[Editor’s Note: The following article contains spoilers for “GLOW” Season 2, Episode 8, “The Good Twin.”]
At this point, it’s pretty much a cliche for a prestige TV show to toss in a standalone episode in the latter half of the season. It’s usually some sort of concept episode, told from a particular point of view or a bottle episode crafted into something any passing viewer could enjoy. On Netflix alone, there’s “Ozark” (Episode 8), “Stranger Things” (Season 2, Episode 7), “Altered Carbon” (Episode 7), “Dear White People” (Season 2, Episode 8), “BoJack Horseman” (Season 4, Episode 9), and “Master of None” (Season 2, Episode 8, but there are many examples for these last two shows).
Yet “GLOW’s” Season 2 spin on this trendy format is pretty special. Episode 8, “The Good Twin,” is both an episode of “GLOW” — the Netflix original series starring Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin, and Marc Maron — and an episode of “GLOW: The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling,” the wrestling program broadcast on K-DTV in the 1980s. It’s a show-within-a-show, but it’s not a break from the season’s ongoing arcs; it’s a celebration of them. “The Good Twin” is both a pertinent reminder to appreciate each individual episode of “GLOW” and a culmination of what Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch’s series has been building.
On its face, Episode 8 tracks Olga (played by Brie) as she travels to the United States to foil her twin sister Zoya’s “evil plot”; Zoya (also played by Brie) is trying to sell Liberty Bell’s daughter into slavery, but the self-proclaimed “good twin” won’t go along with her sister’s plan. The B-story finds Black Magic (Sydelle Noel) putting a spell on Britannica (Kate Nash) that essentially trades the brilliant scientist’s brains so she can bring to life the man-nequin of her dreams, Thomas (Chris Lowell).
The episode is filled with dream sequences, music videos, and “epic” wrestling — all the elements introduced by characters over a season-and-a-half of TV. In this way, “The Good Twin” pays off on a whole lot of teases, from director Sam Sylvia’s low-budget blend of wrestling and horror flicks to the addictive montages deftly recreated in the front-facing “GLOW” episode. Even the drug-peddling robot from Bash’s mansion makes a cameo. Viewers get to see exactly what the cast has been passionately working on this whole time — plus the makeshift parts used to assemble it — and the episode doesn’t disappoint.
These are the simple joys of Episode 8, but there are more riches to savor. For one, even though it’s a standalone episode, “The Good Twin” still progresses Season 2’s story. Not only does it answer logistical questions about how they’ll make the show with Ruth even though she’s sustained an immobilizing injury (so no wrestling), but that choice sets up the finale’s big surprise: Ruth wins the crown. Sam goes out of his way to orchestrate a twist no one sees coming, including his co-director. Even though their relationship has developed nicely over these 10 new episodes, the extra screen time and narrative given to Ruth in Episode 8 shows how far Sam is willing to go to keep her in the show; hence, she’s the big winner at season’s end.
Of course, “The Good Twin” also moves the story forward by ending on Justine’s mom, who is just now learning where her daughter has been all these months. But even though that bluntly pushes things along, Episode 8 is critical for how it brings viewers to a halt. Anyone chugging along through a five-hour binge are going to take a second look at this episode, whether they like it or not (and they should love it). That’s a rewarding practice in its own right, as it reminds viewers each individual half-hour has been carefully crafted and deserves its own consideration.
All of these attributes give the episode purpose beyond itself:
- It highlights the characters the cast has created.
- It’s incredibly fun in and of itself.
- It moves the story forward and it reminds viewers to appreciate every moment, instead of bingeing through at a rapid pace.
That may not mean it’s the best episode of the season, but it might be the most important. For even more on “The Good Twin” (and “GLOW” Season 2 overall), make sure to listen to this week’s Very Good TV Podcast. IndieWire TV Editor Liz Shannon Miller and TV Critic Ben Travers dissect their favorite aspects of the season and dig into all fun things “GLOW.”
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