Thursday, June 29, 2017

REVIEW: 'GLOW' - The Ladies Tell Fake Stories at a Party While Sam Gets High in 'The Liberal Chokehold'

Netflix's GLOW - Episode 1.09 "The Liberal Chokehold"

With the show's future in jeopardy, Bash and the ladies search for creative ways to drum up cash. A pair of revelations leaves Sam reeling.

A lot of long simmering conflicts come to a head in "The Liberal Chokehold." As such, it's very dynamic to watch. The ladies of GLOW are coming together to try and raise the funds for the show. They need this to work. They need it now more than ever because they've put in all of the training to make it a success. This story proves just how much all of them care about this program. This season has proved that the show only works when the people involved actually put in the effort to make it great. When the producers or actresses are just not engaged with it, then disaster strikes. Of course, Bash cares a ton too. But he's the one who got them into this precarious situation with the financing in the first place. His mother had no idea he was spending this amount of money. Nor does she understand his fascination with wrestling. To her, it's something completely childish and not something her child should be spending all of his time and money on. That's the basis for the story of this episode. It's all about winning over Bash's mother, Birdie. She's the one who can make or break the show. Everything rests on the characters crashing her party and hoping to raise the funds necessary to put on an epic show that no one will forget anytime soon.

And yes, it is a blast to see these characters at an uptight, ultra-conservative party in the 1980s. Birdie is raising funds for Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No to Drugs" campaign. It's a very fitting detail for this particular world. Of course, it's also amusing how light the show itself actually cares about that serious subject matter. Sam actually brings cocaine into this event and gets extremely high after all of his dreams seem to come crashing down. He has lost his dream venue for the show. Plus, he learns that his unproduced film is actually the exact story of Back to the Future. It's a crushing time for him and he chooses to get high while also commenting on how hypocritical these elites are about drugs in the first place. He's a downer at the party. Everyone else is working extremely hard to make a lasting impression. Of course, the ladies are there under the cover of former drug addicts who've stayed sober thanks to wrestling. It's not true at all. Most of these women have no idea how to play former drug addicts. So, it's just a ton of fun to watch them casually drop the word "crack" into their big speeches while not really knowing how to connect with this audience. That's a fun little montage.

Of course, the show digs deeper and forces a couple of characters to come to some major realizations about their lives. Debbie is feeling increasingly torn between her two worlds once more. She is letting Mark back into her life. He is showing up more and more. That's forced Ruth to run and hide every time he is seen. She doesn't want to add to the awkwardness of that dynamic. Debbie doesn't know if she'll actually try to make her marriage work again. But the dialogue is open. And yet, she has just discovered wrestling. She has grown to really love it. She has a new appreciation for her body because of it. She feels empowered now. She loves the idea that her body is hers again. It doesn't belong to the baby she carried for nine months. It doesn't belong to the man she happens to be sleeping with. It's now hers for her to do whatever she wants with. That's such a strong and enriching message. Debbie wants to share this with her best friend. If the show doesn't work out, she wants to express these feelings with the friend who has always been there for her. This is the most they've actually talked about what happened between Ruth and Mark. Debbie is mad with Ruth largely because she ruined their friendship so badly that they can never really have a normal conversation anymore. This moment is nice but it's still awkward as soon as they think about what Ruth did.

All of this forces Ruth to actually analyze why she slept with Mark in the first place. That questioning first begins early in the episode when Sam sees Mark for the first time. He's actually a little surprised that both Debbie and Ruth would go for someone like him. He wants to know why as well. It's not until Ruth is forced to truly confront her inner feelings and reflect on the past that she finally delivers a good enough answer. She now realizes that she had feelings of resentment and anger bottled up inside. She was upset that she wasn't getting any jobs and that her life wasn't going according to plan. Meanwhile, her best friend seemingly had it all figured out and was happy. She didn't sleep with Mark to purposefully screw up their marriage. But it was the outlet she chose to take in order to get out these feelings. It was wrong. It wasn't the appropriate outlet for her anger. Now, she has newfound clarity through wrestling. It's a sport that provides her with the relief and stability she needs. Having a job and the opportunity to get excited about something has really fulfilled her life. She's willing to do anything in order to make this show a success. But right now, that means having to dig deep into her past actions. It's not clear if any of it actually works in restoring her friendship with Debbie. The emotions are genuine. She's actually owning up to the role she played in all of this. But she doesn't interact with Debbie again afterwards. Her speech does inspire Birdie to actually support GLOW. It's because of Ruth that the show will happen. That's at least a victory that deserves to be celebrated. Even if it all ultimately fails, they'll at least get to film an episode of this show.

And finally, there's the big reveal that explains exactly why Justine has been acting the way she has been around Sam. She is actually the daughter he didn't even know existed. That's a surprising moment. It comes when Sam is at his lowest point as well. He believes the only thing he has to look forward to is sleeping with the one woman who is actually paying attention to him right now. He doesn't know any better. He sees Justine's action as that of a crush. He's refused to confront it until now. But now, he feels like he has nothing better in his life. That's when Justine drops the news. She's taken aback by him trying to kiss her. And yet, she mishandled the situation as well. She doesn't really know what she wants from him either. Sam wants to know if she's asking him for money or a job. She just stands there staring at him not sure what to say next. Then, she just leaves him all alone in that room. It's a complicated way to leave things for the characters. As a reveal, it is pretty shocking. It also feels a little random as well. It does explain her actions over the course of the series. Plus, it will be intriguing to see how it affects things moving forward. But right now, it feels like the weak link in a very strong overall episode. It's the show still just setting up something new with the characters.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Liberal Chokehold" was written by Liz Flahive & Carly Mensch and directed by Lynn Shelton.
  • In addition to the "Just Say No" campaign, this episode also opens with everyone watching the TWA Flight 847 hijacking on the news. The ladies are obsessed with the coverage and are fighting over the details of the case. Meanwhile, the network executives Sam and Bash are meeting with are just disappointed when it is over and the ratings will shrink as a result.
  • Does Justine even have a wrestling persona? With everyone else, I have a clear idea of what they are capable of doing in the ring and what their overall gimmick is. But Justine has never really been on display as a wrestler in this series. She has the job. But she's been much more concerned with Sam and what he is all about.
  • Cherry gets a call from a casting agent offering her an audition for a lead in a TV show. It comes at a moment in time where GLOW may not actually happen. The car wash doesn't bring in a ton of money. Sam even says it's okay for the ladies to explore other opportunities. So, it seems likely that Cherry does this and it could create a conflict for the show as it gets back on schedule.
  • As expected, the network executives have a problem with showing members of the Ku Klux Klan onscreen - especially in the time slot they have for GLOW. But they also make it known that they loved Cherry and Tamm√©. They want to see more of them. That should be fascinating to see what happens next. They are intelligent women who've come up with great ideas before. They should be able to again.
  • The car wash is such a fascinating sequence as well. Most of the time that kind of story is told in order to objectify women's bodies. That's the point of this one as well. It's Debbie's suggestion to use their sexuality to bring in the money to fund the show. But the actual sequence deals much more with the reality of car washes and how disgusting the interior of some people's cars really are.

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.