Jack Spade is having a rotten day and it’s all his fault.
Heels exceeds showing how humans get in their own way. Sure, we like to believe our problems are because of everyone else or that one thing that just didn't go our way. But often, way too often, we are our own worst enemies. “House Show” earns its title as Jack, Ace, Staci, and any other character with a speaking part takes stock of their lives. In every instance, they realize the difference between having a good day and a really bad one is the person looking back at them in the mirror.
Jack got what he asked for and DWL earned a spot at the Georgia State Fair. For a cat who already has issues managing time between his family and his business, surely nothing bad will come from this, right? Heels paints a portrait of a man who is so busy chasing his father that he neglects his own responsibilities as a father and a husband.
Chasing a parental ghost isn’t new territory, but Heels engages with the subject matter by not forgiving the protagonist. Nor does it ignore the oh so real consequences that come from that type of neglect. It’s perfectly understandable for Jack to invest his heart and soul into making the DWL into the business his father couldn’t. I’m pretty sure there’s a part of all of us trying to live up to our parents, carry on their legacy, or be better than them in every imaginable way.
How does that look in pro wrestling? This is the Spade family business and that same business drove their patriarch to kill himself. As Mick Foley says in this episode, playing the role of podcaster, this business has a cost. What he doesn’t say is that it’s not always a physical payment.
“House Show’ is more effective than last week’s episode illustrating just how hectic his life is and the toll the DWL—and chasing the love of a deceased father—has on his personal life. He’s prepping for the big show, doing interviews, running around town, and doing his best not to miss his wife, Staci, sing at a christening for their friend’s newborn. Therein lies the conundrum with the episode. Yup, it’s that big of a deal it demands the c-word.
Heels keeps making its lead character learn the same lesson. At what point do we as an audience throw in the towel and say he never will? One one hand, it’s great drama seeing Jack race against the clock and seemingly have everything go wrong that can go wrong. On the other hand, Heels previously established Jack has control issues and needs to play nice with others. In fact, DWL did its best business in years when he accepted this fact and opened up. I get that there are much bigger stakes now, but the episode feels a tad held back because it’s repeating the same story but on a larger scale.
This is in contrast to Staci, Ace, Wild Bill, and Rooster. Staci finally steps to her husband and tells him to get his act together. She calls him on his absence in his family’s lives, while realizing she can, and should, want more for herself. Thankfully, the show doesn’t take this into the cliché divorce territory. It’s two adults who love each other having an honest conversation about expectations and shortcomings. For a show that gets soap operatic at times, Staci and Jack’s relationship always feels honest and normal.
Ace, on the other hand, is all about big swings. He too is dealing with his dad’s legacy and the price of living in a shadow. While Jack wants to earn the love of a man he had a complicated relationship with, Ace wants to live up to the promise their father saw in him from the beginning. Ace’s desire to be “the one” leads him to making some good choices in his life, starting with apologizing to Crystal for his behavior.
Heels doesn’t do as well of a job chronicling Ace’s journey as it does Jack’s, but it gets a lot of mileage out of subtlety in this episode. His moment with his godchild and his apology show why being a heel is weird for him. While he’s naturally good at it, it’s just not who he wants to be. He even apologizes to Bobby Pin for doing the thing to your opponent you’re not supposed to do. Both apologies are big steps forward for Ace since he previously claimed innocence of all charges as it relates to wronging Crystal and Bobby.
Rooster and Wild Bill are dealing with their own demons. The former contemplates moving to greener pastures while the latter has to admit his mistakes to ensure he wrestles at DWL’s biggest show of all-time. While neither story is as interesting as the main stories, they do tie-in to the overall theme and move both characters forward.
If there’s a failing in Rooster’s journey, it’s how quickly the show dropped its exploration of race, almost like a kid who touched a hot stove. Wild Bill remains a standout as a critique and homage to an older generation slowly adapting to the new world and having trouble at every turn.
“House Show” represents a turning point Heels. Several plot points throughout the season are taking their final form and we’re quickly reaching the point of no return. Even though there are a few quibbles with this episode, this is the best episode of the season. The lack of wrestling means the episode firmly focuses on its characters, giving their conflicts room to breathe and evolve. With two episodes left, Heels is hot going into its home stretch.