With their TV show finally on the air, the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling work hard to make their show the best that it can be and as they come to terms with such things as a new cast member, protest groups and an awful timeslot, Ruth (Alison Brie) still struggles to maintain a civil relationship with former best friend Debbie (Betty Gilpin), constantly battling against her increasingly harsh treatment as well as Sam’s chauvinism and a particularly sleazy studio head.
As with season one, this run of GLOW episodes has its fair share of soap opera storylines but now that the foundation has been firmly laid, the show does what I had hoped it would do by being a touch more lighthearted and in this series, the show within the show truly comes to life as we see the central group of misfits have loads of fun shooting a wonderful opening title sequence at the mall and we start to see that what they’re making is something of a variety show – full of music, dance, public service announcements and just so many wacky, colourful, fun filled moments.
Which leads me to the series highlight: episode eight – “The Good Twin”. This particular episode is a whole half hour of GLOW (the show within the show, that is) and all the Saturday Night Live style skits, sketches, dream sequences, dance numbers, music videos, adverts and, of course, wrestling matches make the episode an absolute blast – a brilliantly fun episode that’s sure to be a highlight of this particular TV year.
But in amongst all the fun and games, there are plenty of hardhitting themes and storylines that clearly mean a lot to the show’s writers; there’s focus on the importance of family and motherhood as well as the need for more female directors (GLOW itself is mainly written and directed by females) and there’s even a particularly important plot point in episode five involving Ruth and the head of the studio that clearly has something to say about people like Harvey Weinstein. As it was with the first series, there’s a certain lack of cohesion as, given all the many different writers, many plot threads are touched upon but never revisited in later episodes but still, this season of GLOW is clearly very socially relevant and this time around, it’s bolder and louder with its plot; we grew to love the misfit band of wrestlers in the previous series and in its sophomore outing, GLOW often has a triumphant and empowering tone which gets us fully involved in the characters and the story.
It’s also great to see that there’s much more wrestling involved and since the characters end up having to compete with a men’s wrestling show, their moves are bigger, rougher and more daring and watching the actresses fully commit to the more physically demanding fight choreography is mightily impressive and a joy to behold. Plus, the final Battle Royale is just wonderful – a real punch the air moment.
Stepping back into the role of Ruth Wilder (and her amazing wrestling character Zoya the Destroya) is Alison Brie and in this series, she comes to life even more and really delivers on the many funny moments – proving herself to be a terrific performer as she makes Ruth a truly delightful, well rounded character. But it’s not all smooth sailing for her as at the start of the series, Ruth is constantly ignored, insulted and trampled over, particularly by Sam and Debbie, and we really feel for her as she tries her best to bring good ideas to the table (she clearly cares about the show more than anyone else) and we see how hard it is for her to keep her emotions in check and “play nice” while others are mistreating her. Continually determined and upbeat, Ruth develops well in this second series, getting that little bit more character depth, and Brie is remarkable in the role.
Betty Gilpin also does something different with her character of Debbie Egan/Liberty Belle as she deals with the fallout of her marriage by throwing her weight around and demanding a role as producer. In this series, she becomes something of an antagonist since she distances herself from the rest of the group and she treats Ruth unfairly as she faces the crisis in her own life; she’s less likeable but at the end of the day, she’s an important part of the team and Gilpin continues to be a strong performer. And Marc Maron returns as the brash director Sam Silvia but, like Debbie, it’s actually difficult to get behind him at the beginning of the series as he too treats Ruth harshly by shooting down all her ideas, his jealousy and chauvinism leading him to punish her for taking the reins on his show but despite this character inconsistency, he soon goes back to being the lovable prick we know and love and we yet again see him as a staunch protector of his girls, gradually developing a certain fondness for Ruth and attempting to be a father to Justine.
As for the rest of the cast, many of them are still relegated to the sidelines as it was in the first series, making space for Ruth, Debbie and Sam, but despite that, the rest of the girls form a wonderful family unit who often argue but ultimately care about each other so much – particularly evident in an episode where one of them ends up in hospital. In this series, they also get to experiment with different characters – coming up with alternate personas which pay tribute to real life GLOW characters like Big Bad Mama and Chainsaw & Spike, who “evolved” from The Housewives. The wrestlers give the series a very strong heart and they’re all a superb bunch who you’d love to spend time with.
Style wise, GLOW remains visually appealing as it’s shot very well, the fight choreography is very impressive, there’s plenty of colour, and both the crazy costumes and low budget footage help to bring us that 80s vibe, capturing the cheesiness and camp nature of the original show with all the shot transitions and laugh tracks. The show also continues to have a great soundtrack and in this second season, we hear some very well chosen tracks from artists like Run-DMC, Hall and Oates, Bronski Beat, The Human League, The Waitresses, Starship and Patty Smyth – whose song “Warrior” once again opens up the series with style and all around awesomeness.