Season three of the Netflix series GLOW has been available long enough that we figure that it’s time for our take, and to do so, two of our regular writers are offering up their thoughts, having watched all three seasons. It goes without saying that the following discussion will have spoilers.
JAMIE MELISSA HEMMINGS: Season three of GLOW was a tough watch for me. Unlike season one and two which I truly binge-watched in a short period of time, for this season I watched the first two episodes and decided to watch a different Netflix series, The Family, instead. Upon finishing that series, I decided I should really finish GLOW, being a SLAM! Wrestling writer and all, but it was a slog. Gone was the passion and the fun from the first two seasons. I just don’t get it! After all this show is set in the ’80s and for this season, at the fictional Fan-Tan hotel and casino in Las Vegas! It was definitely a time to bring on the neon, the sparkle and the excess. Instead it was as lackluster and groan inducing as the feeling you get after indulging in one of Vegas’ signature all-you-can-eat buffets.
GREG OLIVER: I was excited to jump back into GLOW and see where the storylines were going. Over the first two seasons, I became emotionally invested in some of the characters. I eagerly sat down to watch this go-round, and knew something was off right from the get-go, when the shows were shorter in length, usually 30-40 minutes, rather than the previous years, which were closer to an hour. Since I have spent so much time in Las Vegas over the years, I was curious what they’d do with the new location and, like Jamie, overall I came away disappointed.
WHAT WE LIKED ABOUT SEASON 3 x 3
JAMIE MELISSA HEMMINGS: Coming up with things I liked about this season was tough, but there were some tiny sparks of joy.
1) It was great to see actress Gayle Rankin (who plays Sheila) shed her wolf skin and show more versatility this season. I found myself truly enjoying and anticipating all her scenes as she explored acting and embraced her authentic self. A particular highlight was Episode 5 — “Freaky Tuesday,” when all the ladies were switching characters and Sheila comes out dressed as Liza Minelli complete with martini glass and attacking her own tag team partner. Now that’s Vegas!
2) I’m a sucker for any kind of adaption of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Fun fact: my husband and I watch the Muppet version every Christmas Eve! So, the final episode of the season sees the ladies put on their version of the Dickens tale interspersed with some wrestling. And since there wasn’t much wrestling shown this season, the inclusion of more albeit not enough, ring action was a bonus for me. While I won’t be adding this episode to my holiday watch list anytime soon, I appreciated the costumes especially the Holiday Barbiesque gown worn by Debbie (Betty Gilpin), the cheesy set pieces and I may have even shed a tear, or it could have been allergies not sure, when Keith (Bashir Salahuddin) showed up as Santa to surprise Cherry (Sydelle Noel) after being estranged for most of the season.
3) The addition of Bobby Barnes (Kevin Cahoon) as a drag queen performing in a show at the same hotel/casino as GLOW was a welcome and lively addition to the season. Not only were his costumes and musical numbers spectacular, but having his Libertine Ball, an AIDS fundraiser, be heartbreakingly vandalized, gave the show the opportunity to explore hate crimes, homophobia and the perception/misconceptions of AIDS during the ’80s. Once again the old stereotype that wrestling is dumbed down entertainment is disproved, showing that viewers can still at the same time be educated about the serious goings on outside of the ring.
1) Britney Young, who plays Carmen “Machu Picchu” Wade, took over from Kia Stevens — Tammé “The Welfare Queen” Dawson — as my favorite character (and Kia was good this go-round, but not given enough to do). I found myself rooting for her, and knowing that she had the “legit” wrestling background, when she and her brother (Carlos Colon Jr., better known as Carlito in his WWE days) talked about her going out on the road for real, I wanted to watch THAT. In the “real” GLOW, it was Lisa Moretti who succeeded outside the goofiness as Ivory, so there is still potential for that to happen down the road.
2) Geena Davis as the elder showgirl turned casino boss was great. She’s great in almost everything, and it felt like a treat that she was involved in this show. The biggest mark out moment was when she returned to her showgirl roots at the Libertine Ball. The flipside is that I wanted to mark out for wrestling-related stuff, but there wasn’t enough.
3) Likewise, Elizabeth Perkins is only in a few episodes, but she brings a grandeur and legitimacy to the messed-up life of her son, the money mark / chief producer Bash Howard (Chris Lowell). I always had a big crush on her, especially in Big. She was super as “Birdie” and the awkward relationship between her and her son, and then her son’s new wife, added depth and was funny to boot.
