Review

GLOW Season 3 Review: The Netflix Series Doesn't Shimmer Like It Used To

  • First Released Aug 9, 2019
    released
  • television


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Where's the wrestling?

The latest season of Netflix's GLOW has arrived for its third season. While the backdrop of the series is about an all-women's wrestling promotion finding its footing, it's also explores relationships, life, and work. The comedy/drama series is loosely based on Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, a wrestling promotion from the '80s. For many, the draw of the series was watching this struggling show coming together. The first season saw the characters learning the craft of wrestling, while Season 2 explored the cast putting together a weekly television series.

GLOW returned to Netflix for its third season, relocating the wrestlers to Las Vegas, performing for tourists looking to win big. However, this season is a big gamble as it moves away from the show's thematic backdrop in order to primarily focus on everything and anything aside from wrestling, which was a disappointment.

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For Season 3, the women of GLOW are off to Vegas to work a nightly show on the strip at the Fan-Tan Hotel and Casino run by former showgirl Sandy Devereaux St. Clair (Geena Davis). They perform while continuing to adjust to the Vegas atmosphere and living away from their Los Angeles home. Very quickly, the show hammers in the idea that these women are in a tedious and never-ending cycle of performing the same show night after night.

At its heart, GLOW Season 3 has its merits even if it isn't what fans expect, given what they've seen in previous seasons. It explores the relationships between the women working for GLOW, both platonic and romantic, while progressing its characters arcs. However, the main problem with the season is how far it strays from its roots. The show is about a wrestling promotion and the people within it, but wrestling feels like largely forgotten throughout Season 3. It is treated like an afterthought at best. There are four episodes, at most, of this 10 episode season that actually deal with this aspect. Sure, these women are performing the same routine every day so how in-depth can GLOW get into this aspect of the show when its non-stop repetition for them?

That question isn't rhetorical by any means because GLOW answers it roughly mid-way through the season with an episode revolving mainly around Tammé (Kia Stevens AKA Awesome Kong in AEW) dealing with her body hurting from the daily routine while wanting to do her job, a constant struggle for those who perform and love the industry. Additionally, there is an episode later on--when the women end their first contract at the Fan-Tan--where the wrestlers switch it up and play each other's characters to break the cycle of repetition.

Every character's arc is more about their outside life rather than the show they've created and continue to produce. This is only one half of the equation. At times, there is a lot to keep track of since this is an ensemble cast, and there could be a few episodes between the continuation of their stories. It is a battle to keep track of what's going on, as some of the less-impactful stories fall by the wayside, while other, more interesting, stories don't get the full focus they should. A prime example of this is Carmen reconnecting with her wrestler brother, which is boiled down to a couple of scenes in the season. Carmen's wrestling family roots were a jumping-off point for Season 1, and seeing her family back in her life will lead her to some very interesting decisions in the future. Without going too much into detail about how this plays out throughout the season, it is something that could have used more of the spotlight for this season, as the story felt rushed.

However, there are still many bright spots that shimmer within Season 3 of GLOW. The director of the show Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron) forms a closer bond with his estranged daughter Justine (Britt Baron), as she follows in her father's footsteps. Although Sam isn't as integral a part of the GLOW wrestling show as previous seasons--he feels he doesn't need to be as present for the daily show--he evolves a lot as a character here. His cynicism slowly fades, and you start to see him get a new lease on life. The same goes for his daughter Justine, as she's grown older and come into her own, finding out that she's a fantastic writer. Seeing these two branch out from GLOW may not be something fans want to see, but the way the story is paced and cut between the episodes this season leads you to want them to have their own series. And viewers are treated to an episode focussing primarily on Sam and Justine's trip to Hollywood which is one of the highlights of the entire season as the two grow closer.

Additionally, Debbie (Betty Gilpin) grows a lot throughout this season and goes through some drastic changes as she juggles producing GLOW, being away from her child, keeping her friendship with Ruth afloat, and finding love. She has the most dynamic arc throughout the season, and Gilpin dominates her performance. Her story is complicated, as is her character, but she is the best part of Season 3, and there is a huge moment during the season finale, which will make fans extremely excited for Season 4.

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Season 3 of GLOW feels transitional, as if it's leading to something far more exciting with Season 4. The series is left at a place where many of the problems--some unsettled--could easily be swept under the rug for later offerings. There is a whole story introducing entertainer Bobby Barnes (Kevin Cahoon) who has a variety drag show. The character of Barnes may be interesting, but everything about the story feels completely throw-away. There is also a mud wrestling sequence, which is out of place and will cause the audience extreme whiplash as they try to find their footing and figure out why this scene is in the series in the first place.

It's not to say that Season 3 doesn't matter though. There are some key character storylines here that will ultimately be extremely important for the future, primarily involving Debbie, Sam, Carmen, and Justine. Much of the excellent content from this season takes place in the final episode, "A Very GLOW Christmas." This is where everything the audience needs to know for Season 4 is set up, with the backdrop being a retelling of A Christmas Carol starring Zoya as Scrooge. There are moments like this which are reminiscent of the fun of GLOW--which the pinnacle was Season 2, Episode 8, "The Good Twin" where viewers were treated to an on-air version of the TV show.

The latest offering of Netflix's comedic drama feels less fun than previous seasons. Tonally, it's much more serious, dealing with these character's life-altering problems rather than the goofiness of trying to figure out what professional wrestling is or putting on an entertaining show. The show steps away from actual wrestling, even when wrestling is a daily event for these women, which is a strange choice.

GLOW Season 3 is now available on Netflix, and the first two seasons are also available to stream.

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The Good
Debbie comes into her own
The lead-in to Season 4 is phenomenal
Sam and Justine's relationship and story are wonderful
The Bad
Too many storylines to focus on
Many of the plots feel pointless
The mud wrestling scene is so bizarre
Where is the actual wrestling that doesn't involve mud?
6
Fair
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About the Author

Mat Elfring is an Entertainment Editor on GameSpot. He enjoys wrestling and quoting Demolition Man.