The debut season of GLOW felt special, a bright and confident series that easily stood out among dozens of new Netflix offerings. It boasted a cast of mostly women, a lively premise (based on the real-life Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling), and, it seems, a sizable budget dedicated to hairspray. The second season is even better (and brighter), allowing sidelined women to share the spotlight, finding depth in one-note characters, and moving past the generic origin story to create something bigger. Also: montages. Glorious, neon montages.
Last season was immensely fun but sometimes felt like an extra long pilot episode, largely because the women were working toward making their own pilot. It spent a while introducing characters and setting up the wrestling world, culminating with a triumphant finale that landed them a TV time slot. The second season begins shortly after and follows the wrestlers as they film their first season. Free from introductory and expository constraints, GLOW opens itself up to look closer, to really dig into these characters, and — in a great blend of comedy and drama — depict the frustrations of being a woman in a sexist, professional environment. As the show-within-a-show begins airing (and garnering a small, loyal fanbase), increasing pressure and demands weigh on the women, causing outward arguments and inner conflicts.
Ruth (Alison Brie) and Debbie (Betty Gilpin) spent last year stuck in an antagonistic cycle related to Ruth sleeping with Debbie’s husband (Rich Sommer). It’s an easy way to set up the friends-turned-rivals storyline, and whether or not they can rekindle that friendship is a nice platonic will-they/won’t-they, but it still felt like a generic “two women fight over a man” trope — out of place with the rest of the series’ ideals. (A telling and admirable element of GLOW: there are barely any romantic relationships; these women have their careers first.) But now, Ruth is coming into her own as Sam’s (Marc Maron) unofficial Number Two — even taking it upon herself to direct an adorable, cheesy title sequence shot in a mall — while Debbie snags a producer credit so she can have input in creative decisions. In their personal lives, Ruth finds herself surrounded with support and friendship (possibly for the first time) while Debbie’s impending divorce is causing her to spiral, making rash decisions and lashing out. By giving both women professional goals, rich inner lives, and insight into their basic personality traits, their conflict plays out better and feels more natural. We now understand the extent of Debbie’s pain and why Ruth sabotaged their friendship, so it makes the fights in season two absolute knockouts (especially due to Brie and Gilpin’s pitch-perfect performances). When they have a put-it-all-on-the-table screaming match in a less than idea location, it’s an immediate — but heartbreaking — highlight of the entire season.