Warning: This post contains spoilers for the “Money’s in the Chase” episode of GLOW.
We here at Yahoo TV will go to the mat arguing that Netflix’s wrestling comedy, GLOW, is among this summer’s most binge-worthy series. One of the reasons it satisfies is because of its season finale, “Money’s in the Chase,” a terrific half-hour that pays off several long-running storylines and delivers lots of applause-worthy in-ring spectacles. It’s the kind of finale that leaves you wanting the next season right away, even though Netflix has yet to hand down an official renewal. In separate interviews, we broke down the episode with series stars Betty Gilpin and Britney Young — who play ex-soap star (and betrayed wife and friend) Debbie Eagan, aka Liberty Bell, and stage-fright-prone Carmen Wade, aka Machu Picchu, respectively — and got their pitches for where their characters should go in Season 2.
Gilpin got to show off some killer kayfabe
In the opening moments of “Money’s in the Chase,” a nervous Debbie appears to leave her GLOW comrades in the lurch, the very day they’re supposed to shoot their first episode. Even the prospect of battering ex-best friend Ruth — whose decision to sleep with Debbie’s husband, Mark (Rich Sommer), terminated their friendship — in the ring can’t tempt her to stay. As we learn at the end of the episode, though, Debbie’s farewell was 100 percent staged in order to make her reappearance as Liberty Bell for the final bout extra-surprising. “There’s a wrestling term called ‘kayfabe,’ which is when wrestlers perpetuate the drama outside the ring to keep up the storyline,” Gilpin explains about why Ruth and Debbie knowingly put on a show for the GLOW ensemble. “They’re exercising kayfabe in that moment, knowing that they’re being watched and playing up the drama so that everyone would be shocked. Because they are actresses first and foremost.”
Young scored the craziest match of her career
Even before receiving the script for the finale, Britney Young says, she was informed that Carmen would be facing her fiercest competitor yet. “Our wrestling coordinator, Chavo Guerrero Jr., and stunt coordinator, Shauna Duggins, pulled me aside and said, ‘You’re going up against Kia.’” That would be Kia Stevens, the lone pro among the cast, who has wrestled in such real-life leagues as the WWE and TNA Wrestling. For much of GLOW, Stevens had to keep her superior skill set in check while playing amateur wrestler Tammé Dawson, aka Welfare Queen. But for the last match of the season, Young says, the plan was to “unleash Kia,” which transformed her initial excitement into palpable fear. “I just started to panic!” Young says now. “I thought, ‘That means she’s going to go crazy.’ But then we actually started to choreograph the routine, and Kia and Chavo really made me part of the team. I’m grateful they saw me as an equal in that moment. Kia really took me under her wing.”
Gilpin and the showrunners go way back
A decade before collaborating on GLOW, Gilpin and the show’s creators, Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch, were toiling in the trenches of the New York theater scene. “I knew them first as playwrights,” the actress remembers, adding that they encountered each other again on the Showtime series Nurse Jackie. And the writers brought some of that personal history to Debbie. “I would often talk with them about how I felt like I had a weird character actor trapped inside [my body]. I was having trouble finding parts that felt authentic to me; I felt them writing things [for Debbie] that I had struggled with, and that was really exciting.” In fact, one of Debbie’s best lines in the finale is something that Gilpin herself often said on set. Speaking with Ruth after the Liberty Bell/Zoya match brings the GLOW audience to their feet, the eternally self-critical Debbie remarks: “I’m sure I’ll hate it when I see it, but it felt good.” “I say that all the time,” Gilpin says, laughing. “That line is Liz and Carly making fun of me. When I read it, I was like “Oh, touché.”
Body shamers need not apply to GLOW
Speaking with Yahoo TV before the series debuted in June, Flahive and Mensch talked about how they wanted to use GLOW as an opportunity to showcase a wide spectrum of female body types and shapes. Both Debbie and Carmen are illustrative examples of this approach; while Debbie possesses the idealized face and figure of a Hollywood leading lady, Carmen would be cast as the overweight best friend in the rom-com version of her life. But where Debbie is deeply insecure about her appearance, Carmen is wholly comfortable in her skin. It’s notable, too, that there’s only one negative reference to her weight throughout the entire run of the series, when a paramedic makes an offhand (and off-color) remark in an earlier episode. “That’s unheard of in TV today,” Young says. “I’m grateful for all the roles I’ve had, but most of them do focus on weight, either making it the butt of the joke or something that’s intimidating. Carmen isn’t like that at all. This is something that makes her who she is, so we’re going to embrace it and celebrate it. I really appreciated that.”
Like Carmen’s dad, Young’s father practiced ‘tough love’
Although she’s stepping into the ring for the first time, Carmen is the scion of wrestling royalty. Both her father and brothers bodyslam for a living, and they don’t initially warm to the idea that she’s interested in following in their footsteps. But on the night of Carmen’s big match, her family leads the applause to cheer her on. Young says she identifies with having a jock for a dad, although her own father was much more encouraging of her athletic and acting pursuits. “My dad is a high school football and basketball coach, and he was a ‘tough love’ kind of person. He plays it very straight outwardly, but then has these moments of, ‘I’m really proud of you, Brit.’ He was always encouraging, but also very honest and truthful. That, to me, is the best way to learn.”
Gilpin took a leap of faith … over and over again
If you think that flying Liberty Bell leap is fun to watch, Gilpin says it was twice as much fun to perform — even on the 100th take. “We filmed that about a hundred times,” she says, exaggerating only slightly, we’re sure. “It felt incredible.” (Also incredible? Liberty Bell’s costume was made by the same team behind many of Dolly Parton’s outfits.) The Liberty Bell/Zoya title bout was the last thing that the GLOW team filmed in a marathon, daylong shoot. “I remember that my body knew when it was the very last shot. It said, ‘Hi, I hope you’ve been enjoying yourself in the past five months. Your knee is now making a terrifying creaking noise. Your hips are in the wrong place, and your back is the back of an 80-year-old grandmother.’ I had not felt anything the day before, so it was like a complete breakdown!”
Here’s what needs to happen in Season 2
Having embraced her identity as a wrestler, Gilpin hopes that Debbie brings some of that confidence to other areas of her life. “Maybe it’s a job she’s excited about, or being a better mother,” the actress says. “Or maybe she hikes the Pacific Coast Highway and has an affair with an Argentinean woman!” Young, meanwhile, would love to see Carmen’s relationship with Chris Lowell’s rich kid, Bash, deepen … though not necessarily in a romantic way. “I actually had a huge celebrity crush on Chris back in high school when he was on the show Life as We Know It,” Young confesses. “He’s a very sweet and kind spirit. We had a lot of conversations about Bash and Carmen and how their relationship changed during the season. A lot of people are like, ‘We want Bash and Carmen to get together,’ which I think is so heartwarming. But if it goes that way, I want it to make sense for them, and I want them to have earned it. I don’t just want them to be together because that’s what people want.”
GLOW is currently streaming on Netflix.
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