GLOW is back! One of my favorite shows returns as the women move to Vegas for a successful transition of the wrestling show within a show, and the focus steers away from the show itself and more on the characters, with material widening for the big ensemble that makes up the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.
As the whole squad sets up in Las Vegas, the show goes off without a hitch apparently, aside from Ruth’s unfortunate in character mocking of the USS Challenger on a local news show the day of the launch. That explosive opening aside, we don’t see that much of the actual wrestling this year, as everyone’s characters are firmly set and we get more into the ladies’ personal struggles and interactions. Ruth fights her feelings for Sam for example, as Marc Maron is kind of sidelined this time around- Bash tells him he’s unnecessary and he agrees, packing up to go back to Los Angeles and help his daughter Justine make a movie based on a screenplay she wrote.
The lack of Maron this season makes me wonder if the writers suddenly felt that his somewhat sleazy character was a little problematic in the current climate, as Sam is definitely toned down and now playing the good father role, which is a definite switch from his earlier antics, even if it’s to make himself worthy of Ruth. Maron is still funny as ever, but a watered down Sam may not wear as well, unless the show (which is apparently on the brink of cancellation according to Netflix’s ratings measurements) will be ending sooner than I’d hoped. Alison Brie’s Ruth still doesn’t quite know what she wants, as the show sets up in Vegas for a full year after becoming successful, and Betty Gilpin steps into a co-lead role, as Debbie fights to juggle single motherhood with a career as a burgeoning producer in the face of skeptical and dismissive men at every turn. Gilpin really shines this season with multiple storylines, showing the conflicting emotions ambitious women who want to be mothers and lovers and careerists face, an evergreen theme.
The other major subplot this season is Chris Lowell as Bash, who is deeply closeted and now trying to make a marriage work with Kate Nash’s Rhonda, but this is one of the show’s missteps. Lowell is great as the innocent and entitled Bash, but he’s been shown to have connections with characters like Debbie, Carmen, even Sam, and pairing him up with Rhonda, the show’s most uninteresting and irrelevant character is a mistake. It’s obviously supposed to be a marriage that doesn’t work, but Kate Nash has a terribly wooden screen presence and is incapable of being funny and/or engaging in any scene you put her in. Making her a key part of this prominent storyline dooms it to failure, and the conclusion to it feels like Bash is going around in circles, even after tearfully confessing his sexuality to Debbie (a scene that does work, because Gilpin can actually act).
Despite some clunky attempts to address racism in a campout episode (which feels like something modern being forced into this 1980’s set series- despite the show’s terrifically diverse cast, however that may have been addressed back then, I can almost promise you it wouldn’t have been in the kind of language used here), the show is better at dealing with homophobia. Not just the Bash storyline, but a drag queen character named Billy is an effective addition, and the new couple, Arthy and Yolanda, make for a believable arc as well. Unfortunately I can’t say the same about Geena Davis, who despite joining the show as hotel owner Sandy St. Clair, is given practically nothing to do here- why hire Oscar winner Davis and not you know, use her??
In spire of everything, GLOW remains in its third season a joyful, fun, open-hearted comedy, even if there are some hiccups in some storylines this year that don’t quite work. I still want it to come back, I’m invested in the characters and I’ll be very sad if it doesn’t.