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Heels on Starz, Episode 7: “The Big Bad Fish Man,” reviewed

With no episode last week, I was over the moon to be back with my friends in Duffy on Sunday evening. 

The cold open to “The Big Bad Fish Man” saw another flashback of Tom Spade, this time in the car with Jack. We got another look at his more recent backstory and how we got to this point.

Jack threw a bunch of ideas for positive change at the DWL at Tom, but Papa Spade wasn’t having it. Tom told Jack that if he could pin him to the ground for real then he’d turn the DWL over to his son. I loved this scene, I love the stuff with Tom. By contextualizing Tom, we see how similar Jack is. It was just weird when they did a collar and elbow tie-up on the side of the road.

I underestimated how rich FWD Promoter Charlie Gully is. This guy runs a fishing & hunting store, has a mansion, and a helicopter, which they flew to the DWL Dome to plaster with FWD fliers. The party that Gully later throws is even more absurd.

While drugs are present, with Ace snorting lines of cocaine backstage at the FWD show, I’m finding it hard to believe that Charlie Gully is more than a customer. How else could one afford to print fliers on cardstock? I couldn’t imagine any independent wrestling promoter ever throwing a soiree as big as the one at the Gully mansion. I did love the “yankee and the brave (Ep. 4)” needle drop in this scene. There’ve been some great music choices in this show.

One of the funniest parts of the party sequence was Gully having a sit-down discussion with Ace, and one of his tactics to recruit Ace away from the DWL was showing him a fan-fiction artwork of Jack you-know-what’ing Ace, much to the younger Spade’s disgust. 

Crystal delivered a letter to Jack and has a great monologue about how sorry she is about going off-script, and how much she loves wrestling, and Jack just no-sold it. It looked like Crystal was out the door but she came back and tried out to be a wrestler, not just a valet, and she outshined everyone, even “the Dad”, to the point where Willie wanted to put her in the main event. Crystal, from what I’ve seen, has become a fan favorite on this show. She’s perfectly cast, an ideal prototype of a white-meat babyface. Her romance with Bobby is also a piece that a lot of fans are invested in. 

Wild Bill remains the ultimate Heat Check character. He wasn’t in more than a third of this episode, but almost everything he says is funny. A highlight for me was Jack opening up the floor to discuss the creative of the triangle ladder match where he defends the DWL belt against Ace and Bill. “Here’s an idea to kick off your discussion. I should win. End of discussion”, was Bill’s pitch. Ace also said he wants to win. Jack did say the belt will change hands but he isn’t sure to whom. It clearly makes the most sense to put it on Ace even though he is a bit of a train-wreck as a person, but this is the wrestling business. 

Jack and Staci’s son Tom got suspended for a week for punching a bully in the face. This bully had to be no older than ten years old (in the show at least) and he told Tom to “get fucked”. Do kids this young actually speak like this? Right before Staci got the phone call about this, she accepted an offer from Eddie and Annie Earl to sing the national anthem at the State Fair. It was good to see Staci get a win of sorts here, but there’s always more drama coming down the pike whether it’s her son punching a kid in the face, or Jack and his fledgling DWL. 

The biggest reveal of this episode was that the kleenex packets that fans threw at Ace when he tried to cut a face-saving promo were actually supplied by Jack. Staci found a packet in the bathroom and went to the grocery store she works at and had her manager find the purchase in their records. This is great television writing.

When Ace is backstage at the FWD event, which is well-attended and has strong production value, between doing drugs and other galavanting, he FaceTimed Crystal and told her he’s jumping ship and announcing it at the event and he wants her to come with him. Not for a second was Il thinking that Crystal would join Ace, and she didn’t, she instead further proved her loyalty to the DWL and told Jack.

The episode ended with Jack driving to the FWD show, arriving right as Ace is about to be introduced. Jack rolls into the ring and, like his son, punches Gully in the face and tells him to not “come for his shit.” As Gully collects lost teeth, Rooster says to Ace “man, y’all got a fucked up family”. That one line by Rooster sums up this show. It’s not a show about wrestling. It’s about complicated families, both the immediate Spade family and that of the DWL.

I thought this was one of the stronger episodes. In the season finale next week, everything will come to a head at the State Fair after this masterful groundwork. With episode six garnering 93,000 viewers, I like to think that they can crack 100,00 for the final episode of the season. What I want is a second season because this show has been great. Michael Waldron is elite.

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