“Why is this match not over?”
Episode two sees Sam and Bash announcing that from here on out, every single woman does not have a place on the card. Five matches is too hard to shoot and is putting the crowds to sleep. Sam will assign pairings he wants to see and have the ladies audition their spots, then decide on three matches for the card. He’s still punishing Ruth for her guerilla title sequence and untiring entitlement (a little bit of chauvinism as a coping mechanism, a little bit she’s one of the most disrespectful people I’ve ever seen in a television ensemble), so she’s only given a match when she directly asks for one. He partners her with Yolanda, the new Junkchain, by way of exotic dancing for sapphic spite.
Does Ruth use this as an opportunity to have a heart to heart with a newcomer and show her the ropes? Absolutely not. In an uncomfortable forced lunch date with Yolanda, Ruth discovers she can breakdance, because in the 80s people just did spontaneous breakdancing if a passing car had a radio in it, and Ruth decides that she, too, will learn to breakdance. This is rife with secondhand embarrassment and is an instance where serving an actor’s talent (Shakira Barrera) does not necessarily serve your script. But of course the over the top dance bonding between black America, as portrayed by a Mexican woman, and Zoya the Destroya, somehow heals the wounds of the cold war and seems to be just the thing this show about wrestling needs, because… everything in this show has to center around Ruth even though we surpassed the necessity of her POV halfway through season one.
I love Arthie and Arthie alone because she tells Ruth how absolutely white and absurd this is. Arthie is finally getting the time on this show that she’s deserved as she plans to use her match with Carmen to birth a new gimmick. She makes a bomb vest for Beirut, seeing it as the perfect racist end to her racist character, and plans to rise from the special fx ashes as a new character, Phoenix. I can’t believe how stunningly wrestling that is and as far as the in show ensemble goes, Arthie is right up there with Debbie in understanding what pro wrestling is all about. Carmen and Jenny are supportive of this new creative endeavour (Carmen is fine dedicating their match to this rebirth and Jenny is enthusiastic about making the new gear) but professional trolls Stacey and Dawn are there to drop eaves and offer no support. They go on to steal the idea, of course assisted to the hottest of hot messes Melrose, turning their old biddies into the Toxic Twins after death by Aquanet. This causes Sam, Bash, and Debbie to say no to Arthie’s bit, because they’ve already got one gimmick change for the week. Arthie is heartbroken but says nothing. And girl, haven’t we all been there?
Speaking of the producer’s table, Bash and Sam are determined to block Debbie from decisions no matter what it takes. They claim they aren’t having meetings but “drinks” and that these things are unplanned so they couldn’t possibly let her know. Debbie takes the initiative and tells them they’re coming to dinner and having a real production meeting. Sam and Bash, of course, do not go. Bash in this instance takes the more chauvinistic “ladies, amirite?” stance about it, which enables Sam’s unwillingness to collaborate or try at anything ever in his sad coke mustache of a life. But Debbie does not have dinner alone. Tamme, who overhears both the dinner plan and Sam and Bash’s decision to stand her up, shows up with a bottle of wine. They have a heart to heart about the added pain of motherhood while trying to be a woman in any workplace. Tamme makes it clear to Debbie that those men will never respect her for trying or working hard. She has to find a way to be useful. And when Tamme says she can drive home a little drunk and a lotta tired because she has a candy bar, Debbie realizes that feeding the GLOW audiences sugar will make them look hype and awake for the cameras.
Justine, Sam’s newfound teenage daughter who he tried to make out with last season (aren’t addicts fun?), is busy turning Sam’s house into a t-shirt pressing company for last season’s pizza bae turned boyfriend Billy, until she recognizes how she’s been shoved to the back at one of shiTpope’s (I know) shows. She reacts as any punk rock chick with a broken heart was. She gets into a fight, gets a head wound, and has to be escorted out by security. It’s already clear that she feels safe with Sam, pushing him around, calling him out, making fun of him for giving her 50 entire 1980s dollars for dinner instead of being a functional father, but this head wound really steps up the game. Sam does a very bad job of handing Justine some alcohol pads and a bandage after she tells him she’s upset he didn’t answer the phone because she wanted him to come get her (he doesn’t answer because he’s avoiding his ex-wife, the man is consistent). They have as much of a heart to heart as a displaced punk teen and drug addiction marathon surprise dad can. He tells her he wants her to stay, toys with the idea of regular dinners, and admits that he isn’t doing well.
“Just because you appear and want things doesn’t mean I suddenly become a different person. Just stay, just… just stay here. […]I want you, too. I want you too, alright? But you’re gonna have a curfew, especially on school nights.”
“I don’t go to school.”
“Right. That’s another thing that’s gonna change. My kid’s not gonna be a high school drop out.”
“Slow down with the discipline, Pops.”
“Don’t stop me, I’m just finding my parental voice…. It’s gone.”
Sam’s relationship with Ruth is beginning to toe the line between hate and love, according to the framing of the camera, and any vulnerability and camaraderie they shared in season one has completely dissolved. Sam seems to get more toxic the more attention Ruth gets from Russell, the new camera guy, who enabled her covert shopping mall title sequence mission. There’s a lot to be said for Sam’s ego and the way he holds onto post-divorce misogyny like an abandoned toddler with a one eyed teddy bear, but uncomfortable with how the show frames Ruth’s constant disregard for anyone’s pain, anger, or disappointment and her constant dishonesty and sneak attacks of artistic endeavors as inherently right because some of her ideas are good. Sam and Debbie are two different people, but Ruth’s behavior towards both them is often using the workplace to force them into interactions with her and to try to suffocate forgiveness out of them. It’s abusive behavior and in the current pattern of the show it seems Ruth’s self awareness and growth aren’t just at a stand still — they’re moving backwards.
All in all, it’s a pretty good episode. I forgive some of it’s cringier moments because the dinner scene between Debbie and Tamme, as well as the post punk show scene between Justine and Sam, are some of the best vulnerable but realistic scenes I’ve seen from Netflix. Moving forward I would like GLOW to tell me real stories featuring lesbians in this all women’s fighting hotel paradise, rather than just insert a character with no real plot to mention she’s a lesbian long enough for Ruth to be insulting about sex workers and for Yolando to in turn suggest that women wrestlers are just porn stars (911, what the hell was that writer’s room thinking?). If there aren’t consequences soon for Ruth’s dual wield of self-pity and theatrical god complex, the show risks undoing all the good it did in season one for the sake of a really gross character. I’m unsettled that the ensemble was supportive enough of Ruth’s accidental leadership for Reggie to get fired, but that the woman all seemed to balk and enter defensive passive aggression once they found out Debbie had become a producer.
I love that GLOW makes room for women to play a multitude of characters. Men have gotten to tell stories about terrible human beings since the dawn of time and audiences have been asked to empathize with sociopaths, cowards, narcissists, and neurotic frauds time and again. There’s certainly room for characters like Ruth Wilder to take up space and the broken ties between Ruth and Debbie are the core of the show, but the storytelling cannot celebrate and condone her shittiness for the sake of… whatever it is they think they’re doing.
Heel: Ruth, please someone stop her
Face: Keith Bang, world’s greatest ref
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