10 minutes into the very first episode of GLOW, and I’m chuckling like a teenager. By the end of the thing, I am hooked onto the struggles of Ruth Wilder (Allison Brie of Scream 4 fame), an actress in the rollicking days of the 80s where the words ‘strong female lead’ didn’t exist in that particular sequence.
GLOW opens up with Ruth reading for a part, one that seems to portray a high-powered executive woman facing the power plays of a corporate setting. Unfortunately, she happens to be reading the male lead’s lines, and the part she’s reading for consists of one single line calling for the male lead to answer the phone. In that quick few minutes, we learn that a) Ruth is a serious actress, and that b) she will take any opportunity to shine, given that she purposely read the male lead’s lines.
80s Hollywood is no place for a woman looking to be a serious actress, and that is what brings Ruth to a casting for the newly formed all-women’s wrestling promotion, GLOW – which, gloriously enough, stands for Glamorous Ladies of Wrestling. Complete with a sleazy promoter in Sam Silvia (the incomparable Marc Maron), the auditions don’t go very well for Ruth, but as a desperate actress still asking her parents for rent money, she clings on to that one lifeline and attempts to engross herself in professional wrestling, watching Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage heralding in wrestling’s golden era.
The next day of tryouts sees Ruth return to the gym, decked out in makeshift pro-wrestler spandex, and proceeds to bomb once again – until the arrival of her friend, Debbie Eagan (Betty Gilpin), who has a bone to pick with the woman who slept with her husband. The ensuing shoot fight gives Sam a fit of inspiration, and the rest is history.
There’s a lot to like about this episode. The characters come off as very real – from Ruth’s reaction to what seems like the worst day of her life to Debbie’s wordless rage when she discovers her husband’s infidelity. The supporting cast is barely fleshed out at this point of the story, but shows tons of promise as the women will eventually have to come together as a roster, and in pro wrestling, failing to take care of each other can mean serious injury.
The comedy bits will have you gasping for laughter, and wrestling fans will find a lot to love in a show that peels back the inner workings of the industry. The rivalry between Ruth and Debbie is prime dirt sheet material, and back in the 80s when kayfabe (meaning, maintaining the internal logic of the wrestling world -some wrestlers were attacked for keeping kayfabe back in the day) ruled the locker room, rumours about a rivalry based on someone’s husband cheating would’ve probably made for big box office bucks.
It’s also interesting to note that in her search for empowerment, Ruth turns to pro wrestling – an industry that had a well-deserved bad reputation for treating female talents back in the 90s, and still struggles with that image today. However, in the context of the story – as an actress pursuing a strong lead part powered by realistic motivations, there may be a certain appeal in wrestling, especially in an all-female promotion like GLOW, as the pro wrestler is a symbol of the superhuman athlete, presented in a soap opera format where it just so happens physical might is the be-all, end-all of every argument.
All in all, this first episode of GLOW holds plenty of promise with a cast that feels real, an interesting twist on the women’s empowerment trend, and a platform that is sure to amplify all the base narratives of human drama. Ruth and Debbie have great chemistry together, as befits the rivalry that will anchor this show moving forward, and I can’t wait to load up the next episode.