Graphic: Netflix

Even with the future of G.L.O.W. hanging in the balance, “Rosalie” is somewhat of a cool down episode after the terrific—but often stressful—run of recent episodes this season. And just like in wrestling, sometimes a cool down is just what you need before the main event. So taking the back-to-school idea of GLOW season two a step further, this episode, we get a school dance and the G.L.O.W. Girls planning what they’re going to do on their summer vacations (aka when G.L.O.W. is officially canceled and they need new jobs).

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But with the G.L.O.W. family trying to figure things out, there are also things other families need to figure out, like Sam, Justine, and Justine’s mother, Rosalie. After all this time of Justine mentioning how her mother’s a mess and crazy, behold: She’s fine. She’s angry about the current situation, understandably, and the episode is a lot of Annabella Sciorra, Marc Maron, and Britt Baron yelling. But “Rosalie” never has a moment where it reveals Justine’s been right about her mother or that anything bad will happen to Justine if she returns to Sacramento; instead, it ends up being the kind of over-the-top complaints of a teenage girl who found an out in the form of her father/hero and took it. The dread of Rosalie’s arrival at the end of “The Good Twin” sets us up for one possible scenario, but Liz Flahive, Carly Mensch, Kim Rosenstock’s script spend the rest of this part of the episode regularly alleviating that dread.

Sure, Rosalie admits to Ruth she had her share of dud boyfriends that Justine no doubt had to suffer through, but as angry as she is throughout this episode, she’s shown to be a single mother who’s finally got her stuff together and just wants to make sure her daughter has her stuff together too. Her happiness over witnessing Justine in a dress and with a boyfriend proves that it’s possible, so she understandably wants to see it back home in Sacramento. By the end of the episode, GLOW makes the proper argument that while Sam has ended up doing a pretty good job as a dad, all things considered, the world won’t end and it won’t be a massive regret if Justine returns home with her mother. Sam admits to Ruth (and then to Justine herself) that he doesn’t want to let Justine go, but his understanding that he should—and his decision to make her understand that she should—show Sam’s growth this season.

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Because she just feels like one of the girls instead of a separate teen—which is probably one of the smartest decisions GLOW ever made, setting it up in season one—I haven’t really thought to point out what’s so good about Britt Baron’s work as Justine this season. That changes now, because so much about the character, both as a youth character on an adult show and as one who “nobody understands,” Justine shouldn’t work. At all. She might be the literal antithesis of Dawn Summers. Despite her transition from another G.L.O.W. Girl to Sam’s daughter and also because of it, Justine just fits, whether it’s shooting the shit with the girls or having one-on-ones with Ruth or even all of her stuff with Billy. Billy/Justine also definitely shouldn’t work, especially as we’re reminded of what a doofus Billy is whenever he’s around. And that Justine is still so devoted to him despite that could mean trouble, but it never actually does. The kid who lies and tries to run away multiple times (including here, with Billy) is more well-adjusted than most of the adult characters, and it never feels precocious or unbelievable. In fact, the reveal that she’s been forging her report cards for the performing arts school Rosalie thought she was attending is impressive—and it also explains even more why she’s so tired. And it’s a very small moment, but the way Marc Maron plays Sam learning that Justine never broke up with Billy is just so full of disappointment in a way that feels familiar. If anything, Sam is a “Billy” all grown up—but still, a “Billy.”

So after wondering about the series’ will-they-won’t-they stance when it comes to Sam/Ruth, GLOW seemingly answers that question by having Sam try to kiss Ruth at the school dance and Ruth hop away from the situation. She hops all the way—sure, there’s a taxi involved—to Russell’s place, giving him the least romantic version of the “I choose you” speech possible. He’s “nice” and “consistent” And while romcom and will-they-won’t-they conventions might condition the audience to believe that nice guy Russell is going to get hurt because of that, it feels even more possible that Ruth truly listened to what Rosalie had to say about finally choosing a “nice” and “consistent” guy. Sam and Ruth care about each other, and in their own ways, they care for each other. He even has her come over for family dinner, though he says that was Justine’s idea. But Ruth would only be falling back into her habit of bad decisions if she was with Sam, and all it would take is one moment for Sam’s insecurities to start creeping out and for the relationship to take a sour turn. While I’ve mentioned that the Justine storyline has been necessary to show Sam’s growth and soften those edges, they don’t change that he is still Sam.

With “Rosalie,” almost everyone is pretty much resigned to the fact that G.L.O.W. is ending. It doesn’t matter if the rest of their last episode is balls-to-the-wall like in “The Good Twin,” because it’s not like anyone is seeing what they’re doing anyway (at 2 a.m.) and the network is the devil. It calls back somewhat to the earlier days of GLOW, as these women who really didn’t have anything else to do or any idea what they were getting themselves into prepare for their next gig. But now there’s at least more of a confidence that they’re all going to be fine, no matter what they do. Tammé is a hustler (having already sold 50 Welfare Queen dolls at $9.99 a pop), so when she tells Sheila her plan for acting class and to “become the next Whoopi Goldberg,” it’s hard to doubt her; Sheila will be going to acting class with Tammé, and after seeing her bits in “The Good Twin,” her future looks bright as well; Jenny is applying for a job at The Limited; Dawn & Stacey apparently still have their salon jobs; Melrose may not be Bash Howard rich, but she has family money. Even though the audience believes they’ll find a way to save G.L.O.W. and live to wrestle another day, GLOW succeeds in creating these characters where the audience can also imagine ways in which they’ll be okay, on the off-chance they don’t.

