Directors: Peter Segal
Writers: Michael Waldron
Cast: Stephen Amell, Alexander Ludwig, Kelli Berglund, Mary McCormack, Chris Bauer, Joel Murray, Alison Luff, Duke Davis Roberts, Nigel Crocker, James Harrison Jr., Robby Ramos
‘Kayfabe” Air Date: 16/08/2021
Heels is currently available to stream on Stan.
Starz new series Heels opens with a mundane but necessary explanation of the world of wrestling. There are “faces” who are the good guys, and then there’s “heels,” the bad guys. The heel’s job is to get heat and eventually put over the face as the hero the cheering fans want them to be. But what happens in a small town wrestling promotion when the face is a heel outside the ring, and the heel is the family man running the business?
The premiere episode of Heels sets up the small-town wrestling community of Duffy. Jack Spade (Stephen Amell) has taken over as booker and running DWL, his father’s wrestling promotion. In the ring, he’s the big-bad of the DWL, a character kids fear and audiences boo, but he’s also the one carrying the DWL Championship. Jack’s brother, Ace Spade (Alexander Ludwig), is a hot-head who believes himself to be a wrestling prodigy; he’s shown to be a drunk, an asshole, and nothing like his brother, Jack. However, he is the hero of the DWL and the character that all the kids, including Jack’s own, cheer for and want to see win the DWL Championship.
Subtly isn’t on the menu for the premiere episode of Heels as it beats in the brother vs brother dynamic from one scene to the next. You can almost hear each character that talks to Jack say, “but you’re brothers! Why can’t you get along?” It’s much deeper rooted than simple brother rivalry, and it comes back to their father, Tom Spade (David James Elliott), who we’re bound to learn more about as the episodes progress.
In his return to TV since wrapping Arrow, Stephen Amell has that same familiar warmth as Jack Spade outside the ring as CW viewers became accustomed to seeing. In the ring, Amell showcases that not only does he understand wrestling as a life-long fan, but that he can also move, having performed in both WWE and AEW rings. Alexander Ludwig, most known for his work on Vikings, is stretching a different muscle here, and although I have no idea if he has any wrestling love in his bones, he’s moving great in the ring as well.
The majority of the premiere focused on Jack and Ace, but there were enough sprinkles of other character beats to hook in storylines for the season to come. Jack’s wife (Alison Luff) is worried about his spending to enhance and boost DWL viewership; Ace’s valet Crystal (Kelli Berglund) has a mind for wrestling, but there are no woman wrestlers in the DWL. Plus, some of DWL’s wrestlers may be looking to move on to another promotion.