Between NXT TakeOver: Toronto, WWE SummerSlam, the finals of the G1 Climax and ROH Summer SuperCard, last weekend was jam-packed with wrestling. So if you’re Netflix, what do you do? Drop the third season of GLOW in the midst of it all…
The show picks up where Season 2 left off, with the show-within-a-show being canceled and its continuation with a three-month residency in Las Vegas. Bash (Chris Lowell) and Rhonda/Britannica (Kate Nash) are now married, Yolanda/Junkchain (Shakira Rivas) and Arthie/Beirut (Sunita Mani) are dating, Ruth/Zoya (Allison Brie) and Russell (Victor Quinaz) are still going strong, and Debbie/Liberty Belle (Betty Gilpin) is getting down with every valet, cabana boy and bartender she can find.
It’s 1986 and GLOW immediately starts on a downer note—the Challenger explosion occurs while Ruth and Debbie are doing promo work for their Vegas show. It permeates the entire first episode as rehearsal has issues due to everyone watching the footage constantly, Ruth feels the tragedy should be acknowledged somehow during the show, and Debbie and Bash think they should postpone opening night.
In this episode we’re also introduced to a new character, Sandy Devereaux St. Clair (Geena Davis), the former showgirl-turned-hotel entertainment manager, who insists the show must go on. Davis doesn’t get as much screen time as you’d expect, but her appearances are often big moments filled with speeches and realization for the main cast. She befriends Debbie as they’re both women with titles in male-dominated industries, and it is her advice that helps motivate Debbie to make a big business move in the last episode. If the series is renewed for a fourth season, it’s heavily implied that the major focus is going to be the fallout of Debbie’s decision.
While Debbie is learning to balance work and long-distance motherhood, it is Sheila the She-Wolf (Gayle Rankin) who has the most dramatic evolution of season three. After being harshly critiqued in an acting class (the teacher says that he can’t hear anything she says “over all this” with wild hand gestures at her costume), she quits and befriends drag performer Bobby Barnes (Kevin Cahoon in the other stand-out role of the season) who seems to “get” her. It’s Bobby who convinces Sheila to take off the wig—she even allows him to brush it. As the show goes on, we see Sheila start to reveal other layers of herself, culminating with burning the wolf costume and declaring that “it was getting in my way.”
If there was a central theme to this season, it was embracing who you are. We see it most profoundly with Sheila and Debbie, but it affects other characters, notably Bash. After he married Rhonda at the end of last year, it was clear the issue of his sexual orientation was going to come up. The past two seasons have hinted that Bash is closeted and he’s finally forced to confront it.
Bash meets with Bobby about producing the latter’s show and Bobby sees a kindred spirit in Bash and takes his hand. When Bash mentions Rhonda, Bobby responds that he has a son whose mother is “a dear friend of mine.” After seeing Bobby’s female impersonation show, Bash declines to add his name to the marquee and says “but I think my wife would be interested in taking voice lessons.”
This is followed up by Rhonda realizing they haven’t had sex in months and hiring Melrose’s (Jackie Tohn) gigolo boyfriend Paul (Nick Clifford) to flirt with her to make Bash jealous. It has the opposite effect and leads to a threesome that drives Bash further in retreat of who he is. After a fundraiser for AIDS patients falls victim to a homophobic attack and he has a conversation with Debbie, Bash makes a hard choice. In parallel, Arthie struggles with whether she should officially come out.
The stand-out episode of the season is episode five, “Freaky Tuesday.” In an effort to prevent boredom –and because Tammé is having back issues– the wrestlers switch roles. It’s fun and, for me, it was the bigger moment in “Sheila the She-Wolf” turning into “Sheila the Person.” A close runner-up is the finale, “A Very GLOW Christmas,” in which they women of GLOW put on a show inspired by “A Christmas Carol.” The show-within-a-show is fun, but it’s surrounded by some of the more darker aspects of the characters and appears to be gearing up for a much bigger tonal shift (not that the series has mostly been rainbows and sunshine) in season four. 4.25 Liza Minelli Martini Glasses.