Tuesday, June 27, 2017

REVIEW: 'GLOW' - Sam Tries to Get Ruth and Debbie to Work Together in 'This Is One of Those Moments'

Netflix's GLOW - Episode 1.06 "This Is One of Those Moments"

Sam searches for the perfect "heel" to fight Debbie, but she's tough to please. To hone her act, Ruth tags along with Gregory to a family function.

There is an inevitable quality to the events of "This Is One of Those Moments." As such, it drains a lot of the dramatic tension and uncertainty out of the story. When it was revealed that Ruth's character was going to be a Russian villain, it seemed inevitable that she would be paired with Debbie's American hero. Those were the personalities thrusted until them. It was their initial fight in the premiere that gave Sam his big vision for the show. So, it's not surprising that he wants to pair them up for the big event of the show within the show. He sees how entertaining that can be. He just has to work hard to ensure that they are willing to work together. Ever since that fight, they've been in the same room together but they've been avoiding each other. The spark of friendship is still there. But they haven't talked about what happened with Mark. They haven't started the healing process so that they have the potential to get back to a good place. And now, they are being asked to wrestle together in an epic hero vs. villain story. It all makes sense. But it also feels like this episode drags things out. It still hits that inevitable conclusion. It just takes awhile for Debbie to accept that this is the best way to create an entertaining show. Ruth is the only person amongst this group who will let her be the star of the show. That's the appeal of it.

And yet, it also makes sense that Debbie doesn't want to accept this arrangement at first. She's committed to the program now. She understands wrestling and how entertaining it can be. She called Sam demanding that he find her a heel to make for one great story in the ring. Ruth fulfills that role easily. It's a classic clash of two ideologies that also happens to be extremely timely in the 1980s. It makes sense for this time and place. Ruth has put in the work to choreograph a routine that could be entertaining as well. One that gives her some shining moments and one that gives Debbie some as well. She wants to be very collaborative. After struggling to find her wrestling persona for a little bit, she's embraced her Russian identity completely. That may be a little problematic, but that's for later in this review. She has embraced being the villain. She understands that it is her responsible to make the hero look good. But the personal feelings between the two of them are still so raw and intense. Just the sight of Ruth is enough to upset Debbie. Sam believes he's creating something truly special. But he also manipulates both women to show up early and doesn't tell them why. It's a disaster as one would expect. One that has the potential to ruin this potentially great dynamic for Sam.

It's fascinating to see the different types of character pairings that Sam does in order to find something equally great for Debbie. It's honestly just awesome to see her interacting with more of the cast. She's developed her wrestling skills as well. But it's largely just a great concept for an episode to mix and match the characters to see what sparks and what doesn't. That's actually the process that Sam is going through. First, he pairs Debbie with Tammé as a way to do a commentary on the racial and class divide in America. It's a stunning defeat for Debbie because Tammé just has the more entertaining personality. It's fun and joyous. She is able to get the crowd going. Debbie doesn't have that skill quite yet. So, it's hard for her to stand out when facing off with someone like that. The other character pairings are a bit more random. Debbie is paired with Arthie, then Sheila and then Reggie. The terrorist angle could be good for drama. But no one really knows what to do with it. And then with Sheila, it's a concept that just doesn't work because Debbie is flailing around and looking like a fool in the process. And finally, Reggie is still very upset about Debbie taking the Liberty Bell identity away from her. All of this is very disheartening for Debbie. She's spending all of this away from her son and nothing seems to be working.

Meanwhile, Ruth is off doing a ride along of sorts. It's definitely a story of an actor trying to get more insights into a character by becoming a part of that world. And yet, it's just so completely random and doesn't seem to have much purpose. The story of this episode needed Ruth away from the gym so that her eventual return would be something great and dynamic. The solution that it comes up with though is just lame and weird. It shows off the comedic sensibilities of the show in a unique and interesting way. But there's not a whole lot of actual plot to Ruth's story of going to an event with the motel manager, Gregory. He was her inspiration for the Russian character. And now, she wants to be more than a stereotypical villain. But that's who she still is by the end of this episode. She doesn't actually learn anything new. Of course, that's the point as well. The rest of the characters in this world don't really want to put up with her. She is able to get into this event. She then performs a song from Yentl. It's pretty ridiculous and a fun showcase for Alison Brie. But it's also just a distraction from the main plot. Ruth is at her most important at the beginning and end of this episode. So, that's very problematic and makes this episode less successful than the previous ones.

And yet, that final sequence with Ruth and Debbie is really amazing. It shows how powerful this story is capable of being once everyone accepts the inevitability of it all. It took Debbie failing to find another heel for her to accept Ruth as a partner. A rousing but critical speech from Sam doesn't hurt either. He bluntly tells Debbie that she loves being the center of attention and that it would be boring and unfulfilling to just be home with her baby all the time. That paired with Ruth returning and trying to pull off a completely new character that just doesn't work at all is enough for Debbie to accept the situation for what it should be. In fact, it's a ton of fun when both of them go into character and trade comments back and forth. Yes, it's a broad and one note analysis of the conflict between America and Russia. And yet, that's the world as these two characters know and understand it. It's a dynamic that works so easily and produces a compelling show. Debbie failed to get applause in her previous matches. But now, everyone is focused and cheering for her. It's all because Ruth is willing to let her win. She knows her role in this story. She understands that the gimmicks are necessary in order to entertain. She knows that it's her destiny to fail. She knows that and wants to make Debbie look good. It could perhaps be her way of apologizing to her. This partnership will force the two of them to spend more time together. That could be quite interesting to watch as the premiere of the show gets closer. Everything is coming together. But all it would take is one mistake for it to all go away.

Some more thoughts:
  • "This Is One of Those Moments" was written by Jenji Kohan and directed by Kate Dennis.
  • It's somewhat surprising that Jenji Kohan had the time to write an episode of GLOW. She's an executive producer of the show but she's the actual showrunner over on Orange Is the New Black. Both shows had production around the same time. But it's nice to see her spend her time in this world as well.
  • Once again, it's important to note that Cherry is getting more and more frustrated with Sam because he's prioritizing Debbie over everything else. It's something that happens in almost every episode. It better have a point sometime this season. Otherwise, it just means her character is very one-note.
  • Justine is upset with her new boyfriend, Billy, becomes he doesn't appreciate Sam's movies like she does. That coupled with the reveal that Sam is sleeping with Rhonda is enough to force her to act out. She steals a camera. It all seems a little random. So again, the payoff better be compelling later in the season.
  • Gregory reciting the same phrase over and over again about how he has a wife sometimes but she's upset with him is great and very amusing. And yet, why in the world are Gregory and Billy have a conversation? That's just so strange. It makes this world seem smaller as a result.
  • It's also explained that Ruth is able to work her way into this family function because Gregory finds it difficult to ultimately say no to people. He brings her along even though he believes that she is an escort. The family speaking in Russian and Ruth not knowing what they are saying is a pretty lame and conventional joke as well.

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.