Professional wrestling is one of the more peculiar and fascinating forms of entertainment for a multitude of reasons, one of them being its ability to walk that fine line between fact and fiction like few other art forms can. It’s one of the few (perhaps only) professions that will take the participants of a real-life love triangle and transfer the situation into the fictional world of wrestling. However, those stories that come from a very real place have often been some of the most engaging ones in wrestling history (E.g. Matt Hardy vs. Edge and Lita). This week, Heels effectively applies that concept to their show, as tensions between Ace, Crystal, and Bobby Pin, as well as Jack and Wild Bill, spill over into the Duffy Wrestling League ring. Unfortunately for Jack, it comes at a time when DWL is on the cusp of a game-changing deal that will see them perform at the South Georgia State Fair in front of 10, 000 people. But all the ingredients do make for a cracking episode.
The episode kicks off with Crystal in the middle of the ring, surrounded by a steel cage, with a spotlight on her. In character, she cuts a “heel” promo as Ace’s valet – a very good one at that, and moments later, the lights come on while we hear Jack and the other wrestlers praise Crystal’s work, only for Ace to interject and criticize Crystal’s promo, causing Jack to side with him. Immediately after, Ace aggressively works with Bobby in preparation for their cage match while Jack receives the call from South Georgia State Fair. It’s a fantastic opening that showcases the preparation involved for major wrestling moments, and it sets the stakes of the DWL’s chance at big-time, as well as laying the foundation for this week’s central drama involving Ace, Crystal, and Bobby.
It’s been said (by this critic) that Heels shines brightest when the wrestling takes centre stage, and that was once again evident this week. Unlike last week, the episode never lags, and there’s always something to look forward to as at any moment it appears the characters’ real world could disrupt their fictional one, all the while costing the DWL its chance at the fair. Whether it’s Ace throwing a wrench into his match with Bobby by replacing Crystal as his manager, Rooster’s ongoing resentment towards Jack’s decision-making, or Wild Bill hovering around DWL’s show and trying to take back the spotlight. Everything is woven together beautifully through the events of DWL’s show, and the added addition of the real-life drama making its way into DWL’s fictional storylines while the stakes for the company have never been higher makes it all the more engaging.
Heels includes other effective elements like Jack’s relationship with his son, which is becoming stronger due to his son embracing the family business, and this is summed up by a beaming smiling that appears on Jack’s face as they enter a building. The relationship also endears Jack to the audience while his brother becomes more and more of a heel. In addition to this, Wild Bill is utilized more effectively this week as he is a consistent presence that dives in and out of the drama involving other characters, most notably Ace and Crystal’s story. It’s Wild Bill’s words to Crystal, which hold weight and are, in fact, true in many ways, that lead to Crystal’s actions setting the tone for a roller coaster ride of a climax.
The show concludes with a wonderful climax that goes from the ticking time bomb that is Ace vs. Bobby Pin with Crystal and Ace’s new ditsy valet ringside. From there, we go to Wild Bill luring Jack into giving him what he wants by bringing their animosity to the ring, without Jack’s knowledge, and after a series of injuries, arguments, and unexpected events – the outcome of DWL’s opportunity is intelligently undersold due to other personal matters taking precedent. When you think the show’s going to zig, it zags, and by using the platform of a wrestling show, it presents the drama in a unique and appealing way.
“Swerve,” which is the title of this week’s episode, does, however, come with a few weak points. The idea for Ace vs. Bobby’s ending is great, but the show goes a tad too far from a visual standpoint when it shows the injury that has occurred, which unfortunately does not come off as good as one would hope. It takes you out of the dramatic moment a little and breaks that suspension of disbelief. Also, a scene involving Crystal and Bobby, where the two have to make out in order for Willie to take a picture for the show, showcases more of the sleazy culture of wrestling’s past, one that many fans do not appreciate so much these days.
After a disappointing episode last week, Heels comes back with a bang. From start to finish, you’re invested in every aspect of this week’s show, and wrestling fans will no doubt appreciate how the out-of-the-ring drama is showcased through traditional wrestling promos this week. Plus, after a powerful conclusion to the show, there are so many exciting places Heels can now go.
Heels episode 5 drops today (September 12) on StarzPlay.