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There’s also a new late season development in the form of Arthie and Yolanda, who don’t know what they want to do, but they do know they want to keep living and spending time with each other (in a possibly less-than-platonic way). And Rhonda goes from content with drifting her way through the world to listening to her friends’ advice about not doing that… and now we have a green card marriage plot to end season two.

Bash and Debbie, however, secretly have hope for saving G.L.O.W. at the Western Cable Show trade show in Anaheim. A cable trade show is so foreign to the modern television discussion—the actual Western Cable Show shut down in 2003 because of how much the TV landscape had changed by then—that watching Bash and Debbie feels even more “stranger in a strange land” than professional wrestling ever has for GLOW. Divorced from the context of the actual show, Bash and Debbie’s “whisper campaign” montage to get people interested in G.L.O.W. looks just like a montage from an actual ‘80s romcom. In fact, a Mannequin reboot with Chris Lowell and Betty Gilpin would finally provide a good reason for there to be a Mannequin reboot. (Like in “The Good Twin,” Chris Lowell would be the mannequin.) Bash/Debbie isn’t a regular GLOW team-up, even though they’re technically on the same side of things as producers, but the two bounce off each other well with their particular brands of being go-getters.

The trade show is not quite the game changer that COMDEX was in Halt And Catch Fire’s first season, but it follows that classic (as much as anything in progress can be “classic” with just two seasons) GLOW tactic of lulling the audience into a false sense of security. It’s a Muppets wrestling caper, after all!

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So just when it looks like the only bad thing that will come of this is the possibility that no buyers will be interested in G.L.O.W., that’s proven to be false… so the episode can instead reveal that Florian “technically” died of pneumonia (due to AIDS) in San Francisco. Kind of like his short time at Shenanigans, Bash can’t handle any of this, so he simply refuses to, just barely giving the nurse on the phone any information about Florian’s mom before he hangs up. The episode ends, with Bash just watching all of these random people enjoying their lives, not a true care in the world, as Genesis’ “Man In The Corner” tells him “There’s no hiding place.” GLOW remains subtle in the way it treats this Bash storyline, but this ending—in an episode where other characters are coming to terms with things, while Bash seemingly won’t do that—is like a gut punch heading into a finale with promises of literal gut punches.


Stray observations

  • Hotel manager Gregory is back! Now, GLOW can really get started.
  • Melrose: “Why don’t I have a stalker?” Because she wants it too much. Also, Rhonda’s stalker, Cupcake (Patrick Renna), is creepy because: He’s a grown man they’re calling “Cupcake,” he definitely will find Rhonda wherever she goes, and Patrick Renna looks the same in adulthood as he did as a kid in movies like The Sandlot and the Carla Gugino classic, Son In Law, just a little taller. And now Rhonda has to marry him.
  • Justine: “You’ve got Brad. And Brad’s dumb kids.”
    Rosalie: “They’re not dumb, they’re… shy.”
  • Debbie: “Shut up about the frog.” It’s ridiculous Debbie knows nothing about Muppets Take Manhattan, since she’s dressed like a real life Miss Piggy in this episode. (She looks amazing, but it’s still a Miss Piggy look.) We also know she can have a Miss Piggy-like attitude, right down to the violence. Is GLOW secretly an analogy for The Muppets?
  • Rhonda: “Americans love British people. They love us! We get exceptions.” Oh, Rhonda. But also, Jenny has a point about the fact Rhonda got an exception when it came to this job: “Not everyone’s as dumb as Bash.”
  • Madonna’s “Crazy For You” as the Sam/Ruth slow dance is almost too on-the-nose, but the moment saves itself by not ending up a sweeping romantic moment with swelling music.
  • The dance also has the clumsiest moment of the season since the Debbie/Tammé candy discussion, with the introduction of Horatio Sanz as strip club owner Ray. Obviously, this introduction has to have ramifications for the season finale, but self-contained, it’s… off. But now Sam has a non-stripper strip club friend.
  • Earlier this season, Arthie asked Yolanda not to be so graphic with her words (of course, she then said “pussy”), and now she’s absolutely mesmerized by her. Dream dance sequences, people—they work. Their closeness—as they decide they want to continue to live together post-G.L.O.W.—hasn’t been that established until said dream dance sequence, but Sunita Mani and Shakira Barrera have a cute chemistry in this scene as well.
  • Also, Arthie’s definitely ready to start something new as she spends her time with Yolanda finally trashing her med school books. Those were expensive though, right?
  • Carmen: “I did a drug!” Oh, Carmen. And now she knows why Sam and Bash are always doing drugs (though coke is much different from one bong hit), as she comes up with the perfect idea for the finale and Rhonda’s immigration woes: a wedding! Sam may have given him crap, but Bash got his Loser Leaves Town match, his Handicap match, and a wrestling wedding when all was said and done.

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