We have a serious new contender for the title of Most Fun Episode of 2018, courtesy of Netflix’s Eighties wrestling comedy GLOW. The second season’s eighth installment, “The Good Twin,” is … an episode of GLOW. That is, it’s an episode of the cheesy local TV show that Debbie (Betty Gilpin), Ruth (Alison Brie) and friends star in; the only real-world snippet comes at the very end, when a TV viewer recognizes Justine (Britt Baron) as her runaway daughter. Loaded with corny comedy sketches and ridiculous song parodies – the peak is a “We Are the World”-style tune, performed by the entire cast, with lyrics like, “Don’t kidnap! / Kidnapping is wrong to do!” – it’s a stylistic departure (one of two this season, along with the superb fourth episode, “Mother of All Matches,” that focuses on Debbie and Kia Stevens’ Tammé). But it also winds up subtly paying off a number of the season’s character arcs, as well as demonstrating where things stand between the volatile director Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron) and his stars. In a postmortem interview, GLOW creators Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch offered eight key reveals about how the episode came together.
They had the idea for this episode last season – but held off.
“At one point, we discussed closing Season One with a full episode where we never really break from the show,” says Mensch. “And it was clear that we weren’t there yet in terms of our story and our characters and what you needed to understand and feel it.”
There was also a more practical reason to hold off: The actors do their own wrestling moves, and they needed more training to get good enough for the extended matches shown in this format. Mensch cites Gilpin as this year’s MVP: “She wrestled more than anybody the whole season and I feel like that was like a triumph and a feat of strength that I don’t know if she could’ve done last year.”
It wasn’t meant to be a gimmick.
“We wanted to pay off stories that already happened,” says Flahive, “and then set up more stories going forward. And we wanted to do a lot of work so it didn’t just feel like a detour.”
So, for instance, the show-within-the-show features the opening credits sequence that Ruth directed at the start of the season, before she was shot down by control-freak Sam, as a way to demonstrate how much the duo’s work relationship has changed and grown warmer.
It also includes a Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers-style dance number between Yolanda (Shakira Barrera) and Arthie (Sunita Mani) that makes the latter realize she’s attracted to her partner, spurring a relationship between them.
“Sunita is a beautiful dancer,” says Mensch. “She’s also a weird dancer; she’s in a comedy dance troupe. And we’ve been sneaking in this idea about her character being in the wrong place. She was sent to med school, but actually she’s a creative weirdo who maybe wants to be a dancer. We also wanted to set up this Arthie/Yolanda thing – and the dance felt like the most romantic and organic way to do that.”
There was no sketch idea too absurd, so long as there was meaning behind it.
Flahive says they wanted a “shaggy, fucked-up quality” to the sketches, and had to convince their crew to do what appeared to be less than their best work so it would seem convincing as something Sam, Bash (Chris Lowell) and the wrestlers could throw together with minimal budget and notice. A scene where Gayle Rankin’s Sheila the She-Wolf is molested by a goat puppet, for instance, inspired their prop master to get a puppet that looked too good. Flahive insisted, “We need fur and duct tape. And that’s kinda it.”
“It appears to be our stupidest moment and it was where we were our most fastidious,” says Mensch.
Notably, though the goat sketch is perhaps the most delightfully stupid thing in an episode full of them, it’s also there to follow up on Ruth being sexually harassed by a network executive.
“Talking to Gayle,” explains Mensch, “that was motivated by her wanting to make her own type of response to what happened to Ruth. That was her version, exposing this type of behavior.”
“We wanted to make the sketches really particular to some of the characters,” says Flahive. “Like, what would Arthie really want to do if she were pitching a sketch? What would Melrose really wanna do if she were pitching a sketch? How would Sam wanna shoot this thing? As ridiculous as we wanted it to be, we also wanted it to be motivated from character. So I feel like that sort of kept us from going, ‘We just want it to be as dumb and silly as possible.’ Inherently, it’s gonna be dumb and joyful.
“It’s dumb but it’s deep,” she adds.
It delivers twice the cartoonish Russian accent from Alison Brie.
Brie plays both Ruth’s villainous wrestler alter ego Zoya and her good twin sister, Olga – which means that if you (like me) greatly enjoy Brie doing this Boris-and-Natasha-style accent, you get way more of it than usual. The creators recall that their star figured out the accent pretty quickly in Season One.
“I think the joy of it is imperfection,” says Mensch. “You have to start pretty bad. And then you have to stop yourself from making the accent better.”
“The thing that felt so exciting to us,” says Flahive, “is having her play not one but two Russian characters; it felt bananas. And it also answered a narrative question of: With her injury, how is she going to stay central in the show even if she can’t wrestle? So it was just fun to lean into that fully and also have it play off of things that we were doing in the sort of outside-of-the-show narrative.”
The Britannica sketch had a “weird” origin.
Ever since the writers decided that Cherry (Sydelle Noel) would adopt a new wrestling persona as voodoo priestess Black Magic, they began preparing for a magic-vs.-science showdown between her and Rhonda, a.k.a. wrestling nerd Britannica (Kate Nash). A lot of “The Good Twin” takes place in Britannica’s science lab, where she’s trying to build her own perfect boyfriend.
“Carly has been pissed of after watching Weird Science for, like, a year, so I feel like we had some things to work through,” explains Flahive.
It’s not meant to be an exact recreation of what a real GLOW episode looked like in the Eighties.
“I don’t think we’re honoring the structure so much as the spirit of mixing genres that don’t belong together,” says Flahive. “We intentionally didn’t study the structure of it so that we wouldn’t copy it. We knew that we would want two matches, because our show is half the size of their show. Theirs is an hour, ours is a half-hour. So we kind of left structure behind.”
It was now or never for this idea.
The season ends with the cancellation of the show-within-the-show, and with Sam and the women all relocating to Las Vegas to continue the Glorious Ladies of Wrestling as a live stage revue. So the writers knew they had to throw everything they could into the episode before the TV iteration of GLOW vanished for a while. This principle extended to sets, too, as part of the mission to rescue Liberty Belle’s kidnapped daughter from Zoya takes place in the lobby of the motel where the women have been living.
“We wanted to make sure you were seeing the places you saw repurposed,” says Flahive. “It was definitely something we thought about in terms of sets we might not see again for a while.”
Everybody did her own singing for the kidnapping song.
Nash is a successful singer-songwriter, and Jackie Tohn, who plays Melrose, was an American Idol semifinalist back in 2009. So they and a few of the other actors were ringers when it came time for the episode’s musical numbers. But everyone in the cast can hold pitch, according to Flahive, and the kidnapping music video – with lyrics by Nick Jones (who wrote the episode with Rachel Shukert), and music by Craig Wedren, Bo Boddie and Lara Meyeratken – was filmed live that day.
“It just works, which is also another miracle,” says Flahive. “They can all wrestle, they can all sing.”
The filming of that video was a highlight for everyone working on Season Two, as almost the entire crew turned out to watch it, whether they were needed on set that day or not.
“The making of this episode was – they were just all so fucking happy,” says Flahive. “They were really free.”
Adds Mensch, “They kept being like, ‘I can’t believe people are letting us do this. I can’t believe this is my job.'”