Fans of GLOW can be delighted by the verdict that the second season is even better than the first, with the emotions focused in just the right places and the whole venture just as much fun (probably even more so) than the first season.
Unlike Season 1, which I thought took a couple of episodes to settle in, we pick up this time with all the women of the 1980’s TV wrestling series (GLOW aka The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling) excited about their pilot and ready to film the first season, which will tape weekly in front of a live audience for twenty weeks, with the ladies still holed up in their hotel for training and seclusion. But Alison Brie’s Ruth can’t help but want to be a director as per usual, and with Sam (the fantastic Marc Maron) and producer Bash (Chris Lowell) distracted with network difficulties, she tries her hand at taping an opening credits sequence, risking (and experiencing) Sam’s wrath in a big way.
Elsewhere, Debbie (Betty Gilpin) is preoccupied with the emotional toll her divorce is taking on her, which leads her to take her anger out on continued frenemy Ruth, who gets it from all sides this season, causing what was once a vaguely unlikable character last year to take on more of an underdog status as a figure of pity and remorse this time around. Even though the three main characters (Ruth, Debbie and Sam) remain so this season and are given the meatiest storylines (Sam goes from grumpy malcontent to semi-perceptive and caring if unorthodox and occasionally inappropriate dad as he takes in his long lost teen daughter Justine), all the ladies get their chance to shine, which is really quite a feat for a ten episode season featuring a huge ensemble cast with roughly thirty minute episodes (the last few are stretched longer).
Every arc works though, whether seasonal or episodic, from the struggles to maintain the show on television, leading to an extremely timely but also sadly timeless #MeToo moment for Ruth with the network boss, to Bash’s latent struggles with his sexuality when he discovers the truth about his lifelong friend and butler Florian. Excellent singular episodes include the memorable and heartbreaking Tamme (real life wrestler Kia Stevens) dealing with her adult son discovering what kind of job pays her bills, and the show within a show that gives us what an episode of GLOW actually looks like (lots of sketch comedy and minimal wrestling, apparently).
Despite the hard-hitting emotional moments, the show is always funny and most importantly fun. It’s scored by a hair banging 80’s soundtrack that punctures the action at just the right moments, the misfits forming a makeshift family that warms your heart in their genuine love for and empowerment by what they’re creating. The parody GLOW episode makes you want to look up what the real life 1980’s series actually looked like, and the climactic season finale taping throws everything at the wall in an attempt to go out in style, from a green card marriage to a wild goat to a match with women fighting men in the ring as the girls give it everything they’ve got. It’s not absolute perfection, as I find myself wanting to screech at the writers not to go “there” with Ruth and Sam, especially given the kind of emotionally abusive nature of the relationship between the two, but when it gets to the point where I’m wanting to steer minor plot points in a different direction creatively, it’s a sign of how enthusiastic and invested I am in the storytelling. GLOW is pure joy.