GLOW season 3

In season 3, the show's focus shifts from a wrestling theme to exploration of character growth.

After a year of waiting, the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (GLOW) team has finally returned. While the show’s newest season continues to move the story forward, it spends more time on the characters and their internal and external conflicts rather than the wrestling. Depending on what type of storytelling the viewer might prefer, “GLOW” season 3 either feels somewhat stagnant or like the show’s best yet.

At the end of season 2, the women, along with Bash (Chris Lowell) and Sam (Marc Maron), learned that they didn’t own their wrestling characters and thus didn’t have the rights to sell them to another network. Not long after finding this out, however, they were offered an opportunity to move to Las Vegas and perform live floor shows every night. When season 3 opens, it’s the morning of their opening night and there are quick scenes of most of the women in their hotel rooms watching Ruth (Alison Brie) and Debbie (Betty Gilpin) being interviewed on television as their wrestling characters — Zoya the Destroya and Liberty Belle —to raise awareness for their first show. 

The excitement quickly turns sour, though, as the interview goes hand-in-hand with the Space Shuttle Challenger’s launch. With Ruth and Debbie in character, this means Ruth is dressed in her Russian outfit and speaks in a Russian accent as she mocks America and their space efforts seconds before the explosion. Ruth and the rest of the women are shaken up from the tragedy and the season takes this as an opportunity to focus more on the characters rather than the wrestling plot. In fact, wrestling doesn’t become a relevant part of the season until it’s halfway over and the women want to change their routine after feeling bored of repeating the same moves night after night. The women feel stuck, and with the episodes being long character studies, the plot does too.

While the move to Vegas seemed promising and full of potential, it ends up not mattering in the long run. With character issues moved to the forefront of the show, location and wrestling are now squandered in importance. Since the team has their routine locked down, Sam, who used to be a major character, is moved to the sidelines as his role as director is diminished. This also minimizes — but doesn’t erase — his interactions with Ruth, which had previously offered a great deal to the first two seasons. This season, Sam’s most important relationship is the one he has with his daughter, Justine. 

Another dynamic that’s lost is the one between Ruth and Debbie. Their relationship was the main source of tension in season 1, with their real-life feud even serving as a storyline in the wrestling show. This continued in season 2 after Debbie broke Ruth’s ankle in a fight. In the third season, their issues seem to have subsided. While it’s refreshing to see these two get along again, it means one of the show’s biggest driving forces is gone. 

A large positive in switching the show’s focus to the characters is the chance to dive deeper into social issues. The season covers a wide spectrum of topics, such as racism, immigration, sexuality and eating disorders. While it’s hard to forget the show is set in the ’80s due to its accurate setting and aesthetic, it’s interesting to see these topics being discussed in similar ways to how they are now, showing that perhaps society today isn’t as progressive as it may seem.

With little progression in the wrestling plot and a cliffhanger ending, it’s hard to predict where a possible season 4 could end up going. Season 3, though different than the previous two, is still consistent in its overall tone, and offers tons of laughs, heartbreak, shock and excitement. Whatever the future may hold for “GLOW,” season 3 still manages to ensure its legacy as one of the best shows of the decade.

Contact Kira Baldau at baldaukb@dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.