Episode 1 of Heels starts this wrestling drama off with a title match between Jack and Big Jim. We’re under no illusion though that wrestling is “fake”, with the match orchestrated and the crowd in Georgia erupting into boos as our heel wins. But what’s this? A surprise entrant knocks Jack out the ring and takes the limelight as our “babyface” Ace calls out the champ and asks for a title match.
Backstage, trouble brews as Jack is unhappy that Ace has gone completely off-script. Not only did he swear, he’s also broken four fog machines. There’s an interesting dynamic shift between the bad guy/good guy in the ring, given it’s reversed outside in the real world.
In fact, with the big match due in a week’s time and tickets all sold out, Jack is in charge of this wrestling federation and money’s obviously not grown on trees. He deliberates over the script, exactly who should win and juggling financial obligations. Jack’s partner Staci does her best to support him though, while son Thomas is along for the ride too.
Now, being a wrestler extends beyond acrobatics in the ring. Kayfabe means our players need to keep up appearances outside. At church, Jack and Ace continue their face/heel personas, even if that means Jack has to suffer in the process.
Despite Ace being a bit of a loose cannon, he’s undoubtedly drawing a crowd. The other wrestlers in the federation clearly have their own issues with this, but understandably want what’s best for the federation.
The problems with Duffy Wrestling League are only exacerbated by a rival wrestling faction called Florida Wrestling Dystopia. They’re pretty extreme (think ECW) and their owner, Charlie Gully, even offers a promotion to try and run DWL out of business. Between that and angsty wrestlers who may well jump ship, things are left precariously on a knife-edge.
Jack eventually gathers the gang and goes over the match-card and at the end, Ace is being pinned. He looks beyond the simple story of good VS evil and tries to tell a larger story but Ace is not happy. This is obviously only made worse by Ace’s earlier outburst, making Helen cry in the shop after his retort about their past.
When Crystal tells Ace what happens at the end of the scheduled match, he’s certainly not happy.Later that day, a surprise visitor rocks up in the locker room – it’s a guy called Bill. He’s an old wrestler in the federation, having built up the DWL with Jack and Ace’s late Father. He’s there with a big opportunity for Ace, a developmental contract. Although Jack refuses to entertain this idea, Bill ignores him and presents it to Ace anyway.
Well, Ace comes up with an alternate idea including a number of moves that eventually culminate in the pair shaking hands…and then being pinned from a sneaky move. It’s quite a clever idea in truth, and subverting expectations in the best possible way. Jack is not impressed though. In fact, he decides to try and shake up a new ending. This involves Big Jim getting involved and turning heel but there’s a problem with this – Big Jim’s expecting his first child and he’s on the verge of retiring.
Outside, Ace stews in his own anger until Bill picks him up to go for a ride. He encourages Ace to send a message to Jack – that the baby brother is in charge now. Just before starting the show, Ace ends up taking drugs outside.
The match card goes ahead as planned, eventually culminating in our main event. Wrestling fans will see shades of WCW here and that’s ironic, given the obvious nods toward that federation that have cropped up this episode.
Much Like Hulk Hogan VS Kevin Nash with the finger poke, the match descends into anarchy. After a German suplex, Jack looks set to actually break Ace’s arm, prompting him to give up. There’s no Goldberg interjection here though, it’s simply an angry, raucous crowd who boo the brothers. Jack’s pride has not only cost him the night – he’s also presumably ruined the federation too.
The Episode Review
Heels is a fascinating show. It’s an unflinching look at a small-time wrestling federation and the issues that come with that. At the same time though, it’s also a brotherly feud with the lines between right and wrong blurred. It’s a really intriguing story and seems to take a lot of inspiration from Warrior too, given the brotherly feud and deep-rooted issues the pair have.
Wrestling fans will absolutely lap this up but to be honest, thee story outside the ring is just as interesting as what happens inside. Given Glow’s recent cancellation, this is definitely a worthy series to pick up in its stead.
The characters are well written, interesting and the various supporting players have a lot of wiggle room across the season too. After such an incredible first episode, let’s hope the rest of the show can follow suit.