GLOW Season 3 Review: A Soap Opera True to Its Inspiration | Fanboys Anonymous

GLOW Season 3 Review: A Soap Opera True to Its Inspiration

Posted by Anthony Mango Friday, August 9, 2019
GLOW is back for another run with season 3, which puts a smile on my face. As a wrestling fan with another whole site (Smark Out Moment) and job dedicated toward WWE, this show is one of those rare perfect crossovers between my two brands.

Still, I have my triggers that would stop me from liking this show, funny enough. I've never been an historian, as I not only find lots of period piece television and film to be more of a crutch than a benefit (just look at the X-Men series for an example of that), but I also can't get into wrestling past a certain decade. I was never interested in GLOW as a promotion, I have no plans to check out any of those old tapes, and I'm not even a big fan of campy material, so this Netflix series did have a barrier to break through.

Nevertheless, as you can tell from my reviews for season 1 and season 2 as well as the fact that I'm back for a third go-around, clearly, I enjoy the show. So how did this season play out, and did I think it was an upgrade, a downgrade, or a lateral move from what came before it?

Netflix desktop GLOW wallpaper

GLOW (Season 3 - 2019)

SHOWRUNNERS: Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch

STARRING: Alison Brie (Ruth Wilder), Betty Gilpin (Debbie Eagan), Marc Maron (Sam Sylvia), Sydelle Noel (Cherry Bang), Kate Nash (Rhonda Richardson), Gayle Rankin (Sheila the She-Wolf), Chris Lowell (Bash Howard), Britney Young (Carmen Wade), Kia Stevens (Tammé Dawson), Jackie Tohn (Melanie Rosen), Ellen Wong (Jenny Chey), Shakira Barrera (Yolanda Rivas), Sunita Mani (Arthie Premkumar), Britt Baron (Justine Biagi), Rebekka Johnson (Dawn Rivecca), Kimmy Gatewood (Stacey Beswick), and Geena Davis (Sandy Deveraux St. Clair)


The short answer is that I loved the majority of this season, and it might be my overall favorite, in a lot of ways. The long answer, I'll dive into.

Generally speaking, one of the things I like a lot about this show is how it's equal parts silly and very, very serious. I think a good comedy isn't always laughs, or it becomes obnoxious, and a good drama isn't always doom and gloom, as levity breaks up tension and allows for darker moments to really hit home. That's why I'm such a big fan of Scrubs and How I Met Your Mother.

This season has a lot of moments where something hilarious is wrapped in a dark package, or what would normally be grounds for tears being presented so you can smirk at it. Perhaps the best example of this is how this season starts with the tragedy of the Challenger explosion that is both addressed as a horrible incident and played for laughs with how awkward everyone deals with it.

But even though I had my share of laughs throughout these 10 episodes, I found myself gravitating more toward the darker themes this season dove into—and there were a ton of these going around, as nearly everything was touched upon, including but not limited to:

  • Getting older (at age) and being concerned with your body to the point that bulimia feels like a good escape.
  • Worrying about how having a child can ruin your career aspirations.
  • Creepy producers who devalue women by treating them like they're just sex objects in an era that, despite it still existing today, was even more prevalent, because people were more accepting of that behavior.
  • How jokes based on racial stereotypes can be both entertaining and legitimately funny, but also extremely hurtful, if you can't separate yourself from the horrors that come along with your people's struggles.
  • The strain of a long-distance relationship and how that separation can really make it difficult for people to stay connected.
  • The soul-crushing business of being a creative person who can't catch their break, feels overworked and underappreciated, and can't help but reflect that back on themselves that if they were truly good, they wouldn't be failing so much.
  • Each person has so much pain behind them, which was demonstrated very well with Sandy's eulogy and how she wasn't able to speak at the actual funeral. Very sad character, wrapped up in the glitz and glamor of smiling all the time and pretending like you're not deeply depressed.
Sheila the She-Wolf might have actually been my standout character arc for this season, as her story of being comfortable in her own skin was taken to the next level. Her parallels with the new character of Bobby Barnes, a drag queen, were show-stealers and a great catalyst for her ditching the wolf attire and moving on after her "vision quest" of sorts.

My "in" for this show, though, has always been a healthy (or I guess, you could say unhealthy, given the circumstances) mix between Alison Brie's Ruth and Marc Maron's Sam. I can identify with a middleground between the two. I get Ruth's aspirations and self-delusion mixed with a hatred of her wide-eyed self when things come crashing down and it's too hard to stay optimistic. I get Sam's bitter cynicism toward the world.

Maron's Sam is so self-actualized, despite being so flawed, and I absolutely love it. He's definitely my favorite character, overall. I think they missed out on having more of his relationship with Justine, though. It was underwhelming that their storyline was only in a handful of episodes, rather than peppered more throughout. But I like how he was more relaxed this season because of his lack of pressure, until things got real and he crumbled.

There were some downsides, though. The time jump episode (#8) felt strange to me, like it was the obvious glue between 7 episodes of fun and a big switch to a different writer. Did Reggie have any sort of purpose for this season at all? No closure on the Russell situation, one way or another?

Some other quick notes and random tidbits I found interesting:
  • Switching up the characters and having people play different parts was super fun!
  • It was so refreshing that Debbie and Ruth weren't fighting this whole season.
  • Big fan of them addressing wrestlers taking pain pills and wanting to tough out their injuries to keep working. Kia Stevens is such a treat. Every scene she's in, she's a gem who just nails whatever she's supposed to do. Awesome Kong is truly awesome.
  • I don't think they handled Bash's story as well as it could have gone. In a season that leaned so heavily into the LGBTQ+ side of things, they really put him on the sidelines with that discussion until so late that it felt like it was a rushed "Oh, yeah, and he's gay, remember?" type of deal, rather than a natural progression of his marriage to Rhonda.
  • Referring to Sandy as "the ghost of Christmas future" for Debbie and then wrapping up the season with that story was a nice touch. I liked how she was a parallel for Debbie's future, and I would have liked to see another scene or two between them for more interaction to see their similarities and differences with more of a spotlight.
  • Melanie with the prostitute mix-up was funny.
  • Refreshing for Keith to be the emotional one about wanting to start a family. For a supporting role, he's really a standout.
  • I went from typing out "I like Tex. He seems like a stand-up guy" in my notes to "Uh oh, heel turn impending."
  • "Mostly, I'm just staring down the barrel of life, wondering what I'm aiming at."

I binged this from 5am straight through, because I just wanted to keep watching it, and I'm really looking forward to season 4. Here's hoping our characters continue to evolve and when they have the creative freedom to make even more choices next season, it can push everyone in some very interesting scenarios. Keep it up, GLOW. This is an underrated series that deserves more attention.


Tony Mango is the founder, editor-in-chief, head writer and podcast host of Fanboys Anonymous as well as all other A Mango Tree branches including Smark Out Moment. He is a pundit, creative director/consultant, fiction writer and more. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.