TV: GLOW – Season 3 (2019)

September 10, 2019 | By

Film: Very Good

Transfer:  n/a

Extras: n/a

Label:  n/a

Region: n/a

Released:  n/a

Genre:  TV / Comedy / Drama / Wrestling

Synopsis: Season 3 has the GLOW team suffering from ennui and seething conflicts in neon Las Vegas.

Special Features:  n/a




In Season 3 of GLOW, Netxflix’s medium hit series, the writers answer the pressing question of How is the GLOW team doing in Las Vegas? after owner Bash Howard (Chris Lowell) managed to secure a 3 month contract at a glitzy casino run by ex-showgirl Sandy Devereaux (Geena Davis).

The answer may be a pleasant surprise for series fans wanting more character moments instead of another Rockeyesque buildup towards a big finale, but the trade-off is far less ring action than prior seasons. Showrunners Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch probably realized more duels would’ve felt like a retread, adding nothing new to the drama nor the lives of its characters, so the change seems like a worthy creative maneuver to keep audiences intrigued.

And yet, perhaps a more practical take on S3 is the reality of its actors involved in other projects, and with less pre-filming, refresher training, the writers focused on subtle events and conflicts that reshape characters and redefine relationships. The proof lies in the way rehearsals and matches are shown: instead of seeing routines being fine-tuned, there’s mishaps and quiet physical and mental suffering; in place of kinetic bouts, the directors cut away to off-stage drama or parallel action, some of which won’t exactly please fans.

In a nutshell, S3 has Debbie (Betty Gilpin) balancing motherhood / wresting / producing in Vegas while Tammé (Kia Stevens) pushes her pain levels into danger zones to get through the initial short-term booking; Debbie’s main conflict is losing any say in the GLOW production when Bash becomes distracted by the injection of cheesy theatrics, and his ego enlarges.

Ruth (Alison Brie) juggles a wimpy long-distance relationship with cameraman Russell (Victor Quinaz) while Sam (Marc Maron) bluntly admits his love for Ruth, making their working relationship exceptionally awkward. Bash and Kate’s (Rhonda Richardson) marriage immediately veers from oversexed to dead-in-bed, and the newlyweds discover a gender preference that’s quite abrupt.

Arthie (Sunita Mani) vacillates from being hesitant in bed to a more active partner with Yolanda (Shakira Barrera), and her decision to come out is tied to a trite subplot involving drag queen Bobby Barnes (Kevin Cahoon) who teaches Rhonda singing.

Cherry’s (Sydelle Noel) marriage is taxed when second thoughts of conceiving children sends her husband packing, and a rift between Melanie (Jackie Tohn) and Jenny (Ellen Wong) ultimately forces the team to reassess the outrageous racial stereotypes which some are finding harder to stomach in the ring.

The least surprising Big Decision among the GLOW team has Carmen (Britney Young) feeling directionless in the show’s monotonous design, and weighing an opportunity to apply her natural skills on the road with her older brother, whereas the most striking change has Sheila (Gayle Rankin) seeking more than a new ring persona and shedding fears at an AIDS benefit, and gaining strength from a new friendship with Bobby.

Sam’s still-wonky relationship with daughter Justine (Britt Baron) changes when he reads her first script and tries to launch her career by reconnecting with old colleagues and former foes in California, but his years of abusive drinking and smoking catch up in a strangely handled near-death experience.

The problems in S3 aren’t in the writing or conflicts, but the staging and sometimes spastic time shifts of events which lead (at best) towards a semi-satisfying finale that place Ruth, Debbie, and Sam in very distant corners. The biggest issue, however, is Bash, who was never an especially engaging character to begin with. The showrunners may have sensed he needed a shakeup, hence a strange decision around the season’s midpoint, in which he becomes a complete asshole, subverts Debbie’s producer status, and forces the GLOW members to choose another 9 months of ringside monotony, or just ‘fuck off.’

Bash’s shift in temperament is awkwardly tied to an inability to confront his bisexuality, but he remains an asshole because his confusion turns to self-hate, and then plain irritability; new wife Rhonda is initially glad to have his attention again in the bedroom, but he’s a shell of the goofy Bash who swooped in as the producer of a local wrestling show in S1. For much of S3, he’s irritable, glum, and drunk.

His bullying behaviour does motivate a great sequence at the midpoint – the ladies change parts and the actors have fun imitating each other – and Bash comes out of his self-loathing haze only when Debbie presents an irresistible business opportunity, moments before another brilliantly staged in which the GLOW team mounts a parody of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

The organized structure of a classic sitcom is to have neat resolutions, but perhaps to auger predictable closure, both main, secondary, and tertiary characters (like the old bitties) have interconnected moments of self-reflection during a desert trip, which admittedly may feel like a cheat in robbing series fans of any wrestling, but the episode satisfies if one accepts S3 as an attempt to dramatize the group’s struggle to remain focused as the lethal ennui of their time in Vegas drives everyone a little crazy.

It’s still a great show with a superb cast, but for S4 (which Netflix has announced is the series’ last), the writers will have a challenge in structuring storylines which either bring the series to a satisfying close, or stretch out conflicts for a further year, especially the Sam-Ruth attraction. As happens with prolonged, unresolved romances, when two bickering characters finally hit the sack and marriage enters the picture, a show’s energy line is fried, and a series becomes effectively neutered, if not dead. Classic examples that come to mind are the Niles-Daphne bobbing prior to their nuptials in Frasier (1993-2004); the Bobby-Lindsay romance that ruined The Practice (1997-2004); and most dramatically, the disastrous consummation between David and Maddie in Moonlighting (1985-1989) which saw the ratings hit wither & die when the writers created a rift between the couple, tossed in a new rival, and effectively killed the show in its bland fifth season.



© 2018 Mark R. Hasan





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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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