16th Aug2019

‘GLOW: Season 3’ Review (Netflix)

by Chris Cummings


I’ve been a fan of Netflix’s GLOW show since it first landed a couple of years ago on the platform. It’s a total joyous, wild, funny, gritty and dramatic program that ticks so many of the boxes I look for in my television drama. Oh, and it’s about pro-wrestling, something else I’m pretty damn fond of. So, I was of course clicking the play button the moment Season 3 landed on Netflix this August.

It’s one of those shows where you simply cannot just watch one episode. It’s as binge-worthy as they come, and the whole “just another episode” concept was in full motion when I sat down to watch the new season, and I finished it in two sittings. Season three retains the high quality storytelling that we’ve become accustomed to with the previous seasons, and yet it manages to up the grittiness, the humour and the drama, keeping you invested for its ten episode season. And oh boy do I wish there had been more than ten episodes. Since it began we’ve found ourselves surrounded by a litany of characters in this weird world of wrestling. Season Two ended with Bash (Chris Lowell) and Sam (Marc Maron) packing up the circus and heading to the bright lights and poker tables of Las Vegas, where the GLOW crew are signed to put on a live show every night for a few months. It’s a different setting, a new location for our characters to play in, and with the changes in the relationships of these characters, we can of course expect plenty of drama too.

We see the girls doing the same show night after night, becoming bored of the grind, and so many of them seek excitement in other places. Ruth (Alison Brie) is struggling with where she is, finding it hard to break out of her rut and hoping for a big break to finally land on her doorstep. Debbie (Betty Gilpin) is dealing with the growing ego of Bash and trying to gain more power in her role as Producer, while also struggling to deal with being away from her baby by numbing herself with casual sex. Sam, openly in love with Ruth, is getting tired of being treated like crap by Bash as he begins to write a new screenplay, while also discovering that his daughter, Justine (Britt Baron) has written one of her own. The relationship between Arthie (Sunita Mani) and Yolanda (Shakira Barrera) goes through difficult patches as Arthie struggles with who she really is and Yolanda struggles even more with Arthie’s reluctance to be openly gay. Tamme (Kia Stevens) is dealing with a severe back problem that could put her out of the ring for good. Sheila (Gayle Rankin) struggles to break out of her wolf exterior in order to further her love of acting. Cherry (Sydelle Noel) and Keith (Bashir Salahuddin) juggle life away from each other while pondering what having a child could mean to their lives. All of these storylines are handles in this season, among many others. We also get new characters being introduced, such as Sandy (Genna Davis), the entertainment director who used to be a showgirl, and Bobby Barnes (Kevin Cahoon), a drag act who becomes a friend and mentor-of-sorts to some of the girls. There’s A LOT to sink your teeth into, and impossibly and shockingly, they manage to make it work. It doesn’t feel suffocated or over-done, but instead just constantly keeps you curious, playing with your emotions as it wanders from very serious scenes to scenes of total and complete buffoonery.

We move away a little more from the in-ring wrestling, something I wasn’t sure I’d be keen on as I began to see it happen, but it worked. Previous seasons have had a mass of focus on the wrestling side of things, but this season we instead look at the lives and difficulties of these women (and men) who are in this bizarre world. There’s still some fun wrestling sequences, though, such as a great episode where the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling switch roles with one another, and another where they play out A Christmas Carol in the ring. The zaniness and wackiness we’ve been used to is still here in droves, yet I felt like this season had some much more powerful moments. There are moments talking about immigration, war, racism, homophobia, sexism in the workplace, adultery, adoption, loneliness and eating disorders that are each strong and important issues. I love that GLOW doesn’t shy away from these things, but instead takes its characters down roads and along lanes that change them forever.

The performances across the board are bloody brilliant. Brie plays Ruth in a way that’s naive and nerdy and awkward and ignorant to her own heart. Gilpin’s Debbie, struggling internally with so many issues, shows a desperation and anguish that is hard to look away from. I also though Noel, as Cherry, did an excellent job playing a woman who wants a husband and a family but doesn’t want to give up her career and her body. Her emotional scenes are perhaps some of the season’s strongest, and that’s saying a lot. The comedy is still a hoot, from the in-ring shenanigans to the women partying, camping or stripping for each other in the dressing room.

This might be, in my opinion, the strongest season yet of GLOW. I’ve heard mixed opinions on this matter, but this writer thought this was incredible. The darker and deeper tone, the issues spoken about and the acting from the ensemble cast is all fantastic, but it’s that feeling that it’s speaking about bigger things this time around that really pushes it up further. We see much more emphasis places on gay relationships, on the difficulties with coming-out and the saddening way the characters feel the need to put on a facade in order to feel safe. We see the emphasis on race, on how characters in wrestling (and entertainment entirely, actually) depict people of different races. There’s much more to GLOW than spandex, wrestling and crazy characters, and Season 3 shows us just how much more there is.

GLOW: Season 3 is on Netflix now.


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