Having made its debut in 2017, the first season of GLOW focused on sleazy deadbeat director-of-failures Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron) and how he created GLOW by enlisting out-of-work actresses and other assorted misfits and hopefuls, and shaping them into wrestling characters.
If you haven’t watched GLOW S2 yet, stop reading now.
In Season 2 a year later, it transpired that this was something of an unexpected success, which became a syndicated TV show, and the characters – in and out the ring – developed accordingly.
And now in Season 3, there is hardly any ring-time (although a mid-season character-swap brings some wonderful comic relief during which everyone looks like they are having enormous fun, even if some prickles emerge later); instead, the “action” is focused on personal issues.
This in turn leads to Ruth (Alison Brie) taking a step back in favour of story arcs focusing on her colleagues, although her relationship with Sam is still to be considered.
With the move from Los Angeles (where the TV show got cancelled at the end of Season 2) to Las Vegas and a residency at an off-strip hotel and casino, we pick up the story with Ruth’s arch rival Debbie (played by Betty Gilpin) stepping up as a producer, along with Sam and Bash (Chris Lowell).
As Liberty Belle, Ruth’s “Zoya The Destroyer” nemesis and one of the GLOW headliners, Debbie must learn to juggle work while raising a baby boy, whose milestones she’s missing at a rate of knots.
Sheila “The She Wolf” (Gayle Rankin) discovers she has some previously unexplored talents which could bring her out of her shell and the comfort of her disguise/costume. Bash and Rhonda (Kate Nash), who got married at the end of Season 2, ostensibly for Rhonda’s green card, find that marriage isn’t a fairy tale. In Rhonda’s effort to keep him interested, we see Bash struggling to come to terms with something we, frankly, have known since day one.
Elsewhere, Yolanda/Junkchain (Shakira Barrera) and Arthie “Beirut the Mad Bomber” (Sunita Mani) are facing and questioning the realities of a lesbian relationship in an intolerant 80s climate. And to add to this pile-on of thought-provoking themes, cultural appropriation and profiling get their moment too.
Not once does any of this feel as if it’s being dished out with a shovel; it’s authentic and relevant, and we can forgive the reining in of the wrestling in exchange for these tender insights and their resolution – as well as the reminder of how things have changed (or not) in the past few decades.
Geena Davis joins the cast as a recurring character in this season, as hotel manager and former showgirl (there’s another issue tackled – body image) Sandy Devereaux St Clair, as does Kevin Cahoon as Bobby Barnes, a versatile drag queen who forms an unexpected bond with Sheila.
The season finale is neatly packaged, and has enough of the necessary possibilities for a fourth season, but at the same time, if that doesn’t happen, we can deal with it without therapy.
Do you enjoy “fictional” series based on real life? Here are a few more
If you’re looking for the real life that has been imitated by art, you should also watch the Netflix documentary about the genuine women wrestlers of the 1980s, who inspired this series. Also, Welfare Queen/Tamee (who gets her own focus episode in Season 3, dealing with the physical toll of wrestling) is played by real-life wrestler Kia Stevens, lending this fictional account a hefty dose of extra credibility.