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    Tuesday, October 12, 2021

    Heels Season 1, Episode 8 Review: Main Event Finish



    If I'm Jack Spade, I'd seriously reconsider staying in the wrestling business. The dude's been involved in four shows that went off-script and then resulted in actual violence—and he wasn't even supposed to be part of one of those shows! I get that that's where the drama in Heels is supposed to come from—the fact that pro wrestling is supposed to be predetermined, so conflict arises when things don't go as planned. But, man, nothing really seems to be going right for Jack in the world of pro wrestling, even when it seemed like the State Fair was supposed to be the DWL's biggest victory to date.

    The season finale started with a flashback to young Ace asking teenage Jack if the latter liked him. Their exchange told us that Jack feels a responsibility to protect Ace as a way of showing his love, but that it also didn't stop him from resenting his younger brother because of the preferential treatment from Tom Spade. Minutes later, the Father of the Year (/s) came in and abused poor Jack once again, showing just how terrible and toxic he was in his life. Not only that, but he even went so far as to say that he owned Ace, and that's why Jack couldn't touch him before taking liberties with his older son. I really don't feel sorry for Tom and his eventual fate on the show. The dude's just a monster.

    Cut to the present day and Jack's standing over Charlie Gully, who then calls for the FWD roster and security to chase after his assailant. A drunk Ace sobers up enough to realize he has to help Jack fend off the bouncers and run the fuck out of the FWD arena, which actually turned out to be a fun action/getaway sequence.

    As the Spade brothers drove home from Florida to Duffy, Jack explained his plan for the State Fair main event to Ace: a double-turn that establishes Wild Bill as a monster heel and Ace as an underdog babyface en route to being the DWL Champion. Ace thought Jack told him everything he wanted to hear because he was close to defecting to FWD. Jack reasoned back that he was doing it to protect Ace from an exploitative manipulator in Charlie Gully. Ace calls himself the "stud horse" and, in a brief moment of self-awareness, realized that he really just is a product that everyone wants to trot out there for their own benefit—whether it was Tom, Jack, or Gully. The sad part is that Jack doesn't see that because his head is stuck too far up his own ass that he thinks he's still doing it in the name of protecting his younger brother.

    Back at the FWD, Rooster finally realized what Gully had been up to, but kept his cards close to the vest. Instead, he tried to show Gully how valuable he really was by offering insight into how the FWD could strike back at the Spades. He egged Gully into invading the DWL's event at the State Fair because that's how he could hurt them the most. And there's your clue that this main event isn't going to go as planned yet again.

    Speaking of hitting Jack where it hurts the most, he came home to an empty house, realizing that Staci had taken Thomas and stayed over at her friend Courtney's. Later in the episode, Jack drove over to Courtney's place so he and Staci could hash out their differences. Staci held Jack accountable for all of his bullshit: from the Kleenex bit in the pilot to humiliating Ace, getting violent with Ace at the hospital in front of Thomas, and even driving to Florida to punch Charlie Gully in the latter's own ring. Jack kept justifying everything by saying that he needed to do all these things—mainly because he's protecting Ace from his self-destructive tendencies—but Staci's not buying it.



    I get it. Jack's intentions are good here. He ultimately wants to keep Ace under control and let him make his mistakes here in Duffy while he can afford to mess up. The problem with Jack is he seems to not have been able to process his trauma from his toxic relationship with Tom, which reflects on how he's supposedly guiding Ace to be a better person. This is why Staci finds herself disconnecting from her husband. He's acting like a heel in real life, and as she mentioned, it's the babyface she fell in love with. 

    As much of a scumbag Jack tends to be, I'm rooting for him and Staci to patch things up by the next season. They seem like the kind of couple who actually can keep each other grounded and push each other to be better if they just got their shit together. And more importantly, I love the chemistry that Stephen Amell and Alison Luff have here, especially when they parry their lines either in the good times or the bad.

    Let's go check in on Ace, whose exploits in Florida have magically convinced him to stop being a jackass and just be a good person. After retrieving his mother's car in Florida, he and Big Jim meet up at the Coopers' convenience store, where he offers Helen a non-apologetic apology for his actions earlier in the season. While it's nice to see some continuity, I was all in on how hilariously awkward the entire sequence was. It's pretty clear that while Ace had good intentions, his execution was sloppy, and the show wasn't going to let him get away with it that easily.

    Meanwhile, good ol' Wild Bill pays Crystal a visit and offers her to be the latest Bunny Bombshell—Wild Bill's signature valet through the decades. She neither speaks nor wrestles. She just has to stand there and look hot while being Wild Bill's arm candy—basically, everything Crystal doesn't want to be. It's heartbreaking seeing her resigned to her fate, but to her, it beats not being part of the State Fair at all, so she takes him up on his offer.

