Monday, June 26, 2017

REVIEW: 'GLOW' - Debbie Has a Major Realization After Watching a Wrestling Match in 'Debbie Does Something'

Netflix's GLOW - Episode 1.05 "Debbie Does Something"

Debbie attends her first wrestling match and has a major epiphany. Meanwhile, Ruth finally finds the inspiration for her alter ego.

The acting choices that Ruth makes haven't always worked out for her. In fact, they usually backfire for her. Her reading a man's part in an audition didn't help her book a job. Her trying to build a backstory for a wrestling conflict got her kicked out of the auditions. Her grand re-entrance in the gym didn't lead anywhere until Debbie showed up with their personal drama. Her wrestling persona as The Homewrecker wasn't a fleshed out enough personality for the show. All of the new ideas she's come up with for her identity have been shot down by Sam. It's been a lot of failure for her so far. And yet, she's still committed to this job. She needs it to work. She's obsessed with insuring that it all comes together. This is her chance to make something of her life. She's doing so despite being estranged with her best friend and quickly being labeled as the villain of the story. Her actor tricks aren't doing well for her in this environment. And yet, all of that failing starts to turn around in "Debbie Does Something." She finally has an idea that not only reignites the spark Sam sees in her but also saves the show when it hits an obstacle in luring sponsors to the broadcast. So things may be turning around for Ruth. It's all her doing as well. It had the potential to fail just like all of her previous acting choices. But all it took was one good idea for her to suddenly be the focus of the show once more for Sam.

Ruth has finally discovered her wrestling personality. She's going to be a Russian villain. That seems so perfect for this story. It's surprising that someone like Sam hadn't thought of it sooner. It was just in the last episode that he told Ruth to wait until he figured her character for the show out. But now, she's the one hit with inspiration. She's the one who proves her worth by actually putting in the work. This job has been very difficult for her. And yet, she's now committed to it. She felt anxious because she was falling beyond from the rest of the group. They had their identities and were forming their skill sets. Meanwhile, Ruth was adrift not sure about anything in her life. But she's putting in the work to be a believable wrestler. Her talent in the ring has improved. She and Carmen are able to put on a match for the rest of the group. It works too. Sure, Ruth is a little too caught up in the middle and how well it is all going. That will need to change if she's going to embrace the full villainy of her wrestling character. But it shows that the work is starting to pay off for her. She's become a part of this environment and it has been enriching for her. She's now a part of why the show is going to be successful.

When Ruth busts out the Russian accent for the first time, it's completely unexpected and could go wrong at any moment in time. She does it because the show needs sponsors. The patio guy is only interested because he owed the network executive a favor. He doesn't genuinely care about lady wrestling. He thinks of it as some kind of feminist bullshit that won't work. And yet, his grand opening isn't all that exciting either. He's not a fun or infectious personality. His business isn't great. But he has the power because he can decide whether or not the show will work financially. The show needs sponsors. Right now, this is the only guy they have. So, Ruth saves the day by embracing her Russian villainy. She has a lot of fun with that accent and talking about the stark differences between communism and capitalism. It's broad and over-the-top. But that's the exact quality that makes it interesting for Sam. He needed a villainy with a clear and specific personality. And now, Ruth has delivered just that. It's a character that gets him excited. It leads to a pretty interesting bonding session. One where Sam says that Ruth is just an okay woman who did a bad thing for unknown reasons. Meanwhile, he is just a bad guy with several issues that destroy his relationships with the people in his life. It's an intriguing moment that works because it feels like the characters actually coming to understand each other.

All of this stands in contrast to Debbie. She is the "star" of the show. That's the label that she was given early on just in order for her to agree to do it. In that moment, she was desperate and needed something in order to afford her life. But now, she's realizing that she's not as impressive as the other ladies at wrestling. She has been given special treatment. She's been kept separate from the rest of them. She's different. And yet, the action of doing that has caused her to stand out as the weak link in wrestling ability. She hasn't been taking this seriously. As a result she's not as impressive to the network executive as Ruth and Carmen are. On the surface, she appears to be doing the work. But in reality, she's not as committed to the show as it would appear. She's not putting in the work to help make it a success. Things have come relatively easy to her. All she has to do is voice her opinion and Sam gives her everything she wants. She wanted to be Liberty Bell and she got that wrestling persona. She's gone through the motions of what this show needs but she hasn't genuinely connected with the material or with the other ladies. All of that stems out of the desire to have her as the marketable lead of the show. It's a title that has proven damaging to her because she's still just figuring out what she wants in her life post-separation.

It still pains her to be away from her son for a long period of time. She's leaving in order to go to a job she's not invested in with people she doesn't really care about. The smartest and best thing about this episode is that it forges a friendship between Debbie, Carmen and Melrose. Carmen is very insightful in noting that Debbie hasn't put in the work because she doesn't understand the appeal of wrestling. She doesn't get the sport. She has to see it up close. It has to become something personal for her in order for to take it just as seriously as everyone else. That's an opportunity that is afforded to her as well. The big moment where she realizes that storytelling in wrestling is just like soap operas may be a bit too blunt. And yet, the realization really works for Debbie because of the performance that Betty Gilpin gives. She's exploring a new world. She's doing so both professionally and personally. She learns the truths of wrestling and is committed to putting on a great show for Sam. She's ready to find her heel to make her look as best as she can in the ring. That will more than likely be Ruth. The show is setting up an America vs. Russia conflict. Will Debbie be onboard with that? It's unclear. Things are just as complicated in her personal life too. She has sex for the first time since leaving her husband. It's great and she doesn't get in trouble when Cherry catches her missing curfew. It instead leads to a profound moment of feeling dissatisfied after one's fantasies come true. Debbie enjoyed the thought of being with many different men again after the stability and staleness of just being with Mark. But it's all so impersonal now. It's hot but it's not as intimate as it once was. She has to explore that too and become comfortable with her body and how it is constantly changing during this turbulent time.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Debbie Does Something" was written by Rachel Shukert and directed by Phil Abraham.
  • Justine is given a nice little romantic subplot. It's such an '80s story too with her fantasizing and objectifying the pizza delivery boy. And yet, it works too. He is genuinely interested in her as well. It's up to Arthie to make sure that the two of them actually get together. It's sweet and romantic but also fitting for the time.
  • Dawn and Stacey are making prank calls at the hotel. That's all that they are doing here. It's pretty amusing to see everyone's reaction to them. Sheila doesn't know that it's a prank until Ruth hangs up the phone for her. Melrose tries to turn it back on them after a twisted joke about AIDS. And then, Sam is just incredibly upset that they keep calling him.
  • The story at the big wrestling match pits a working class man against a guy called Mr. Monopoly who steals his money and his wife. It's fun to see them act out that scenario as well right before the actual wrestling begins. It shows that there is so much more to this performance than there initially seems.
  • It's actually not that surprising that Debbie sleeps with Steel Horse. When he first takes his shirt off, a couple of the ladies comment on how hot he is - including Debbie who looks him over. And then, when he recognizes her from her work on Paradise Cove, that basically seals the deal. They just have to wait for Carmen and Melrose to leave.
  • So apparently, Sam has been sleeping with Rhonda. That's not particularly surprising. He comes across as the type of guy who uses his position of power in order to get women to sleep with him. It only becomes problematic when he starts paying more attention to someone else - like he does here with Ruth after she finally figures out her character.

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.