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Stream It Or Skip It?

We miss GLOW, and think that Netflix should have given it a final season. If you’re like us, you may want to check out a new Mexican dramedy that involves women wrestlers, this time in the anything-goes world of lucha libre.

Opening Shot: Overhead shots of a working-class Mexico City neighborhood. Then we switch to a woman receiving her possessions as she gets out of prison.

The Gist: Ángela (Caraly Sánchez) has just finished a six-year prison sentence for drug possession, a charge that she has consistently denied. One of the possessions she gets is a backpack with roses embroidered on it. She said it wasn’t hers going in, and she maintains that leaving the prison.

Her mother Victoria (Carmen Ramos) picks her up; she’s been taking care of Ángela’s daughter Rocío (Alisson Santiago). Now 12, Rocío stopped visiting her mother a few years back and is not really all that interested in reconnecting. She’s not even home to greet her mother; she’s at “the fights” with her father Lalo (Cuauhtli Jimenez). Ángela goes to the local wrestling arena and sees the two of them rooting for a lucha libre wrestler named Dulce Caramelo (Scarlet Gruber). When Dulce wins her match, she dedicates it to her “daughter” Rocío.

Dulce is dating Lalo, and she’s bonded with Rocío; it’s to the point where Rocío smiles whenever she’s around Dulce and frowns in the presence of her mother. Dulce is lobbying Lalo to have him and Rocío move in with her, but he rightly wants to check with Ángela. For her part, Ángela thinks back to when her daughter was 6, and when the cops came to raid her bootleg t-shirt stand, the rose-embroidered backpack she grabbed was full of drugs. That’s memory is understandably bittersweet, because that was the last time Ángela was close to her daughter.

Ángela gets a job at a bridal shop; the owner is desperate to date Victoria, so he looks past Ángela’s prison term. Still, he keeps his eye on her; Ángela quickly bonds with the staff, which includes her former bestie Malena (María Balam). They rally around her when Lalo comes by and talks to her about Dulce wanting him and Rocío move in with her.

Ángela takes on Dulce in an all-takers match; she holds her own because her father used to be a lucha libre villain, so she knows some moves. But ultimately, Dulce beats her. But the arena owner tells Lalo that she should come back; she’d make a great villain. But she and Rocío made a deal: Ángela will let Rocío keep going to the fights; Rocío never wants to see her mother get back in the ring again, else she’ll move in with Dulce and her father. Afraid that she’s on the verge of losing Rocío, she decides to train and become an anonymous wrestling villain, with the help of her friend Refugio (Giovanna Zacarias).

Against The Ropes
Photo: Brenda Islas/Netflix

What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Against The Ropes (Original title: Contra las cuerdas) definitely gives a similar feel to GLOW, especially the fact that the ladies at the bridal shop will join Ángela in her wrestling training.

Our Take: Against The Ropes sets up a complex problem for Ángela right at the start: No one believes that she shouldn’t have gone to prison, and she wants to find the person that the backpack belonged to. But at this point, she has to realize that much of it doesn’t matter, and she has to repair what’s broken with Rocío. So Ángela has to balance rebuilding her life and her relationship with her daughter while trying to get her name cleared.

Fernando Sariñana, the series’ showrunner, and the writing staff have done a good job making that complexity clear while not making the show a drag. Even the first episode, which sets up the story, has plenty of wrestling scenes for fans to enjoy, even if it’s tough to watch Ángela get rejected by her daughter over and over.

One of the other things we appreciated is that Sariñana and company don’t dwell a lot up front on Ángela’s past; she has to deal with the here and now, and the most important thing is repairing things with her daughter, so that’s what we see.

What we’re looking forward to is seeing Ángela becoming “The Black Bride”, bringing some friends along with her, and trying to challenge Dulce once again. How she’ll do it without Rocío getting wind of it will also be fun to watch. And all of this is helped by the fact that Caraly Sánchez can act as well as make some killer moves.

Sex and Skin: None in the first episode.

Parting Shot: Ángela repairs her father’s mask and then looks in the mirror with it on, calling herself “The Black Bride” for the first time.

Sleeper Star: Alisson Santiago has a strong turn as Rocío; the kid is independent and knows that she has some emotional leverage over her mother. But she also is able to communicate how hurt she is that her mother abandoned her when she was little.

Most Pilot-y Line: Dulce actually threatens Lalo with a frying pan after he defends Ángela’s right to be a part of the decision about where Rocío lives. What decade is this?

Our Call: STREAM IT. Against The Ropes is setting up a fun, heartwarming story that should have a lot of great wrestling at its core.

Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.



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