    All of this leads to the 10,000-seater arena where the DWL is performing at the State Fair! Hearing a pre-show pep talk is something I miss from my days in the local scene, and I can't lie, watching the DWL get hyped right before their event started brought back some good memories for me. While Crystal looks herself in the mirror and accepts that Bunny Bombshell 2021 is what she's become, Wild Bill takes some uppers backstage, and you know that's got to have a payoff in the main event.

    And pay off it did. The 3-Way between Wild Bill, Jack, and Ace actually got off to a great start until Bill's insides got the better of him and he soiled his pants (and the apron). Let it not be said that Heels didn't portray pro wrestling realistically through this plot twist. Just when you think everything's going well, Charlie Gully and his FWD goons make their presence known and hijack the show by, well, chanting for Jack and then busting out the Kleenex. This is another thing the show realistically shows since we know how fans can hijack shows by not reacting the way a promoter intended them to.

    Much to Jack's horror, this forces him and Ace to confront each other on top of the fucking ladder. I mean, yes, these brothers do have to talk about the Kleenex issue. But couldn't they wait for the match and event to end?! Ever the paragon of calm, Ace loses control of his emotion and starts fighting with Jack for real, which just kills the main event. Poor Bobby Pin doesn't know what to do as the referee, and if I were him, I probably wouldn't either. The fans are upset and begin to boo, and it mirrors the end of the pilot after Jack shot on Ace and humiliated him.



    This all leads to Crystal's moment of redemption, which I'd wanted to see all series long. She finally takes off the bunny ears, gets in the ring, and challenges the Spades to get physical with her. Thankfully, her limited moveset—a rana and a suplex—were all she needed to immobilize Jack and Ace, who were already pretty banged up anyway. I have to give Wild Bill some props here because he had his own moment of redemption by swallowing his pride and letting the world see his shitstain, all in the name of beating down Gully and his men so that Crystal can climb up and grab the DWL Championship.

    It was an earned feel-good moment, but it also wasn't without its untied loose ends. For one, it's great that Crystal's finally won the title. She seems to be beloved enough in the locker room for the boys to not get upset that she's now the champion from out of nowhere. But where does she go from here? She has the natural ability and knows some moves, but she's not as good of a wrestler as Jack or Ace.

    And then there's Ace. His walk-out at the end mirrored the pilot, where Jack walked towards the camera as it zoomed towards his chest and then faded to black. He looks like he's finally had enough of Jack and the DWL, and to be honest, he's probably better off starting fresh somewhere else. There's too much history and toxicity for him and his family, and the dude just needs to get away and be his own man now that he knows he's capable of being a good person.

    Jack missed Staci's biggest performance yet, and it highlighted how he and Staci have been pulling away from one another as they both pursued what made them happy as individuals. Are they going to meet in the middle and reconcile? Is Jack finally going to give Staci and Thomas the time that they deserve? And will Jack finally talk to Staci about their finances?

    As for Charlie Gully, you know this beef between the DWL and FWD will not end here. Not with his petty ass still being around—and not being entirely humiliated—and not with Rooster still waiting in the wings over in Florida.

    As of writing, Heels hasn't been renewed for a second season. But they have given us enough material to get excited about if and when they decide for another go-round. While I've really appreciated how the drama has been rooted in the Spade family's story, I want them to explore the industry more from the eyes of the individual wrestlers. I want to know more about Crystal, Apocalypse, Diego Cottonmouth, Ricky Rabies, The Dad, Rooster, and whoever else comes and goes through DWL. The industry is rich with so many stories about all the different personalities that have come through the ranks, and the show could build on the universe they built in the first season by highlighting the other wrestlers. Otherwise, the show risks being like Star Wars, framed as family drama disguised as an intergalactic war story.

    Cheap Takes From the Cheap Seats

    • Of course, this episode couldn't pass without another hilariously written exchange involving Apocalypse and Diego Cottonmouth. This time, they had Debbie as a scene partner, who unwittingly interrupted their voice-over recording session and ended up getting a witty-ass earful from the two wrestlers.
    • Hey, they brought Ricky Rabies (CM Punk) back for the finale!
    • So Big Jim came back for the State Fair show because they needed warm bodies, and yet they put him, Ricky Rabies, Apocalypse, and Diego Cottonmouth in one match. Well, what the fuck's on the rest of the card then?!
    • Speaking of the rest of the card, where was The Dad???
    • Ace mentioning Ric Flair's 30 For 30 is another confirmation that the WWE does exist in the Heels universe.

    Images from Starz

    *****

    Stan Sy (@_StanSy) is the Editor at Large of Smark Henry and is also a TV and events host, a freelance writer, and a podcaster. His podcasts include On Deck with Stan SyNow Steaming: A Tsinoy Podcast, and The Wrestling-Wrestling Podcast. He also used to be one of the hosts and writers of The Wrestling Gods on FOX Philippines. He enjoys watching WWE, AEW, and the occasional New Japan match.
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    Item Reviewed: Heels Season 1, Episode 8 Review: Main Event Finish Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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