Spoilers for GLOW season 3!
You’ve been warned!
A big part of what made the first two seasons of GLOW work so well was the intertwining of its character’s arcs with their hardship of trying to get their women’s wrestling TV show, G.L.O.W, off the ground.
Season three quickly makes it clear that while G.L.O.W is now a Las Vegas stage show, all the hard work has paid off as everyone is finally tasting the success they’ve worked so hard for. But with success comes a discernible lack of dramatic tension. With their goals reached, there are no longer any stakes for the ensemble.
Recognising this little problem, the writers for GLOW made the inspired decision to bench G.L.O.W in favour of focusing on its large roster of characters and the result is several of our favourite supporting characters finally getting their long-awaited time in the spotlight, as well as deeper explorations into established relationships.
We see Tammé (Kia Stevens) go through the physical toll of performing G.L.O.W every night and subsequently figuring out a new, less painful career path; There’s Sheila (Gayle Rankin) becoming more comfortable in her own skin as she gradually sheds the wolf skin she wears (literally and metaphorically); and we see conflicts between Cherry (Sydelle Noel) and Keith (Bashir Salahuddin) as the couple butt heads over starting a family.
Season three also digs much deeper into LGBTQI angle than previous seasons as we see how Bash (Chris Lowell) and Arthie (Sunita Mani) gradually come to terms with their sexuality in the face of external and internal pressures.
But perhaps the storyline that resonated the most for me personally was Jenny (Ellen Wong) and Melanie (Jackie Tohn)’s arc. Jenny is the only Asian character on the show and she was barely more than the quirky token Asian who weathers a bunch of race jokes – both with her character and in-show wrestling character – from Melanie during the first two seasons of GLOW.
After two seasons of building, GLOW finally addresses the whole race thing with an emotional – if slightly clumsy – heart to heart between the Jenny and Melanie. We finally get to see a bit more of what makes those two tick and it was worth the wait.
The fact that I haven’t even mentioned the great work by the likes of Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin, Marc Maron, Britney Young, Britt Baron and guest star Geena Davis speaks volumes about the size and talent of the cast more than anything else.
GLOW has certainly had problems in the past with properly servicing all its characters but has always got away with it thanks to the great work from the actors. Season three goes some ways into fixing that problem but hasn’t quite nailed it just yet.
The increased focus on the characters has had a trickle-down effect on the narrative’s pacing, which is perhaps the most uneven one yet. Season three’s storyline doesn’t quite coherently gel as a whole and its parts feel greater than the sum of the whole.
But despite some cracks appearing, GLOW continues to chug along due to the brilliant work of its cast, the layered characters and the show’s exploration into heady themes like feminism, the patriarchy and the pitfalls of showbusiness.
Season three is messy, painful and fun, not unlike the G.L.O.W Las Vegas stage show, and that’s why it remains compelling.