Netflix's GLOW Season 3 Review
Glitzy Las vegas Overwhelms Wrestlers
Netflix's Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling return for a Vegas-themed third time around the block, finding it as hard as ever to keep the drama off the stage.An unlikely candidate to garner your attention? Well GLOW is a surprisingly engaging little 30-minute episode skit which both faithfully recreates and satirises the 80s wrestling group it was inspired by, revelling in the period texture, juxtaposing it with the modern climate, and lacing the whole affair with an increasingly amount of organic drama delivered by an utterly committed cast.
Far more than just an oddball bunch of ladies in lycra - wrestling - GLOW efficiently manages its unlikely balancing act between warm and goofy comedy and character-based drama - think less The Wrestler and more Fighting With My Family - evident ever since its opening episodes where Alison Brie's lead character, Ruth, betrays her best friend, Betty Gilpin's Debbie, by sleeping with her husband. Three seasons later and the echoes of that betrayal are still evident, with a cathartic crescendo in the second season that saw Debbie finally allow her repressed feelings to spill out on the stage, with disastrous results. Over the last 20 episodes Ruth and Debbie ended up becoming fictional arch-enemies - as well as real ones - playing the leads in a new all-female wrestling show that nobody expected to succeed, helmed by grizzled director Sam (Marc Maron), but which eventually found its way all the way to Vegas.
Another colourful year for GLOW
Season 3 sees the ladies in awe of their new stage, revelling in the glitz and glamour of Vegas, but also increasingly intimidated by the scale of it all. With casino manager Sandy (Geena Davis) on hand to keep them in check, they soon find that they are going to have to up their act - and dial down their drama - if they want to impress at this level. And with new opportunities - and relationship revelations - around every corner, it's going to be another colourful year for GLOW.
Season 1 enjoyed a slow-build set up, taking its good time honing this disparate bunch until they, eventually, managed to find their rhythm as a group, whilst Season 2 showed them desperate to rise beyond the amateur ranks, struggling with politics - both internal and external. But a change of setting was long overdue, and the shift to Vegas offers just that, not only changing the landscape, but also shifting the balance.
As amateur as they appeared at the outset, the GLOW team were well on their way towards honing their act into something borderline professional - or so they thought - with Vegas highlighting just how far they have to go, and showing them just what well-choreographed, expertly delivered shows should be like. It is intimidating and challenging, knocking them off balance, and exposing weaknesses and insecurities that are played to wonderfully dramatic effect (not least when the group take an ill-advised trip to the desert for some campfire relaxation that goes all kinds of wrong).
A welcome return for a show that nobody expected to be this good
Davis enjoys a return to the limelight, whilst the various members of the group each gets their time to shine, but this is still Alison Brie's show through and through (who, in an ironic upgrade, gets to finally direct an episode of the series - mirroring her character's success), which is somewhat ironic given Gilpin's ostensible all-American lead, and tortured single mother routine (although the baby is long gone for most of the show). Brie has such fabulous visible strength and vulnerability - and is absolutely superb as both Ruth and her Russian antagonist wrestler persona Zoya (never moreso than during the tragic Challenger live broadcast), struggling here with a long distance relationship and the will-they/won't-they chemistry she shares with Maron's older mentor, who has clearly loved her from day one.
The bitesize 30 minute chunks work well, making the entire 10 episode run eminently binge-worthy, although equally frustrating in that - arguably unlike the last season - this one doesn't have a clear-cut ending, dipping into somewhat more conventional rom-com territory for a finale that will leave long-time fans hoping that a fourth season was already in mind when they made this one. Aside from that (and perhaps the lack of effectiveness of a Dolby Vision presentation - the intentionally grainy faux period look doesn't exactly lend itself well to the format, despite what should be a vivid kaleidoscope of punchy tones) this is a welcome return for a show that nobody expected to be this good.
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