GLOW: Season 2 Review – IGN

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GLOW: Season 2 Review – IGN



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Friends in Glow Places.

This is an advance, non-spoiler review for all 10 episodes of GLOW: Season 2 on Netflix – premiering Friday, June 29th.

Netflix’s Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling are back for another triumphant team-up, trying to capitalize on their cult following as a local San Fernando Valley ’80s TV oddity and transform into something thriving and meaningful.

And while this bodacious band of misfits, hailing from all walks of life, attempts to turn a shoddy and lovable wrestling/variety act into a successful venture, the series itself continues its wonderful winning streak as a totally addictive, utterly consumable, dramedy.

GLOW is one of Netflix’s best offerings.

It’s not overlong (10 episodes at around 30 mins each), it doesn’t feel like one long movie (there are actual memorable, themed episodes), and it makes for a dynamite binge. Though serialized, GLOW isn’t cruelly so. It’s all one story, but it’s framed and presented in polished, palatable package so that you want to keep eating the popcorn, watching the next chapter. And tonally, it’s terrific. Sometimes the comedy carries the weight, sometimes the drama, and they’re never forced to wrestle for full control. Like an actual well-booked wrestling card, there’s something for everyone.

GLOW also magically embraces the misery of being an artist, actress, or creative type on the precipice of near-greatness. It’s not about to dish out happiness, no matter how traditional the storytelling feels at times. If there’s a solid endearing moment, it’s earned. If there’s a reconciliation, it feels legit. No one ever gets a full win, as it’s usually a two steps forward/one (or two) steps back affair. And no one embodies the spirit of this more than Alison Brie’s Ruth – a talented and passionate performer who often self-sabotages, on a road paved with so-so intentions.

In the back half of the season though, despite having, on several occasions, alienated various members of the cast and crew over her GLOW tenure, Ruth confesses how this isn’t “just a job” for her. This hard-to-peg rinky dink TV show gives her, for the first time, a sense of belonging. It provides for her a place where people value and care for her. And that’s what this story, as a series, is for the characters involved: it houses them. GLOW, as a show-within-the-show, is never going to reach the heights these characters want it to, so it’s all about the moments and memories they create on the way to… presumed disappointment.

Ruth continues to give it her all, despite being iced out by both Betty Gilpin’s Debbie and Marc Maron’s Sam – though Sam’s reasoning for resenting Ruth isn’t as clear cut as Debbie’s. His comes from the fact that he perhaps has, um, complicated feelings about her and how talented she is. So he pushes her away because he doesn’t want to let people get close. At the same time, Sam is trying to form a meaningful parental bond with Britt Baron’s Justine, whom he recently discovered was his daughter.

Marc Maron continues to be an absolute delight as Sam seems to find a newfound sense of stability as the reluctant wrangler of GLOW while still maintaining his bitter, curmudgeonly edge. His continued relationships with Justine, Bash (Chris Lowell), and Debbie don’t soften him, but they do work to humanize him. Meanwhile, Betty Gilpin shines even more this year as Debbie dives into the deep end of her divorce from Mark (Rich Sommer) and struggles to keep her poise and position as the “face” of the show.

Mirroring wrestling even more, there’s an assured tier system to the characters. Everyone contributes, but there are definitely personalities and stories that are the heart of the show and then the characters who just add peripheral joy with bare bones side stories and gags. Not that these smaller stories can’t be fun and meaningful (there’s a love connection, a feud over a jacket, etc.) but they’ll never overshadow the main cast. Purposefully so. That being said, you do wonder if one of the ensemble is ever going to be given a bit more to work with. Not that GLOW will ever go full Orange is the New Black and eventually make every single member of the ensemble a fully fleshed-out character, but it’s a blast to watch Kia Stevens – as “Welfare Queen” Tammé – rise up this year and seize some of the spotlight.

One of the best episodes of the season, which I’ll only describe as the “Mom-isode” (I don’t have the list of episode titles yet), follows Debbie and Tammé separately, as they journey through different aspects of motherhood: Debbie dealing with her infant son mid-divorce and Tammé her grown Stanford student scholar. And it’s all paired up nicely against the long-awaited “Rematch for the Crown” between Liberty Belle and Welfare Queen. It’s a clever, concise, and moving episode that showcases GLOW’s confidence, here in Season 2, to try something different and leave out most of the ensemble for the purposes of some cool characterization.

And speaking of trying new things, not to get too spoiler-y (though it’s hard not to get excited about it!) there’s an entire episode of GLOW that’s… an episode of G.L.O.W. It’s freakin’ fun as hell. It’s these two episodes, really, that have me giving Season 2 a slightly higher score than the first season – though in most aspects they’re sort of equally enjoyable and engaging. GLOW doesn’t break the mold with its second season, but it does morning-stretch a bit, testing the boundaries of its characters, allowing them to grow and laugh and hurt and find comfort in each other as they parade around on a slowly sinking ship.

The Verdict

GLOW is back and not only does the show have a fresh sheen of confidence but its characters now continually find themselves more at home with one another and in the ring, adding new layers of vital vulnerability. Like the way these performers begin to use everything at their creative disposal to entertain the crowd, the series itself stretches to provides us fans with new approaches to storytelling.



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