After two episodes of set up, GLOW immediately decides to shake things up in “The Wrath Of Kuntar” by throwing the ladies into another new world. The G.L.O.W. Girls and Sam all seem to have a basic understanding of what’s expected of them by the end of “Slouch. Submit.”… but none of that matters now with the introduction of Sebastian “Bash” Howard (Chris Lowell), a 25-year-old rich boy who signs all their checks. Bash’s arrival also introduces the characters and audience to a world of glitz and glamour, a world that has only so far been seen, vaguely, in Sam’s vision of Debbie and Ruth wrestling.
These characters and the audience have grown accustomed to the dingy, grimy world of Chavo’s Gym; there’s nothing polished about it, and it’s an integral part of the G.L.O.W. origin story. It’s all a part of the main story of the struggle of these women. Only, their struggles are also financed by a man whose only struggle appears to be his issues with his mother and directed by a man who struggles with an ex-wife he’s still angry with.
The best thing this episode does early on is pivot from the concept of it being all about Sam’s issues with his ex-wife. GLOW’s cold opens are the series’ version of Orange Is The New Black’s character flashbacks, and while Sam Sylvia is perhaps the role Marc Maron was born to play, this episode’s cold open is the worst scene in the series so far. No, the constant saying of “balls” doesn’t save it. And while it’s such a joy to watch the women as they start to read Sam’s script (even Bash is beaming as he listens), it’s understandable how they deflate as it becomes more and more a veiled grudge at his ex (with a weird anti-women’s lib, lesbian thing happening all of a sudden) and less about them as badass wrestlers. It picks back up as Ruth gets assigned the role of Kuntar (the pronunciation of course matters), but as much fun as there is in that scene, it’s something the episode couldn’t really enjoyably sustain.
Things shift—including Sam’s frustrations–once Bash changes the setting to a party in Malibu, and from that point on, this episode is like a dream. It’s all an escape away from the ladies’ current real world… until a wasted Debbie has to be taxi’d off all the way from Malibu to Pasadena. Soon after that, it’s back to the gym, with their new and stereotypical (very much based on real G.L.O.W.) characters. But until then, there is a drug-dealing robot and Asteroids in a house! It is an absolute fantasy, like what Sam and Bash are trying to sell with G.L.O.W, only their ideas of what that G.L.O.W. fantasy means are vastly different.
With the exception of Ruth—who’s mostly trying to focus on work and keep a low profile—the ladies are like kids in a candy store at Bash’s house. And that’s not just because most of the offerings in his house are candy. It’s genuinely fun to see them all geek out over going to Malibu, riding in a limousine (giving some functionality to Melrose’s means of transportation), and attending a “Hollywood party.” Especially since Bash’s house and entire vibe is very I Love The ‘80s, which is the type of thing that just causes everyone to have fun until they puke. It’s all too much and very over-the-top, which coincidentally also describes the real G.L.O.W. In fact, the introduction of Bash and his world officially explains what kind of person would fund a women’s wrestling league in such a manner, in the ‘80s: a giant, possibly coked up manchild. And a rich one at that.
That’s what’s so funny about how excited the women are here: It’s seriously just the home of a big kid. Bash and his butler Florian may be 25-year-old men, but there is an absolute sense of arrested development here, which no one seems to notice but Sam (with his anti-punch stance). The spread is candy and Cheetos; Florian serves Lucky Charms with a toothpick’ Bash has Ruth stare at “art that tells you exactly what it is” (“NEON”) with him; Florian’s butler “uniform” is a tux jacket (with tails), cut off jean shorts, and a puka shell necklace. Both men come off as decent people—albeit in a frat boy sense—but there’s a reason Florian is so uncomfortable listening to drunk Debbie spill her guts about her life (which Betty Gilpin nails, by the way). He and Bash live an absolutely consequence free life. Bash even admits it: “Why do you think my parties are so legendary? We drink. We smoke. We dance. We get naked. Then we put on these awesome costumes and the cycle repeats itself.” Right now, G.L.O.W. is probably the most work Bash is putting into anything (besides having his slogans for his family’s canned food company get rejected). And Sam is doing it all wrong.
Bash’s stereotyping of the G.L.O.W. Girls is not his finest moment, but the sad thing is: He’s right, especially given the era. Even in 2017, the current WWE Champion is a Canadian of Indian descent, doing the evil foreigner gimmick. (The current United States Champion is a French-Canadian… also doing a variation of the evil foreigner gimmick, but he doesn’t have to deal with the racial aspects of it all.) In the ‘80s, professional wrestling was still black and white with its good guy/bad guy dynamics; and as suspect as it was, the crowd would always cheer or boo someone based on what country they represented. Wrestling fans in the ‘80s wanted and were given something simple, unlike the complicated world Sam tries to weave. (As opposed to wrestling fans in the ‘90s, who wanted car crash TV.) Bash isn’t trying to turn G.L.O.W. into some type of objectification or exploitation of the women—again, that’s more wrestling in the ‘90s—he just wants the pro wrestling that he knows sells. Thus his Pacman/Ms. Pacman comparison and his explanation that “wrestling is not about backstory, it’s about type.”
