she is always going to be seen throughout this project. So now, she's using that in order to keep everything together. She's very desperate in that moment when she's convincing Sam to stay. She needs this job even though it's been so horrifying for her. That's how much she needs to be liked. She needs this because it's all she has. She will fight for it even though she's fighting for even more abuse from her producers. It's a weird dynamic but one that leads to an interesting character arc for her. She gets Sam to come back into the house and listen to Bash's ideas. The two of them are completely in sync when it comes to seeing the wrestling personalities everyone has created. But when it's Ruth's turn, The Homewrecker is no longer good enough. That's the identity she has had throughout this whole process. It's the identity that she has had to accept and deal with. She thought that would be good enough. And yet, it just isn't. Bash first saw her as a "girl next door" type. That took Ruth by surprise especially since everyone has been so quick to vilify her. And now, the final result just isn't good enough. Everyone else has a clear and simple identity. One that the producers have signed off on. But Ruth is just not good enough. As an actress, she's enjoyed coming up with backstories. She hasn't been particularly good at it. Doing so ruined her audition. And now, it's still an awkward part of her. This identity is no longer working. It's not clear in a way that the rest of the cast has found with theirs. So things could be starting all over for Ruth. That could be chaotic and troublesome for the producers. The consequences of which will affect Ruth in some unexpected ways as well.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Wrath of Kuntar" was written by Nick Jones and directed by Claire Scanlon.
  • Does every period story that takes place in the 1980s need to feature a robot at some point? That sure seems to be the trend over the years. And yet, it still works every time. It's just hilarious to watch as the ladies interact with the robot at Bash's place that also carries drugs around with it. That's such a great reveal.
  • Plus, it's tragic when the robot dies in the midst of Sam and Bash's fight. They are clashing over the identity of the show. That fight gets a little physical. It's just enough to ruin this pure and funny thing that everyone has obsessed over. It speaking in Spanish in the end is a really amusing punchline too.
  • Sam is really taking Cherry for granted. She's putting in so much work for this show. But she's not being rewarded for it. She's still around. But she doesn't get cast in Sam's complicated script for the show. Nor is she able to let out her frustrations with him on the drive to Bash's house because Justine joins in as well.
  • Sam is manipulative with everyone in his life though. His ex-wife shows up in order to pick up their dog for the week. But Sam crafts an elaborate lie about the dog getting hit by a car and dying. It's a lie that doesn't work because the dog can be heard in the other room. And also, what was Sam's end game with this lie? Was the phone number he tried passing off even real?
  • It's so completely random for the show to reveal that one of the ladies is also a gold medal winning athlete. Reggie wears them during her audition for her personality. But the identity is taken from her and given to Debbie because she comes across as more "all-American" to Sam and Bash. That's just so cruel.
  • Things are still tense between Ruth and Debbie as well. And yet, it's so heartbreaking to watch as Ruth helps get Debbie in a cab after she gets too drunk at the party and they mouth words of love, support and friendship to each other. The bond is still there but they can't get over what Ruth did with Debbie's husband.

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.