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GLOW Season 2, Episode 1 Review: ‘Viking Funeral’

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“Do you think we really captured the nexus of girl-on-girl violence and consumer culture in America?”

“Oh, no, it was way dumber than that.”

It’s time for more of the neon pink pageantry and interpersonal drama that is Netflix’s GLOW and episode one sets a stunning start to the season. Season one left us down a woman (Cherry), up a daughter (Sam and Justine leaving room to maybe get to know each other), solidified a legacy (Carmen overcoming her fears and owning her babyface role with the audience assist from her father), and let us know that Ruth has yet to earn Debbie’s trust back. We approach all those fine points in the whirlwind of episode one.

Debbie has moved from separation from Mark into a full on divorce and is more than ever driven to solidify herself not just as a serious actor but as a serious businesswoman. We see her rely on Mark as a representative to do this and use the connections she can make with the title of “Wife” one last time to do this… but the message is clear. Debbie is ready to be a powerhouse, focusing on career and son, trying to put even animosity behind. She is caught between who she was and who she is, opening the premiere planning to keep her married name on an account at a dry cleaner and closing it by closing a door in Ruth’s face, making it clear that she did the work and she is who matters now.

Ruth remains untethered to anything but GLOW and is from moment one still in the mania of her own ego. Alison Brie’s ability to keep the constant nervous energy of a character who wants to be the center of attention but who also can’t stop herself from violating the boundaries of every person around her is damn impressive. Ruth’s inherent unlikability in season 1 seems to have doubled in the premier alone and the irony is it’s all because she is desperate to be liked.

The men of Glow are still absolute messes, bless their hearts. Bash, who adorably confuses prep day to mean a day to dress preppy, is still avoiding the dual blades of responsibility and his mother. Sam no longer has the option to avoid responsibility, no matter how far away he parks his car from the rest of the cast and crew or how many bumps he can shove into his nose in the parking lot. Justine has now moved in with him and he has to grapple with sudden fatherhood, his addictions, his decades long commitment to self sabotage and self loathing, with what seems to be slight self awareness and maybe at least experimentation in caring about his daughter.

The core ensemble of wrestlers are going through plenty of growing pains. Cherry, formerly performing as Junkchain, is gone to take the role she was offered last season, and Sam decides to recast the role with Yolanda, a dancer he met while he was out doing Sam Sylvia brand things. Arthie continues to struggle with her character, Beirut, and the harmful, offensive connotations. In a blow out over Ruth taking new camera guy (and apparent romantic interest) Russell out to the mall to film a title sequence Sam had intentionally put on the back burner, Sam fires Reggie (Vicky the Viking) when she defends Ruth saying she’s more of a director than Sam ever was.

The show is positioning the conflict between Ruth and Sam to be as pivotal as the one between Ruth and Debbie. For me, this is the pilot’s only failure. Sam is hesitantly decently and his first instinct is to lash out, he’s a piece of work who is often a casual chauvinist, but to use this to have us sympathize with Ruth is a failure to access Ruth. For me, Ruth’s constant willingness to overstep other people’s boundaries as long as she can justify it for himself doesn’t become less problematic because she does it to a man who kinda sucks. The sense of entitlement that led her to hatebone her best friend’s husband out of spite is the same sense of entitlement that sees her going behind Sam’s back and going doe-eyed and feigning shock when he’s upset, which is doubly cringey when Debbie finds a way to go around Sam and Bash to use the power and compromise she can muster to get her position as a producer (the show beautifully closed on this power move and juxtaposition with “Just Like Honey” by Jesus and Mary Chain).

Heel: Ruth’s desperate puppy dog eyes

Face: Debbie’s Power Moves Only Brand of Feminism

Mentionables:

“My costume still smells like beer… and racism.”

“…between your can do spirit and her do anything spirit.”

Rating: A-

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