Graphic: Erica Parise (Netflix)

While “Viking Funeral” was prep day, “Candy Of The Year” kicks things off with an in-progress match and a full house for G.L.O.W. While GLOW knows how to move from episode-to-episode with ease, the kinks still need to be worked out for G.L.O.W., like the crowd not caring about the in-ring action—partially the fault of Sheila going into business for herself during a Beatdown Biddies match but still an important concern. Which leads us to Sam’s new format for the show: three matches, instead of five, and now the girls have to audition their matches (or performances) the Wednesday before taping.

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Of course, a new format doesn’t mean things have reset. Sam continues to punish Ruth, now not even letting her wrestle, even though she’s completely in her gear. Because Liberty Belle is chasing Welfare Queen (whose week-to-week formula is simply ducking Liberty Belle until the match), the argument is that Liberty Belle has no reason to go against Zoya again. Sam keeping one of the best talents on the shelf because of a perceived slight is something Ruth should call out as said talent or something Debbie should call out as producer, but since Ruth regularly just takes people’s shit (which almost reaches a breaking point to watch here) and Debbie is just concerned with her own status on the show, neither happens. (Debbie also tells Ruth that Zoya’s not the center of the story, which is at least true.)

And as producer, the divide between Debbie and the G.L.O.W. Girls doesn’t get any smaller, as they joke about her getting better lighting than them and clam up when she shows up (late) on Saturday morning to watch the show with them. Even when she tries to bond with them, she again does that thing where she insults their work, saying it looks better on TV than it does live, like she’s surprised it looks good at all.

However, while she’s a producer now, it’s not like she can just leave the girls behind for good in favorite of a seat at Sam and Bash’s table. She’d be willing to too, as she completely shuts down Tammé when she thinks Debbie’s planning a team dinner, not a producer dinner. But as much as the girls want to believe Debbie has it made because she’s a producer now, Debbie knows she has an uphill battle because she’s not a man. She’s a single mom who works too hard, and Sam and Bash don’t care about baby Randy or that Debbie has to juggle work and family. (Although, it is funny when Sam tries to pull the baby card with his own teenage child at home.) Debbie’s idea is honestly to cook for them—and provide bourbon, because they’re men who drink bourbon—at her home, and even with the bourbon touch, it’s an idea that’s so very much the antithesis of these guys’ worlds it’s no surprise they bail. They see Debbie’s producer credit as an in name only situation, to “make the star happy,” so they ignore her ideas as much as they can.

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It’s also no surprise Tammé comes to give Debbie company and white wine to soften the blow, and the two bond over motherhood and being women who want to be heard in a man’s word. Tammé gives Debbie the good advice to make herself useful, after they discuss what they need to do to sell the impending Liberty Belle/Welfare Queen fight for the crown as“the match of the century.” Tammé and Debbie are both hustlers, but it’s over fondue and wine that it’s even clearer Debbie’s hustle has looked a lot more glamorous than Tammé’s. (Debbie at least realizes the error of her ways in calling the airline food gig gross once she learns it’s a gross gig Tammé held down for seven years.)

While Debbie gets a new confidante in Tammé, Ruth gets that in Yolanda, who’s a lesbian and very supportive of Ruth striking something up with camera guy Russell. Also, GLOW may singlehandedly be making the montage cool again, and that’s great. After a “let’s go to the mall” montage twist in “Viking Funeral,” the show outdoes itself one episode later by having a breakdancing training montage. The cap to the breakdancing tutorial—Arthie pointing out the awkward white girl of it all—is even better because everything about Ruth’s unearned bravado screams Breakin’ (or less of the era but more appropriate, Save The Last Dance). Seeing it all come together in the audition, as Junk Chain teaches Zoya “American ghetto dancing” in a way where they’re actually breakdance fighting, is corny in the best way. It’s clearly a win for Ruth, even though Sam doesn’t want to accept that, and it’s something different for G.L.O.W. It’s also the type of thing in wrestling where you’re able to hide a talent’s weaknesses by accentuating their positives. In fact, all the girls come to play during the auditions, although Arthie (and by extension, Carmen, who’s being stretched too thin by having to train everyone and get her work done) gets screwed out of making the show for the week.

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If Sam could get his way, Ruth would be off the show again this week. But Bash defends the Super Bowl halftime show nature of the dance, and Debbie tells Sam not to punish Ruth anymore, even though she gave the impression earlier she didn’t care. The question is if Sam really hates Ruth so much he’d actively attempt to sabotage the show, but by the end of the episode—as Yaz/Yazoo’s “Situation” plays—the question is if “hate” is the proper emotion to describe his feelings. As he watches Russell camera flirt with Ruth, proving that the camera loves her, Sam turns off his monitor in the type of frustration that doesn’t signal hate or even indifference. It’s been a interesting journey seeing just how genuinely good Marc Maron is on this show, but part of that journey has involved wondering if GLOW really is doing a will-they-won’t-they relationship with Sam/Ruth, as well as wondering if that’s good or bad. Sam’s rough around the edges, which is a mild way to put it, but the show also has a way to soften that in his work-in-progress relationship with Justine.

