Season one of Glow became a surprise hit for Netflix in 2017. Partly because It features a diverse and dynamic ensemble of actors as adept at comedy as they are at drama. Glow Season 2 uses the same wrestling premise to disguise a much deeper exploration of character and relationships. Pre-eminant show runners Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch return to helm an equally well written second season. Even though leotards, glitter and shimmer tights abound, the stars of Glow season 2 are not sequins or hair spray. They’re the layered performances from a talented cast and the nuanced writing that facilitates them.
Following the success of their pilot, The Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling return to their rundown gym in greater Los Angeles. The goal is clear, make a quality show that doesn’t suck. However, with their limited budget, defensive director and constant threat of cancellation, the cast hardly have a guarantee of success.
The truth is Glow season 2 is a damning indictment of 1980s America. The writers have woven its shocking attitude toward women, minorities and anyone without power into the fabric of the show. The way the characters navigate these glaring injustices in their everyday lives is shocking and powerful at the same time. During certain moments, It’s easy to see how far we’ve come, it’s also painfully apparent when we haven’t, as well.
The heart of Glow season 2 however is its continued exploration of female friendship and true belonging. With Ruth at the centre, we see a unit come together filled with people who have never belonged before. In their own way, each lead feels the need to hustle for their worthiness. Even when surrounded by peers that are just happy to be there. Debbie seems to fair the worst as her life continues to spiral further from her imagined ideal. Her initial grabs for power and attempts to distinguish herself from her peers prove isolating. But her eventual fall from grace is both heartbreaking and damning at the same time.
As bold as it is nuanced, the writing laces depth and subtle meaning into every corner of the production. Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch continue to shine as stewards of female led ensemble comedy/dramas. Following OITNB and Nurse Jackie, Glow season 2 and 1 are further proof of their ability to define the genre.
In season 1, I found delight in the picture perfect casting of Marc Maron as Sam Sylvia. Episodes dedicated to Carmen Wade and Sheila She-Wolf were master strokes and Ruth and Debbie excelled at driving the show. The arcs of Bash, Tammé, Justine and Arthie have been the triumphs of season 2. Each one serving as a showcase of the writers’ ability to show rather than tell. These have become the hallmarks of Glow in season 2.
From scheming and posturing for power to unravelling in unexpected moments of vulnerability, the cast use the writing exceedingly well. They allow it to expose their characters instead of outright demonstrating them.
One shortcoming of Glow season 2 is it begins to reveal the discrepancy in skill between certain members of the cast. This is a challenge to expect with such a large ensemble. However, the good far outweigh the bad and definitely deserve celebration.
Chris Lowell as Bash Howard is close to the MVP of the season. His single minded pursuit of GLOW’s success being derailed by his lovers death happens slowly and heartbreakingly in the background. As his coping mechanisms begin to surface, Bash becomes one of the most fascinating people to watch on screen. Lowell guards Bash’s emotions so fiercely that when when he begins coming apart at the seams, it’s devastating to watch.
Alison Brie returns as the luckless and needy beating heart of the show. As Ruth Wilder she’s able to flick the switch between slapstick comedy and wrenching realism in a heartbeat. Her presence, even in stillness is moving and the depth of emotion she’s able to channel is elite. During her scenes with the head of the network Alison’s face becomes a transparent window straight into Ruth’s mind. The honesty on display is haunting and shows Alison’s continued development as an A-List actress.
Betty Gilpin and Marc Maron continue to encompass their characters, Maron specifically in a role he was born to play. The audience will likely remember Glow season 2 as a far heavier story than season 1. The weight that Gilpin brought to Debbie’s unravelling was affecting. Her forced smile and unintentionally villainous caricature of Liberty Belle is one of the most show’s most perfect motifs. It’s telling that the crowd only cheers for the All-American hero when her enemies have been effectively demonised.
Glow Season 2 Review: The Final Verdict
Glow season 2 is quite a different show from season 1. Those looking for an upbeat, crazy romp through the 80s won’t be disappointed, but may be confronted when the show reaches into heavier territory. Overall though Glow continues to deliver on the promise of its premise, merely upping the stakes in a believable way. On top of outstanding performances by the usual suspects, season 2 features break out moments from more of the cast. Kia Stevens, Sunita Mani and Britt Baron all excelled with increased responsibility during season 2. Now the stage is set and Vegas awaits for this group of loveable weirdos to take on season 3.
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