The season 2 finale of GLOW, Netflix’s fictional re-telling of the all-female wrestling phenomenon from the 80s, ended with our gorgeous ladies of wrestling climbing aboard a bus set for Las Vegas. The camera moved around the seats, focusing on each character’s visible excitement for what’s to come. As they smiled at each other and looked to the road ahead, the feeling of infectious anticipation washed over with the help of Starship’s ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’. The finale ended on such a high note, such an eclectic culmination of the characters’ hard work, that the expectations for season 3 were set in mere moments. This was to be the payoff of season 1 and 2’s gradual build-up and small beginnings. So, we prayed that the wait would be worth it — it was.
Season 3 begins with familiar challenges: Sam (Marc Maron), and Bash (Chris Lowell) working around their low budget, deciding how to best implement the in-character wrestlers’ social satire, and the ladies working out the kinks — and the kinks are plentiful. As Ruth (Alison Brie), Debbie (Betty Gilpin), and others try to rehearse their opening night show for the hotel hosting them, many issues arise in the form of technicals glitches; as well as a lack of cast morale (opening night takes place on the same day the U.S. space shuttle ‘Challenger’ exploded). This, although problematic for the characters, makes for some great comedy. The ladies try their best to keep spirits high while their producers decide whether to move opening night or not.
Much of what colors the spaces between GLOW‘s larger narrative beats are the interactions between characters. Whether it’s Bash’s frenzied tries at making the show a cohesive product, Sam’s sleazy shenanigans, or banter between the wrestlers, it all provides detail and makes the slow pace a non-issue. While some more consistency with the supporting characters’ storylines would be nice, they’re perfect at being filler — which is not an insult, because this show wouldn’t be able to function without it. The show belongs to three characters in particular (Ruth, Debbie, and Sam), but simply wouldn’t be as good without the support around them being given their own time to shine. To see such a large and diverse group of women working together – imperfectly – is wonderful.
Season 3, perhaps better than the previous 2, lets these in-between moments speak for themselves, especially when it comes to the show’s most intense and engrossing dynamic: Ruth and Debbie. Much of the hurt from season 1 has been slowly repaired, and although the tension around them is still heavy enough to imply that at any moment they might be seconds away from hate-sex, season 3’s softer approach is a welcome development. It allows Gilpin and Brie to approach their material with a slight shift in tone, and they are – of course – fantastic. Things are on the mend, but that doesn’t mean clear skies are all that awaits them.
After Sam and Ruth’s season 2 almost-kiss, the writers have to navigate this new development as well as Ruth and Debbie’s newfound amicable nature. But there’s always something slight beneath the surface: working with friends may sound like a dream, but in reality, living, working and socializing with the same group of people can create issues. There’s one particular shot of Sam, Ruth, and Debbie in an elevator that’s so thick with awkward atmosphere it almost made me giggle. Ruth takes a small look left – towards the man she has budding romantic feelings for – and then to Debbie on her right, who looks vaguely irritated at seeing Ruth with a potential partner, and not for the first time. The implications are far-reaching and juicy. The jealousy, intermittent friendship, and occasional rage make Ruth and Debbie’s relationship one of the most interesting on TV. Their subtext, however accidental it may be, is one of the best things about an already great show.
Throughout GLOW, the future of the characters and their wrestling acts have never been safe, and with season 3’s bigger stage, they’re out to prove that they deserve to be there. The wrestling isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t have to be, much like how the real-life GLOW operated: the passion outweighs fears of safety, or dignity for that matter. There’s a true sense of accomplishment when seeing the characters pull off their best moves in front of their biggest audience yet. The atmosphere is electric – and GLOW‘s respect for wrestling is what makes it so deliciously dramatic.
Season 3 sees the gorgeous ladies of wrestling soar to new heights, both literally and figuratively. GLOW was already one of Netflix’s best offerings, and the change of location (the new sets make the costumes and makeup pop even more) and addition of Geena Davis into the mix certainly doesn’t hurt.
GLOW Season 3 becomes available on August 9th on Netflix. All 10 episodes were provided for review.