The second season of Netflix’s 80s-tastic wrestling hit GLOW dropped Friday and it still follows the Orange is the New Black formula of asshole protagonists and a more interesting ensemble cast. This go-around, though, creators Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch have made a concentrated effort to make two out of the three main characters more sympathetic.
Ruth (Alison Brie), aka Zoya, has matured this season. She’s been focused exclusively on work and comes back from the production break full of ideas that are immediately dismissed by Sam (Marc Maron), including a title sequence that still gets used because the network exec loved it. She has chemistry with new camera guy Russell (Victor Quinaz) and he points out Debbie (Betty Gilpin) is clearly treating her like crap when Debbie—in her new role as producer—intentionally ruins their date. She’s the first to befriend new castmember Yolanda (Shakira Barrera) and sort of learns to breakdance. She saves a floundering TV taping with a kidnapping storyline that catches the unfortunately predatory eye of the KDTV president. After an in-ring injury, she salvages the rest of the season with her writing and promo.
Debbie, aka Liberty Belle, is the biggest heel this side of Tommy Sports Entertainment. There are a couple of moments when she seems almost human, particularly when she’s dealing with her divorce. The reaction to seeing her ex with their son and his new girlfriend briefly elicits compassion. But moments like those are easily forgettable when Debbie’s busy clam jamming her former best friend or strong-arming her way to a producer credit while everyone else gets told to either sign a crappy contract or they’re fired. Considering Liberty Belle is a white meat babyface, it’s a interesting parallel that she’s the worst person behind the scenes.
Sam is still a smug, self-loathing jerk, but his edges start softening, mostly due to his daughter, Justine (Britt Baron). After some discussion about them never talking, they start having family dinners. After Sam’s film “Gina the Machina” is shown as part of a film festival, he apologizes to Ruth and learns that Justine is an A/V Club (she joined after he forced her to go to school). Father-daughter bonding commences and he offers her the opportunity to direct an episode of the show-within-a-show while he shoots it, like he would’ve in his younger days.
The standout actress for the season was Kia “Awesome Kong”/ “Kharma” Stevens as Tammé/Welfare Queen. I’m still angry she never got her revenge on the Bellas, but I loved seeing her toss Liberty Belle around like a rag doll. Watching her play off Gilpin as their characters map out their championship match over fondue and discuss sexism and how to get Sam and Bash (Chris Lowell) to let Debbie be a producer in more than name only was one of my second-favorite moment in the season. I also enjoyed seeing Tammé’s interactions with her son; the scene after his first time at a taping was particularly heartwarming.
But the singular reason anyone should watch this season is episode 8, which just a stand-alone episode of the show-within-a-show. It’s a great break from the constant behind-the-scenes drama and truly captures the essence of the original series. It’s goofy, cheesy and absolutely ridiculous…and it is AMAZING.
Overall, it’s an improvement over last year. 4.25/5 Plastic Crowns.