And the characters that all the women end up with by the end of the episode? While it might sound like GLOW is being too ridiculous, they’re honestly just very slight variations of actual G.L.O.W. gimmicks. When Bash is talking about Ruth being more like a “farmer’s daughter” than a “Kuntar,” based on her looks, that’s in reference to the actual G.L.O.W. character “Babe the Farmer’s Daughter.” After two episodes of Ruth not quite getting the wrestling world but at least wanting to succeed in it, of the women training to do something special, the actual reality of what they’re going to have to do hits them out of nowhere. And with that, they’re out of the dream world and back in the gym. While Sam is in the right for wanting to challenge the art form and make something interesting out of G.L.O.W.,* Bash is also right in knowing what professional wrestling is, at least at this point in time. We’ve learned about the passion Ruth and even Debbie have as performers, but with such a new and different concept, it’s important to know the passion the people in charge have as well. And GLOW doesn’t make it just some masculine pissing contest, which is honestly super refreshing.
So now we have our G.L.O.W. cast: Fortune Cookie, Beirut (“The Mad Bomber”), Scab, Melrose (as expected, there’s not much there), Sheila the She Wolf, Machu Picchu (“I’m a good guy.”), Junk Chain, Ethel & Edna, Welfare Queen, Britannica (“The Smartest Woman In The World”), Liberty Belle, Vicky Viking, and The Homewrecker (“And though I’m only moderately attractive, I am desperate.”). That last part needs some work, though, and after an episode of fantasy, now Ruth has to answer a “simple” question: “Who do you think you are?”
- *This tangent really only makes sense to hardcore wrestling fans, but Sam is the type of person who would be responsible for Wrestling Society X, only to be crushed by the weight of the eventual network interference. And he’d absolutely love Lucha Underground.
- Cherry: “We’ve been mostly learning to fall on our backs, without hurting ourselves.”
Arthie: “And pain faces.” Arthie then does a pain face. Not gonna lie, it needs work.
- Bash: “Salty’s famous for his DDTs.” I was going to say I don’t think I’ve ever seen John Hennigan do a DDT, but then I was reminded. Definitely not your standard 1985 one though.
- Ruth: “The year is 1999. Nuclear war has reduced the earth to a smoking ruin. Lost tribes of women wander the land, scavenging for water, food, and an even scarcer resource: men.” If there’s one major disappointment in GLOW being tied to the real life G.L.O.W., it’s that we’ll never see the version of the show based on Sam Sylvia’s vision.
- Ruth: “I. Am Kuntar!”
Melrose: “Good god! She’s even more disgusting than they described her!”
Ruth: “Oh. Sorry. Where is that?”
Melrose: “Oh, it’s right here, where I’m adlibbing.”
- Melrose: “There are drugs in the fucking robot.” By the way, Rhonda and Melrose (the robot molesters) are a dynamic duo.
- Florian: “I got plastic forks from Gelson’s. So we don’t have to run the dishwasher.”
- Plus one to Bash for realizing how great Carmen is and how she could never be a heel. Even though she leaves Ruth alone at the party immediately after promising she won’t leave Ruth alone at the party.
- It’s a little moment, but drunk Debbie mouthing “you’re not my friend” to Ruth from inside the taxi (with Ruth mouthing “I know”) hits hard. This is the moment we’re kicked back to reality, and it’s followed by Bash explaining the stereotypes the women will have to use moving forward.
- Ruth: “No, I’m Kuntar. A vision of hideousness.” Ruth wants so much to be accepted in this world and get a real shot that there’s nothing better to her than being Kuntar. And this is when Bash tries to say that she’s the “girl next door” of G.L.O.W. She’s just so offended by the presumption that she’s anything other than Kuntar.
- Will Bash’s promise to produce Sam’s film (Mothers & Lovers) come back? Will Sam ever make a film with a better title than Oedipussy? These are the questions.
- This isn’t so much an episode problem as it is a GLOW problem (as well as a bad Orange Is The New Black habit): This episode reveals that Reggie (the athlete) is an Olympic medalist. While the episode nails the G.L.O.W. and ‘80s of it all by giving her character to Debbie, it’s kind of a fumble that she’s such an unknown quantity (I had to IMDB the character’s name) that it’s a legit shock when she reveals her medals. Marianna Palka does great work in the way she plays her though; during the script read, despite the fact she’s reading in front of people she knows, Reggie can barely hold her script without shaking from the stage fright.