WHAT WE DIDN’T LIKE ABOUT SEASON 3 x 3
JAMIE MELISSA HEMMINGS:
1) Just to be sappy, I have to say I was elated when Ruth (Alison Brie) and Sam (Marc Maron) admitted that they were in love with each other and then finally kissed! EEEEEE! I thought this would salvage the season and the time I had invested in watching it. Unfortunately, early on in the season, Sam admits his feelings first, but he does this in the hotel’s hot tub which is kind of sketchy but I went with it, but then Ruth didn’t reciprocate due to fear of ruining their friendship/working relationship and because she was still dating her boring boyfriend, Russell (Victor Quinaz, and oh I will talk more about him later). The bad timing continues when Ruth decides to finally admit her feelings for Sam, but he has checked out of the hotel to help his daughter, Justine (Britt Baron), pursue her movie-making dreams. Ruth later auditions for a part in Justine’s movie and meets Sam afterwards for drinks where she admits she loves him too and they kiss. Yes! But it all comes crashing down when Sam decides to tell Ruth she didn’t get the part. So, everything fizzles out. I’ve waited for this coupling since Ruth and Sam danced to Madonna’s “Crazy for You” at Justine’s school dance last season. Consider my hopes dashed! I still love that song though!
2) For a show called GLOW, which as a reminder stands for Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, as I alluded to earlier, the wrestling this season was quite lacking. Now I understand that this season was set in Vegas so the ladies were putting on the same show each night, so understandably viewers don’t need to see the same wrestling show in every episode, but c’mon. I understand going to Vegas makes sense in keeping with the somewhat history of what actually happened in GLOW (the original version, not the Netflix series), but I think it was a misstep. I wanted and expected more wrestling, even though I know it is not of the same caliber I would get if I watched a female pro wrestling promotion such as SHIMMER. On that thought, I so should have watched one of my SHIMMER DVDs after I finished The Family. Alas, the things I do for SLAM! Wrestling readers!
3) In Episode 8, it is revealed that the ladies have done 50 shows. Ruth brings out a cake and everything to celebrate. To escalate time, Ruth takes off her makeup while the background blurs in a fast-forward effect. We are then told that GLOW has reached the 200-show mark. I really wish that the people in charge of this show wouldn’t have used this cheap tactic to move the season forward. I get it this season was a dud and desperate times call for desperate measures, but next time I suggest we move the story along via better writing, character development, a larger number of episodes and maybe some wrestling?
1) Not enough Mark Maron as the director who doesn’t direct, and when he was there, too much about the ridiculous romance between him and Ruth. I never bought it, and found it creepy earlier, and much worse this season. Blecch to the very idea … but I will admit they have chemistry on screen, meaning they are watchable, even more so when combustible.
2) Sex. Usually this is not something to complain about too much of, but between the straight couples, the lesbian couples, the gay drag queen subplot, the baby storylines, the gigolo idea, the threesome, I just wanted it to end. At some level, it added to the characters, sure, but at the expense of more interesting ways to grow them.
3) Lack of wrestling. With the shortened episodes, something had to give, and it was the one thing that I enjoyed about the show: the girls learning to wrestle, the girls getting better at wrestling, the mistakes they made, the interaction with the audience, the pomp and circumstance of it all. Instead, they make the point again and again that they are essentially seasoned performers putting in little effort to do the same show night after night. And despite the move to Las Vegas, and the show being renewed for a longer run at the casino, not one character leaves (aside from the feuding couple who can’t decide whether to have a baby or not, and, oooh, in a switch, it’s the man who runs off). Throwing in even one new face would have helped, and changed up the dynamic.
CHARACTER WE WANTED MORE FROM
JAMIE MELISSA HEMMINGS: I’m a big fan of Marc Maron (Sam) and to me he really is the heart of the show in a lovable asshole kind of way. Sadly, I just felt he wasn’t given enough to work with this season. I missed the reckless behaviour and the inappropriate/offensive zingers that made me laugh out loud in the previous seasons. It just seemed like he was phoning it in this season, but with the bland, beige material he was given, he can’t be fully at fault. Just because his character is a now a father and in love doesn’t mean you should dull the edges that made him charming.
