Season 3 of GLOW was a bit less about the body slamming and a little more about character development. People who are more interested in women in skimpy outfits tossing each other about may be a little disappointed. People who are more interested in the women and their stories may be rewarded for their patience after two seasons of waiting.
I’m in the second group. I was happy to get to know the women of GLOW – and the men – a little better. There was considerable character growth this season.
For two seasons, we watched the women of GLOW work to figure out their wrestling personas and get their act down. In Las Vegas for season 3, they are doing the same show night after night. Only when we see them do something different (such as a fabulous wrestling version of A Christmas Carol) do we watch them perform in the ring.
Betty Gilpin as Debbie and Alison Brie as Ruth are the lead women characters. Their relationship, fights, support, and friendship are a key part of the story. Although they carry much of the action and story, we get to know some of the other women better in season 3 as well.
Debbie travels every weekend to be with her son. She meets Tex (Toby Huss) while traveling. Later she brings her son with her to Las Vegas, but Tex becomes a regular feature in her life. He’s a wealthy businessman. She’s treated as window dressing by him, but she picks up a lot about business from him and she’s smart enough to use it well.
Ruth is still dating the cameraman Russell (Victor Quinaz) by long distance. A surprising declaration of love from one of the regulars puts Ruth in a strange unsettled position for much of the season.
Marc Maron plays Sam, the director. For the first half of the season he’s in Las Vegas. When his daughter Justine (Britt Baron) shows up with a great script, the two of them go back to LA with a secondary storyline about peddling the script.
Bash (Chris Lowell) and Kate Nash as Rhonda a.k.a. Britannica are married. They try to make a go of it. Bash is as gay as Liberace but won’t admit it, so the marriage tumbles and swerves a bit.
Shakira Berrera as Yolanda a.k.a. Junkchain and Sunita Mani as Arthie a.k.a. Beirut the Mad Bomber start off as a couple, but Arthie is as conflicted about being honest about her sexuality as Bash is. They are on a rocky road.
Rebekka Johnson and Kimmy Gatewood as The Beatdown Biddies plus
Marianna Palka as Vicky the Viking plus Jackie Tohn as Melrose a.k.a. Hollywood are still around.
We get to know Cambodian immigrant Jenny Chey (Ellen Wong). She tells her tragic story of escape from the killing fields when the women go on a camping trip. The camping trip is transformative for several characters.
Tammé or the Welfare Queen (Kia Stevens) hurts her back. The women find a way to adapt her role and protect her health. Carmen (Britney Young) is the one who actually knows a lot about wrestling. She finds a way for Tammé to be an important part of the act without having to lift women to her shoulders every night. Carmen comes up with some of the most creative ideas for the act.
Cherry Bang (Sydelle Noel) develops a little too much fondness for the craps table. She and her huband Keith (Bashir Salahuddin) are put to the test by his desire for a family. Playing craps is her way of coping.
The character arc that was the most powerful to me was Gayle Rankin as Sheila, The She-Wolf. She reveals who she really is. She takes off her wolf costume. And she’s probably the best actress among the bunch of actresses she hangs around with. It’s a brilliant transformation and reveal. Gayle Rankin has been killing it as The She-Wolf, but she goes even higher when we see the talent as a dramatic actress she’s been hiding.
Kevin Cahoon as Bobby Barnes is a drag queen. He performs in a small Las Vegas club. The women of GLOW get involved with him when they help him with an AIDS fundraiser. The show is set in 1986-87, when AIDS seemed like a problem that gay men would have to solve all by themselves.
Speaking of the ’80s – OMG, the hairdos!
Geena Davis as Sandy is the boss at the Fan Tan Club where the wrestling show takes place. But she’s also an old friend of Bobby Barnes. We actually see Geena Davis dressed up as a Vegas showgirl singing with Bobby during the AIDS fundraiser. You haven’t seen that before!
Some minor characters are played by Breeda Wool as a dance teacher, Nick Clifford as a gigolo, and a returning Elizabeth Perkins as Bash’s mother.
This was a strong season. We got into character, which was revealing and interesting. Themes around love, friendship, and community had time to develop. Questions of body image, owning your sexuality, and parenting were explored. The role of women in society was emphasized most by Debbie’s arc as producer of the show vs. pretty girl on the arm of a rich man. There was high drama around homophobia.
Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch created GLOW. As we know from seeing their work on shows like Nurse Jackie, these two writers can be funny, but they can also take their characters deep. It’s a winning combination.
Women who directed in season 3 include Lynn Shelton, Claire Scanlon, and Alison Brie.
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What did you think of season 3?