While “Candy Of The Year” creates new character dynamics and brings out a brief electric boogaloo, even with a G.L.O.W. show under its belt, the episode still feels like table-setting. And not just because of what the table metaphor means for producer Debbie or the literal merch table Justine steps away from before getting into a fight. The power of the season opener lingers here, but the episode doesn’t quite match it. Mixing metaphors, there are a lot of balls in the air right now, and while it’s arguably better than starting things off slow and steady, one wonders if it will catch them or just let some of them fall.


Stray observations

  • Arthie’s face when Ruth “apologizes” to Debbie for Liberty Belle having to fight Beirut is pretty priceless, but it’s a reminder Ruth still has a way to go when it comes to her own self-centered behavior.
  • Arthie: “Oh my god, are you doing a white girl trying to breakdance act for the match?”
    Ruth: “No, we’re doing a white girl does breakdance act.”
    Arthie: “That’s spot-on. White girls definitely talk like that.” Ruth thought her response was so fly until Arthie followed it up. Sunita Mani might be the MVP of this episode.
  • Zoya: “Perhaps audience will enjoy this alternative to wrestling, as part of larger entertainment.” Ruth gets sports entertainment.
  • The thing about the Sheila/Rhonda audition is that it wasn’t a joke when Sheila said their match was serious business—it’s legitimately the most technically proficient and fluid burst of wrestling we’ve seen on the show. It’s also very short, as they clearly spent all their time creating a technically proficient and fluid burst of wrestling. Then there’s the fact that Rhonda kept the mannequin from the mall (Thomas) as her lover, since she’s on the rebound. Sam’s reaction to the fact Thomas really has absolutely nothing to do with the concept of the match—Rhonda clearly just wanted to mess with Sam, because why not?—is so pure.
  • Billy: “This song is called ‘Mourning In America.’ ‘Mourning’ with a ‘u.’” Oh, Billy. Also, he’s not exactly the best boyfriend in his reaction to Justine fighting and getting hurt, but what exactly was he supposed to do, stop singing “Mourning In America?” That her decision after this is to run away is pretty melodramatic, but it does allow Sam to find his “parental voice” and explain to her that he won’t be Mr. Dad right away. But now she’s going to have to go to school and have a curfew, so he’s getting some things right.
  • Bash isn’t a bad guy, but his less flattering spoiled rich kid roots show here in the way he reacts to Debbie’s producer status. There’s an argument to be made that Bash is posturing though, trying to convince Sam they’re on the same page in terms of their boy’s club by making clear women shouldn’t have a seat at the table (and sealing it with a hug). Because it’s not like Sam cares that much, while Bash harrumphs and sighs about women. Had Sam said he was going to go to the dinner, Bash would’ve agreed to come too. However, Bash does have a point about the fact that he actually put money into the show for his producer credit, unlike Debbie.
  • Bash also considers himself a performer now, by the way.
  • I was legitimately worried something bad would happen to Tammé when she was tired and tipsy and about to leave Debbie’s house. The candy thing is necessary to give Debbie her Nerds idea, but the actual moment is clunky and strange. Also, candy isn’t a magical pick-me-up. But it was the ‘80s, I suppose.
  • GLOW is more invested in making its own thing instead of recreating the history of the real G.L.O.W., but The Beatdown Biddies are an aspect of the original show (The Housewives were the Biddies’ inspiration) that this one seems to keep up. That includes their transformation into The Toxic Twins, Nuke and Ozone (The Heavy Metal Sisters were Spike and Chainsaw). All because being old “was weighing on [their] self-esteem.”
  • The earliest bit of wrestling business backstabbing we get this season somehow comes from Dawn and Stacey, but it’s clear that’s 100% where this story is going when Arthie tells her pretty great idea for the “ethnically neutral” Phoenix character. (Sheila is smart to keep Rhonda from revealing anything about their audition.) It’s also played mostly for humor, though the series does take Arthie’s frustration with and hatred for the Beirut character as seriously as it should. It just turns out luck is against her in this case. After all, Dawn and Stacey at least made sure to have a costume for their “mutant metamorphosis,” while Arthie decided to wait until the okay before having Jenny make the costume.
  • I often think about which G.L.O.W. Girl would make it in WWF, post-G.L.O.W., and I’m sure Ruth would… if not for the fact that the politics would kill her. Debbie, on the other hand, would stress out about not being the center of attention, but I’d think she’d be able to work the system… until the Attitude Era, unless she’d be willing to go full Sable for the top spot. Rhonda would be a star.

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