In the conclusion of last week’s episode, Jack and Ace seemingly mended fences and were now intent on getting Duffy Wrestling League back on track following Jack’s double-cross. In episode 3, titled “Cheap Heat,” Heels explores their first steps at making things right, as Jack brings in wrestling veteran Ricky Rabies (CM Punk) to ensure a big crowd is present for Ace’s grand return to the top. However, the show is not a smooth ride. With a splash of wrestling’s current hottest star CM Punk, a few slamming moments of blurring the lines of wrestling and real life, as well as a range of compelling character predicaments – Heels proves it’s at its best when working off the events unfolding inside the squared circle.
Heels kicks off with an incredible flashback scene this week that hooks, stuns, and informs its audience. It provides us with our first scene featuring the much-talked-about Tom Spade (David James Elliot), Jack and Ace’s father. It shows Tom going for a run, passing the DWL billboard and the friendly people of Duffy before returning home to complete some chores. However, without any warning for the viewer, Tom gets a gun and shoots himself at the step outside his house, as a horrified Ace finds him moments later. It’s a beautiful example of visual and compelling storytelling, and although this moment is not the central focus of “Cheap Heat’s” narrative, it provides us with a deeper understanding of our central characters’ emotional state. In addition to this, it serves as a setup for some powerful moments later on.
Unlike last week’s episode, Heels firmly plants itself back in the wrestling ring this week, as the story intelligently unfolds during DWL’s latest show, which also provides the episode with a series of events to look forward to, something last week’s episode lacked. It also plays off the tease created last week of Ace turning heel, which creates a new series of compelling issues between Jack and Ace, and after Ace fails miserably to win over the fans, Jack tries to explain the benefits of him being a heel. But after a furious Ace brings up their father’s history as DWL’s babyface, Jack once again blurs their wrestling life and personal life with the powerful line: “Tom Spade was a face, alright. Because he was a good guy? He was a real good guy.” It’s a hard-hitting moment, made all the more impactful due to the opening and Stephen Amell’s wonderful delivery. However, as compelling as Ace and Jack’s ongoing story is, this week offers plenty of interesting sub-stories as well.
Throughout “Cheap Heat,” the show provides its fascinating contrast of the old and new dynamic of women in wrestling. Although Heels is set in the present time, its presentation of women, specifically Ace’s valet Crystal, paints more of an image of wrestling in the ’80s, which makes Crystal a great sympathetic character. In this episode, she meets Ricky Rabies’ valet, who advises her to latch onto Ace and do whatever he needs, as that’s her only chance for success in wrestling. She tries to follow that advice, but it doesn’t work out so well. For wrestling fans, and perhaps audiences in general who have seen the (long overdue) growth of women in various industries, it provides a wonderful culture clash of women’s expectations then versus now, as well as a relatable story.
CM Punk’s introduction into the series comes at the perfect time for Heels, considering he just broke the internet with his return to professional wrestling last week. Fortunately, Punk’s more than just a recognizable face; he’s a real scene-stealer as Ricky Rabies. As the name would suggest, Ricky is a comical character that brings a refreshing dose of humour so audiences have a few moments of rest from the constant drama. It’s also visible, particularly in Ricky and Jack’s entertaining wrestling match where Ricky amusingly hurts his knee, that Punk is having a lot of fun with his character. Despite being a smaller part of this episode, Ricky Rabies is a refreshing addition to the show.
Staci’s ongoing struggle with Jack and his obsession with DWL is also strong, as is Rooster Robbins’ belief that race has played a part in him not main-eventing. However, the episode does have a few weak moments, specifically the inclusion of yet another graphic sex scene between Ace and Crystal, which now feels more like shameless flaunting of their attractive leads than a meaningful storytelling device.
Overall, Heels raises its game this week, and much like Duffy Wrestling League succeeded in bringing back fans, this week’s episode succeeds in ensuring fans stay engrossed in the story thanks to a wonderful and symbolic climax that takes us through a range of emotions, as well as providing countless teases of the trouble the Spade’s family has ahead of them.
Heels Episode 3 drops on Sunday, August 29, on StarzPlay.