The first season of GLOW spent a lot of time laying a foundation for who these women (and the men behind the women) are and what attracted them to wrestling. They established the two camps of faces and heels, with the added twist of our lead heel Ruth (aka, Zoya the Destroya) actually having a heart of gold and the perfect angel-faced Debbie (aka, Liberty Belle) being kind of a vindictive heel. (Albeit with a lot of reason to be!) It was a story of underdogs beating the odds through hard work.
Having established that required exposition, season two really digs in. This is when things start to get good. Episode four, “Mother of All Matches” is a particularly strong half hour, carried almost solely by Debbie (Betty Gilpin) and Tammé (real-life pro wrestler Kia Stevens), my new favorite friendship on the show. The episode shows the two mothers’ differing victories and defeats with their children, their dignity, and their self-respect through the course of the same day. There’s almost zero wrestling until the very end and hoo-boy, what an emotional match. Also, fun fact: this episode was co-directed by the original Hedwig herself, John Cameron Mitchell!
It’s not all hugs and feelings, though. The second season still packs in the punches and it’s clear these actresses have been training for a few years now. The leaps are higher, the slams are harder, and there’s even an entire concept episode that was filmed like a real broadcast of GLOW itself. (Their kidnapping PSA song will stay in your head forever.) The season finale also enjoyed one of the best action sequences the show has had to date.
They also address the '80s a lot more, including all the cocaine wishes and Aqua Net dreams that go along with it. While we all know that sexism has been alive for centuries, GLOW depicts it in a more nuanced way. Quickly negotiating her way to a producer credit, Debbie not only isn’t invited to meetings with Bash and Sam, but they also don’t show up for the meetings she schedules. (Even though she promises, and delivers, a bangin’ fondue feast! Disrespecting melted cheese is just a bridge too far.) Ruth finds herself in a sticky situation in a producer’s hotel room and isn’t exactly met with sisterhood when confiding the situation to Debbie. There’s also a dawn of the AIDS virus storyline late in the season that, while meaty, feels rushed into the last two episodes.
That would be my chief complaint about season two. The last couple episodes felt like they had a ten episode order, but lost count and wrote stories for twelve. The rest of the season was paced out so well that I had to double check that I hadn’t somehow missed one.
Also a couple of fan favorites (I’m looking at you, Carmen and Arthie) get neglected throughout most of the season. They do rally for Arthie near the end, however, opening a pretty major door for her in her sexual awakening (how much do I love Arthie and Yolanda together?), so I can only imagine she’ll get a lot more to do next season as this storyline continues to play out.
As the ladies make their way into season three, they’re played off by the seminal Starship song, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”. These women head off into the (temporary) sunset for now, but I already can’t wait to see what new moves they have to show off in season three.