Review: 'GLOW' Grows Up As The Action Heads To Las Vegas

This summer is the summer of nostalgia. Without even mentioning Disney’s remakes of 90’s classics Aladdin and The Lion King, one could argue that Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, The Kitchen, Blinded by the Light, the third season of Stranger Things, Rocketman all have brought audiences back to the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, bringing up modern issues within a historical context. This continues in the third season of Glow. 

Picking up where we left them last in Las Vegas, starting a new nightly wrestling live show after their television show was canceled last season, the group settles into a little too well into its home at the Fan-Tan casino. Suddenly afforded a steady gig, the group starts to focus on other aspects for their lives as its need for survival is no longer an issue. Debbie (Betty Gilpin) and Ruth (Alison Brie) are delightfully getting along this season, coming together to help each other through Ruth’s relationships with Sam (Marc Maron) and Russell (Victor Quinaz) and Debbie’s guilt over being a long-distance working mom and producer. Just when you think Marc Maron can’t be more charming and snarky, he and his mustache prove otherwise as his character struggles with Ruth, getting older, and being a better person. 

Many of the women are figuring out where to go from here. Rhonda (Kate Bush) and Bash (Chris Lowell) try to navigate their new marriage after their wedding scam last season. Tammé (Kia Stevens) is struggling with the toll wrestling puts on her body and is wondering where she goes from here with the team. Arthie (Sunita Mani) is coming to terms with her sexuality further this season, sticking a wrench in her relationship with Yolanda (Shakira Barrera). Carmen is kind of on her own this season, having lost her two best friends Bash and Rhonda to marriage and is questioning her position in the group.  Identity and the boxes we are thrown into as people are front and center this season as they try to figure it all out.

The show handles some of those issues better than others. It covers LGBTQ coming out stories in pretty realistic ways, from self-discovery to internalized homophobia. The show takes a much needed deeper look into race, especially with their Asian characters. Episode 6 features a campout in the middle of the desert were a lot of these issues are either raised or addressed. The show has always walked that line between addressing an issue or being a fault for one, there are some purposefully cringy moments this season. Of course that’s going to happen, the show takes place in the 80s.  

The show falls flat when talking about female body issues. It's wonderful that it shows a wide array of body types and is more liberal in the amount of nudity, showing both men’s and women’s bodies more realistically. However, in episode 3, Debbie talks about how “my boobs are too big and my ass is four times the size of every showgirl in Las Vegas.” All women suffer from body images issues and I believe the show had good intentions showing the insecurities of mom in show business, but that seems like a step ahead. In order to get to the more nuanced stories of a marginalized demographic, we have to see the main demographic represented first. 
It feels kind of trite to have a beautiful woman be the subject of a topic that would be better suited to actual fat character, one you could actually believe be marginalized by their size, like Carmen, who at one point is literally referred to as the “big girl who fell out of her costume.” Carmen does take her top off to mud wrestle later in the season (this shouldn’t be groundbreaking, but with limited fat representation, it ends up being groundbreaking) and notes her frustration of being overlooked romantically and platonically by her friends, but again for the third season in a row, she seems to be falling into “the fat best friend archetype.” It may be cliché but Debbie’s body storyline seems like it would be better suited to Carmen, especially since this isn’t Debbie’s only storyline this season.

Maybe the show didn’t want Carmen’s season arc to be all about her weight, but that would be valid if she had much of a storyline at all. Every season Britney Young seems underused. Young brings a naiveté and a genuineness to the character. There’s a sweetness to Carmen, and though we see a very slight bite to her this season, you just want more of that character. She’s a series lead and she still hasn’t had her moment the same way even some the of secondary characters have. Despite limited screen time, her season ends at a crossroads, putting her needs before the team, indicating she might have more to do in season 4 besides being everyone’s best friend. It's not that I don’t love the Sam and Ruth will-they-wont they romance or Debbie balancing the expectations of being a mother with being a producer/performer, but those storylines have dominated the show for three seasons.  By pulling back slightly on those arcs, and focusing on some of the overlooked characters, you have a stronger show, a more feminist, united show. The diversity is there. Use it. It's not enough anymore just to have those characters on screen. 

Despite that glaring criticism, the show is fun to watch. While season one focused on how to wrestle and season two literally showed an episode of the show they were making and focused more on the drama of the characters, season three does a great job of balancing wrestling with the story. While some storylines worked better than others, which happens with such a large ensemble cast, this season feels like the first time the characters felt like a cohesive family. In a season largely about identity, the show does a pretty good job addressing world issues, expectations from the fans, and still walk that meta-comedy

line in a tongue-in-cheek way. Whatever direction they go in next season, let’s hope that the sense of community they have solidified go round continues.

Rating 3.5/5