Netflix’s GLOW, the highly acclaimed comedy series inspired by the 1980’s women’s professional wrestling promotion of the same name, is making its way back to the streamer this summer for a third season. Even though these ten new episodes never quite match the brilliance of the previous two batches, this still a welcome return to a very interesting world.
Picking up after the end of the second season, the ladies have left Los Angeles after the cancellation of their television show and are in Las Vegas, performing as a live act in a casino hotel. On one hand, this change is refreshing, as it allows the series to go in interesting new directions. Since the first two seasons were about a TV show, it is nice to see this season do something very different in terms of story.
However, this season ultimately falters a bit because it opts for a more emotionally-driven approach. The second season served as a transition from the heavily comedy-based first season and the new character-focused orientation of the new season. While there are still plenty of laughs to be had, they are nowhere near as consistent as they have been in the past and they largely lack the bite with which the series has come to be associated.
Again, the series continues its tradition on spending more time with different characters each season, but unfortunately, that comes at the expense of leaving some characters feeling like they are left in the dust. Ruth (Alison Brie) has always been the most compelling character in the show, but all of her arcs in this season feel underdeveloped. For example, her relationship with Russell (Victor Quinaz) was one of the most interesting parts of season two, but it is only explored in depth in one episode this year.
Another character who seems to get the short end of the stick is Sam (Marc Maron). It almost feels like the character’s parts in the series were cut down to accommodate Maron’s commitments outside of the series. His arc only becomes compelling around the seventh episode into the season, so for the first six episodes, you can’t help but feel like you want to see more of Sam and his story.
That said, this season does an excellent job of further exploring the character Debbie (Betty Gilpin). Her story of trying to balance her dreams, her professional duties, and her desire to be a good mother to her young son is the single most compelling storyline in these episodes. Gilpin is as good if not better than before, giving a performance that is equal parts hilarious and endearing. Hopefully she will be an even bigger part of future entries.
The relationship between Bash (Chris Lowell) and Rhonda (Kate Nash) is also explored in greater depth in season three. In the end of season two, we get a glimpse into Bash’s life and personality as he mourns the death of his butler. In this film, we get to dive even deeper into his psychology, exploring the person that lives behind this bubbly and affluent facade. His new wife, Rhonda, also gets additional development, although most of it does come from a single source — her marriage to Bash.
None of the other wrestlers have their stories expanded in an extremely meaningful way. A few subplots show the potential to take characters, such as Shiela or Arthie, to new places, but they are never explored to their full extent. Perhaps the writers are setting them up to be new focal points of the next season. Geena Davis is a welcome new addition to the show as the director of the casino at which the show is being performed, but unfortunately, her character is only dynamic in the middle episodes.
Season three of GLOW may not be as great as the last two, but it is a welcome return to the characters and points the series in an intriguing new direction. Despite many ups and downs, these episodes make one thing abundantly clear — there is still plenty more to come from the “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling”. And if the end is any indication, season four is probably going to be the best one yet.
Season three of GLOW streams on Netflix beginning August 9. (All ten episodes reviewed.)