Anybody who took a shine to the first season of GLOW is familiar with how the series excels with its blend of physical comedy,
After all, it's loosely based on the real, all-female pro-wrestling show headed by Jackie Stallone that ran from 1986 to 1990. Season 2 stays true to its thematic center, even as its narrative chops continue to expand and level up just like somebody who’s been training every day in the ring does.
One of the season's most pivotal moments comes in the later episodes when the showrunners and writers display a nuanced message on how victimization and bullying are rampant in any kind of TV land endeavor.
Couched inside the ever-present unfriendly rivalry between leads Ruth aka Zoya (Alison Brie) and Debbie aka Liberty Belle (Betty Gilpin) are sub-themes that explore the current #MeToo movement (and in all likelihood was something that DID happen because the Weinsteins of the world were definitely in power way back in the '80s).
GLOW isn't just about the toned bodies of women in Lycra and big hair with glitter, nor is it simply a trip down nostalgia lane where you'll hum along to '80s tunes like it was still Pat Benatar and Scandal's heyday, but it's also a relevant and expansive take on how women are trying to be empowered by courageously navigating spaces built by the patriarchs who control all the cards.
Will the women win by trying to play the showbiz game with come-ons and thirst traps and traditional seductions? Or will they claim victory through better storylines, souped-up characters and costumes, and superior wrestling skills?
Will Ruth and Debbie ever be friends again? And what’s the real deal with wolf girl Shiela?
Even as drama and glory collide in the ring, rookie producer Bash Howard (Chris Lowell) and disgruntled vet director Sam Silvia (Marc Maron) try to keep things afloat by hustling for sponsors and kicking off the network TV debut of the show with as much aplomb as they can.
The headstrong and reckless Justine (Britt Baron), Sam's runaway teen daughter, imbues the taciturn and grumpy director with an opportunity to become a real caretaker. And the wrestlers taste fame with their TV notoriety and are quickly plagued by hungry fans, perverts, and stalkers.
Said cult fame impacts the women's lives in different ways. Tamme (aka Welfare Queen), in particular, finds out just how her work can affect familial bonds when a big fan recognizes her at her son's parent visitation day. That the son is studying at the Ivy League of the West Coast is the clincher.
Alison Brie's wrestling persona Zoya not only gains muscle mass, dimension, and a much better ring craft—Brie must also be commended for imbuing Ruth Wilder with a distinction that is both vulnerable and full of optimism, even as she is bullied, again and again, for being "too proactive" in that she's taking away the spotlight from the men even as she dedicates her life to the improvement of GLOW.
In contrast, Betty Gilpin's character Debbie Eagan, who joined the wrestling show on a lark, is the quintessential former soap star whose ambitions and celebrity skills eventually net her a producer status on the show. Liberty Belle, Debbie's upbeat and patriotic wrestling persona, tries to remain all-American and flag-waving, while Debbie back in the locker room is a ruin of a woman in the throes of divorce proceedings.
Despite the niggling little inadequacies of the narrative, where its episodic nature tends to overreach its metaphors and declarative ambitions, GLOW is that kind of show now: a place where wrestlers named Beirut, Black
Threats of cancellation skyrocket, Sam descends into directorial megalomania, and a yearning for respect makes people do stupid things on and off the mats. It's a slow start, but it's a genuine delight to see how the show's skills and advantages radiate charming grit.
GLOW, Season 2 is now streaming on Netflix.