STARRING: Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin, Marc Maron, Kia Stevens, Sydelle Noel, Britney Young, Britt Baron, Kate Nash, Gayle Rankin, Jackie Tohn, Chris Lowell, Bashir Salahuddin, Rich Sommer, Kimmy Gatewood, Rebekka Johnson, Sunita Mani, Ellen Wong, Marianna Palka, Shakira Barrera and Victor Quinaz
The women of GLOW are fast becoming local celebrities, confronting the good, the bad, and the ugly realities of their newfound fame. As Ruth and Debbie settle into the day-to-day of making a season of TV together, they confront lingering issues at the heart of their friendship. Sam is still Sam, but now he has a teenage daughter living with him and twenty episodes to churn out. The wrestling is harder, the stakes are higher, and the hair is even bigger.
After the initial pilot episode of GLOW, the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling are attempting to capitalise on their new found cult following on local television. Cherry (who left her spandex and ring work behind after being offered the lead role in a cop drama series) is replaced by stripper Yolanda, Debbie looks to take hold of her second chance professionally by enlisting her soon-to-be-ex-husband in negotiating a deal with showrunner Glen Klitnick that sees her earn the title of producer on the show and the rest of the ensemble are too aware of how their employers value the talent and input, leading to Ruth being taking on the mantle of locker room leader and attempts to lift their spirits whenever possible, whilst possibly finding romance with ex-porno cameraman Russell Barroso.
The first season of Netflix’s Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling was one of the most pleasant surprises of last year and the second season picks up from where the first ended, with the ladies, Bash and Sam attempting to capitalise on their cult following on local television and get renewed for more episodes.
The second season of GLOW perfectly balances the wrestling with the comedy and drama, never really feeling like the wrestling overtakes the story of where the season is heading, or being a speed -bump along the journey. The entire second season works as it tries to tell the story of everyones misery in trying to be a creative actress and artist, as every step forward taken, someone might be pushed two steps back. There’s some light-hearted sub-plots that take place over the course of the season, such as Sheila freaking out over getting more recognised and also having a fanbase that cosplay’s as her, to Melanie and Jenny butting heads over a jacket. Whilst the comedy and lightheartedness of the show remains intact, it still packs a punch when it comes to setting up and delivering the dramatic scenes. One of them in particular is a sequence of Ruth attending a supposed restaurant meeting with K-DTV President Tom Grant. It’s a sequence that’s reminiscent of the Harvey Weinstein stories we’ve heard about and Alison Brie’s performance, particularly with her facial reactions leaving the bungalow is award worthy. Debbie Eagan is going through a whirlwind of emotions right now as not only does she try to maintain and make moves in a male-dominated industry, she’s cracking trying to keep a front of calm as her soon-to-be-husband is already making plans of life without her, setting her on a path of isolation from the rest of the GLOW crew, and leading to the inevitable blowout between her and Ruth that I’m sure will divide audiences on who to root for but for me, Ruth = Face/Debbie = Heel. After all, Ruth sees GLOW as somewhere where she belongs after years and years of rejection, her passion for the show sometimes leads to self-sabotage, whereas Debbie sees the show as like every other gig before it, just a job but will take full advantage of it while she can for her own personal gain. Brie and Gilpin are effectively the leads of the series and while Brie is terrific as Ruth, Gilpin is an absolute behemoth this season as Debbie, a force of nature that is putting up a good front professionally but personally is on the verge of self-destruct. Chris Lowell in particular this season has a lot more screen time and provides one of the most ardent performances as Sebastian “Bash” Howard. While he remain in good spirit when the show hits a few stumbling blocks along the road, there’s a sub-plot about his butler Florian leaving him over a bounced cheque and him attempting to find him. It’s this sub-plot and its conclusion that opens up an interesting subject for GLOW to tackle in a third season that could prove to be one of the series biggest arcs if handled correctly. As for Marc Maron, he’s still excellent as Sam Sylvia, as we follow him trying to maintain a consistent product with each taped episode of the show, whilst trying to balance his job and work out on how to be a father to Justine. While they humanise Sam more here somewhat compared to the first season, he’s still the same S.O.B that we enjoyed watching. From the rest of the ensemble, Kia Stevens gets almost an entire episode dedicated to her character Tammé, where we see her interacting with her son and he attends a show that leads to one of the more memorable sequences in the show, Kate Nash and Sunita Mani also shine as well in their limited screentime, particularly in the later half of the season and it was particularly fun trying to watch Arthie attempt and fail to get her character changed from Beirut the Mad Bomber. As for new additions, Shakira Barrera is energetically charismatic as out and proud stripper-turned-wrestler Yolanda Rivas, while she didn’t have as much screentime as most she does have an arc that I hope leads to more screentime in the third season and Victor Quinaz is good as cameraman/potential Ruth love interest Russell Barroso. In terms of standout episodes, The Good Twin is potentially one of the best episodes of television this year as the entire episode is shot like it’s an exact taped episode of GLOW.
While the episodes never feel stale or dragging too long, it definitely feels like a few characters don’t get as much screen time compared to what they did in the first season. In particular it felt like Sydelle Noel, Britney Young and Jackie Tohn didn’t get as much to do as last season. With Noel we see how she’s coping with life after GLOW but I thought she had more to do training the ladies in the first season, compared to her arc here. While there is an episode that’s almost dedicated to Kia Stevens character, she also get much to do in the second half of the season. Also the ending doesn’t feel as earned as it should’ve been, it almost felt something out of Entourage but it’s a small nitpick compared to the quality of the season overall.
GLOW picks up exactly where it left off and continues moving forward as a great comedy/drama series that finds the right balance between tongue-in-cheek and execute well-constructed and acted dramatic moments on topical issues that are still relative today. Alison Brie, Marc Maron and Chris Lowell give great performances as Ruth Wilder, Sam Sylvia and Sebastian ‘Bash’ Howard, but it’s Betty Gilpin that will probably reap the plaudits for her excellent performance as Debbie Eagan. While it felt to me that the rest of the ensemble didn’t get as much time to shine here compared to the first season, I feel that the second season had better moments and The Good Twin episode alone make me think that season 2 is slightly better than season 1. 8/10