GREG OLIVER: As I mentioned earlier, Kia Stevens as Welfare Queen really stood out in the first two seasons, and not just because of her legit background. Instead, she proved that she had acting chops, and the season two episode with her son, detailing all she did for him through the years, was awesome. This season, she’s got a bad back. That’s about all you can say about her.
CHARACTER THAT COULD HAVE BEEN ELSEWHERE
JAMIE MELISSA HEMMINGS: While he’s not a major character, I have to use this space to discuss Ruth’s boyfriend, Russell. I have never liked this pairing and it’s not just because I wanted Ruth to end up with Sam. Russell, while a nice guy, has absolutely zero chemistry with Ruth. I haven’t seen chemistry this bad since the wrestling movie, No Holds Barred, included a romantic subplot between the characters Rip (played of course by Hulk Hogan) and Samantha (Joan Severance). I’m sure I’ve induced some unfavorable shuddering with this reference, you’re welcome! Face it, Rip and Zeus had more chemistry! Yes, Russell serves as a means of dragging the Ruth and Sam will they or won’t they storyline, but it was just tedious torture and like Rip and Samantha, no one wanted to see them kiss.
GREG OLIVER: To Jamie’s rant, I’ll add J.J. “Tex” McCready (played by Toby Huss) who becomes the boyfriend of Debbie Eagan (the always great Gilpin). They meet on a plane, and then by coincidence once again in the dive of a casino when she loses her baby. If he’s so rich, why would he be in the crummy hotel? Even by the 1980s standards, the Fan-Tan hotel would have been pretty lame by Vegas standards. And we’re also supposed to accept that Debbie goes from banging all the hot, young valets to this old, bald dude? At least we get a screw-job ending worthy of a Vince Russo booking sheet.
WHAT SHOULD HAPPEN IN SEASON 4
JAMIE MELISSA HEMMINGS: Okay, so this may be controversial to all the GLOW fans out there, the few dozens of you left I’m guessing at this point, but I think if Netflix renews the show for a fourth season, it should be the final season. The people in charge have clearly lost their mojo so to speak and I really can’t take much more. But there are some factors that could redeem this series or at least have it go out on a high note. First, I really think the writers should take a cue from one of my favorite ’80s television shows, Dallas. For all of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure you can stream it from some platform and I highly recommend that you do, but anyway in that show the writers killed off a beloved character only to have him come back with the explanation that his death didn’t really happen, it was all just a bad dream. Let’s make season three of GLOW all a bad dream! Erase it and start over. Blank slate.
Also let’s have more wrestling matches and some decent wrestling cameos. Yes, it was great to see Carlos Colon Jr. again this season, albeit it was a blink and you’ll miss him situation, but seriously why hasn’t Ric Flair been on this show? Ric Flair personified the excess glamour of the ’80s. Someone at GLOW needs to make this happen! Oh, and just to be clear I don’t consider the inclusion of Brooke Hogan in an episode of the first season as a wrestling cameo. But I wouldn’t object to seeing her Dad next season!
Finally, it’s a given that Sam and Ruth have to get together. And, since I’m wishing for things, Debbie’s baby, Randy, needs to establish a baby fight club even if the members consist only of him and the Teddy Ruxpin bear his mom bought him out of guilt. That toy kind of creeped me out as a kid! It truly is a wonder why no one will put me in charge of a series. I think I have a lot to contribute.
GREG OLIVER: I’ll agree that GLOW needs to run out its story in season four. Netflix has said, or somebody did, that people will subscribe for the first two seasons of a show that they hear a lot about, but the subsequent seasons don’t make a difference to the bottom line of the streaming service. Case in point, GLOW.
There are many storylines to wrap up, but few that I am genuinely interested in seeing to completion. I want to follow Justine’s script to its logical end, but it’s a subplot at best and takes away from the fact that the show should be about the wrestlers. The intrigue of Bash running a TV station with Debbie as the president could be fun, sure, but again, it takes away from the premise of the show. Going back to one of my initial points, having Machu Picchu go out on the road, and maybe taking along a couple of the other girls, would add variety to the show — and reinsert wrestling to the show.
We’re just a guy and a girl with too much time on our hands, watching a show about wrestling. We welcome your take, though. What did you like and not like? Send in your thoughts to Greg.