*This is a spoiler free review of GLOW season 2.
GLOW is back! The show about the making of the female 80’s wrestling show, The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, dropped season two on Netflix last week, and it did not disappoint. Since the first season was all about them making the pilot, season two follows them filming the first season. The show uses being about a women’s wrestling show as a way to showcase the difficulties of being a woman trying to make it in a man’s world. From #metoo to equal pay and credit, GLOW comes at the different topics with nuance, and packs the punch of female empowerment. It’s also wonderfully weird in all the right ways.
This season, Debbie (Bettie Gilpin, who deserves an Emmy for this role) tries to get the guys, Sam (Marc Maron) and Bash (Chris Lowell) to take her seriously as a co-producer. They continuously leave her out of important meetings about the show. Every episode she has to find a creative way to show them how much they need her. “If you wanna be respected,” fellow wrestler Tamme (Kia Stevens) tells her during a heart to heart between the two women. “You gotta make yourself useful.” Meanwhile, Ruth (Alison Brie) continuously tries to convince Sam to let her help direct. She’s clearly the most creative person on the whole team, churning out story ideas for the show like it’s nobody’s business. But Sam continuously punishes her for doing more than her prescribed role as actress, when it would mean admitting that he needs her help to actually use some of her ideas for the show. Sam is more of a jerk than ever this season, but he does have a heart under there. The girls just have to cut him open to get to it.
The women of color on this show have just as hard a time. Tamme, whose wrestling character is “Welfare Queen,” has to explain to her son, who goes to Stanford, why she plays an offensive character that makes black people look bad. Arthie (Sunita Mani) has to play a terrorist named “Beirut.” In the second episode she has a plan to shed her terrorist character, and become a new character named “Phoenix.” But, when she reveals her plan to two white women on the show, they steal it for themselves, and Arthie is stuck playing “Beirut.” GLOW does a good job of exploring these struggles for people of color, but it’s upsetting that they don’t do enough to resolve them. By the end of the season, Tamme and Arthie are still playing these racially offensive characters, and they don’t get a chance to plead their case to play characters that are more appropriate.
While it is about the wrestling and the weird humor, GLOW is more than anything a show about relationships. This season, Sam has to figure out how to take care of his sixteen year old, newly revealed, daughter, Justine (Britt Baron). For the first time in his life, he’s responsible for someone besides himself. Ruth also has to figure out her relationship with Sam. He relies on her, and he hates that fact. This season is a lot about letting her into his life, both as a friend and a colleague. Ruth and Debbie though, are always the couple to watch in this show. They struggle with their friendship as much as ever this season, figuring out how to move on from the past, and being there for each other when they really need it. The women of this show are a family. They squabble, but they have each other’s backs. There’s one episode where a wrestler gets hurt, and the girls come together to take care of her, showing how deep their bonds go. “We’re her friends,” says Jenny (Ellen Wong). “We got it from here.”
I mentioned #metoo and for good reason. We all hear about women doing certain sexual things with powerful men in the industry (ahem, Harvey Weinstein), because they’re afraid of what will happen to their careers if they refuse. Well, GLOW this season let’s that story play out. After Ruth refuses the advances of the head of the network, he retaliates by canceling their show. “They gave a men’s wrestling show our slot,” Bash screams in outrage. How do you respond in that situation? Debbie blames the victim, and asks Ruth why she didn’t just lead him on. Sam smashes the guy’s windshield. But it’s Ruth who’s left to know that all these people are going to lose their jobs, and the guilt ways on her, even knowing that it’s not her fault. The women and men of the show decide to go out with a bang, resulting in some of the strangest, but awesome episodes of the season – there’s an episode completely comprised of sketches for the show. (Obviously there’s going to be a season three, but to find out how the female wrestling show continues, you’ll just have to watch it.)
The show tackles other issues, like being gay in a society that has yet to except it – there’s a character who’s openly gay, a character who comes out, and a character who’s still very much in the closet. Debbie has to learn to juggle being a single mom and having a career all at the same time. To top it all off, the show tackles illegal immigration, and the injustice of the system.
Unsung heroes of the season are Carmen (Britney Young), who kicks ass teaching all the girls her rad wrestling moves, Cherry (Sydelle Noel), who has to go to a hit show and come back, just realize, GLOW is where she really shines, and I seriously cannot stress enough how great Stevens is as Tamme; she really needs more screen time next season.
This season, the characters have to learn how to make a hit, and then keep that hit alive. With every obstacle in the world against them for being a show focused on women, they have to find some pretty creative ways to fight for their show. While the show takes on real issues, it’s never preachy, and always funny, with it’s own particular brand of dry humor, and weirdness as a backdrop. Season two does a great job of building on what they did in season one, and taking it to new heights.