Heels Season 1 Episode 1 Review: Kayfabe

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Oh, how the mighty fall.

To Jack Spade, kayfabe is everything. He and Ace grew up with it. In the shadow of their father, Tom "King" Spade, they learned that your reputation is crafted, while real life should be kept private in the wrestling world.

On Heels Season 1 Episode 1, going off script and letting his town-level fame go to his head taught Duffy Wrestling Lead's hero, Ace Spade, a helluva lesson.

Are You Unbreakable? - Heels Season 1 Episode 1

It's not as simple as that, of course.

Jack and Ace Spade spent their entire lives leading up to that moment at the end of the premiere.

We may have spent only 55 minutes in their world, but the pain, the shock, was just as sincere from our perspective.

Sibling rivalry is a bitch, but everything is heightened when you're living in the public eye. And when Tom Spade died, leaving the DWL to Jack, they were no longer just King Spade's sons but his legacy.

Jack and Willie Outside the Locker Room - Heels Season 1 Episode 1

When Jack took control of the league, he dove headfirst into creating character-driven stories that would resonate with the crowd.

Willie: Who do you think your dad'd have win?
Jack: Don't matter. He's dead.

Jack is putting his heart and his family finances into making the DWL something they can be proud of with the hope that his hard work and family's sacrifice will propel them beyond their small-town roots and into the big time.

Ace has been important to their recent success. As the Face, the hero, his charisma and good looks have captured the attention of the audience and the wrestling world at large, thanks to Jack's tireless promotion of the league as he expands the DWL online.

Ace: What? You made cuz I said fuck? They loved it!
Jack: We got kids who come to the show, Ace.
Ace: Yeah. To see me! I mean, listen to that!
Jack: When you're in the ring, you stick to my script.
Ace: Ace! Ace! Ace! Ace! You hear that?

Our introduction to the Spades and the league found Ace going off script, giving his brother and Heel rival in the ring a big F you that nearly floored Jack.

Ace Works the Audience and Crystal Cheers Him On - Heels Season 1 Episode 1

There are kids in attendance, but the bigger issue was that Ace went off script, which forced Jack's hand to address their fictional rivalry with a story that hadn't even come close to playing out.

If you're a real wrestling fan, you know that the best rivalries last for years. The narrative takes them up and down, frequently turning expectations around so that loyalties are always on the move.

Keeping the fans guessing is the main attraction.

It's always on Jack's mind, but Ace has been reveling in being the hero. When the fans chant his name, he clings to it. He needs it.

Ace Chats with Thomas - Heels Season 1 Episode 1

But outside of the ring, that adoration takes a negative toll on him.

Taking a leak in and tossing an empty beer bottle into the churchyard was bad enough, but the way he treated convenience store Helen went against everything they stand for, and on match day, it tore down the illusion of Ace as the hero.

King Spade was the hero, too, and it sounds like Ace is following in his footsteps with his errant behavior. Ace's taunting Helen included an ugly story about the Tom Spade out of the ring. It's hard to imagine growing up with a father the town loves who is anything but the hero in his home.

But that's where this story begins. When Wild Bill Hancock, the heel that made it to the big time out of Duffy, returns to scout Ace, it compounds the issue.

Wild Bill In the Dome - Heels Season 1 Episode 1

If you wonder whether Jack is too harsh on his brother, then you don't need to look any further than Bill for proof. He's a bad influence. Sure, he got out of Duffy, but if he's so darn happy about it, then why does he needs pills to get through the day?

Ace didn't even have to leave town to start letting fame go to his head and to dip his hands into drugs. He snorted up before the big match. Because of it, he could have gotten very hurt.

Jack wants to build the league. Ace is a big part of that expansion, but his ego needs checked. The wheels were already in motion after Ace went off-script. The incident with Helen and Bill's arrival took things to the next level.

Jack controls the story with an iron fist, and had these things not happened, he might have found a way for Ace to win the belt, even if the story found Jack stealing it back again down the road.

Toying With the Crowd - Heels Season 1 Episode 1

Jack and Ace are both worried the other will end up dead like their dad, but instead of using that fear of loss to draw them closer, they use it to dig at one another.

Jack imagines Ace's excesses leading to him returning home in a body bag, while Ace thinks carrying the weight of the DWL on his shoulders will be the end of Jack.

There are two ways for this story to go. They can put the garbage aside and work together, or they can become even more distant to the detriment of everyone around them.

Staci: Hey! What'd you decide for the finish?
Jack: Don't matter. It ain't real.

For the final scene, it was Jack's turn to go off-script.

Crystal: [to Ace] Are you takin' me with you when you leave Duffy?
Ace: [to Jack] Fuck the belt. I already won. I go wrestle the match of my life, and it's like you said. I get to leave, and you stay here. Forever. Till you end up killin' yourself like Dad. [Jack launches at him, choking him]

As they waited to enter the dome for their big fight, Ace pushed his brother's buttons once again, and what happened in the ring was awful to watch. It reeked of desperation, but Jack made it real, too.

Ace In the Dressing Room - Heels Season 1 Episode 1

They weren't in character, they were as real as they would ever be in that ring, and Jack had something to prove to Ace. That was a damn fine way to set the stage for Heels Season 1.

As they battle for respect and love, everyone else will have to try to keep up.

Jack's family is already suffering as he dedicates his time to the league. His son, Thomas, sees Ace as his hero, and his dad just humiliated him in the ring.

With the league only two months, Crystal gave her all to Ace, and he took her for granted. He was considering tossing her aside while she wondered if he would take her with him on his rise to the big leagues.

Crystal Looks In on Ace - Heels Season 1 Episode 1

Big Jim, another league Face, has decided to retire. Rooster has eyes on a bigger prize than being an opening act. He wants a shot at the belt.

All of them were shocked at what happened in the ring, and the season will launch out of that unexpected move, revealing things you won't see coming.

Anyone who watches TV knows how much we love a redemption story. Scripted wrestling offers characters to be on all sides and rise and fall, just like life. Jack and Ace both have plenty of room for improvement, and I can't wait to see if they can rise to the challenge as brothers.

Hopefully, you caught all of our interviews and read my early review of the series for more info. The full recap of the premiere can be found by clicking the link to the episode at the beginning of this article.

There is so much more to cover, and we'll go much deeper as the season progresses. I hope we'll see you here!!

Kayfabe Review

Editor Rating: 4.25 / 5.0
  • 4.3 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.6 / 5.0 (5 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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Heels Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

Jack: That's not fair. You put sex on my mind before church. How dare you?
Staci: Well, after church we can go see a movie. I'll leave my underwear in the car.

Ace: What? You made cuz I said fuck? They loved it!
Jack: We got kids who come to the show, Ace.
Ace: Yeah. To see me! I mean, listen to that!
Jack: When you're in the ring, you stick to my script.
Ace: Ace! Ace! Ace! Ace! You hear that?