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GLOW: Season 2 - Advance Preview

15 Jun 2018

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The first season of GLOW was a bit of a mixed bag, featuring a number of endearing personalities and some truly outstanding performances, but hampered by inconsistent storytelling and a tendency to fall short of truly developing some of its characters. Returning to Netflix for a second season, the fictionalized account of the all-women's pro wrestling promotion from the 1980s is another mixed bag, making improvements in some areas while continuing to falter in others.

In a bit of life imitating art, we join the ladies as they're about to begin production on their sophomore season. Ruth (Alison Brie) is looking forward to continuing the in-ring rivalry between "Zoya the Destroya" and "Liberty Belle," but Debbie (Betty Gilpin), still blaming Ruth for the dissolution of her marriage, uses her newfound power as producer to drive the narrative in another direction. Meanwhile, not only has Cherry Bang (Sydelle Noel) been replaced by exotic dancer Yolanda (Shakira Barrera), the latter has been tapped to portray the same character - even with the obvious difference in ethnicities.

Elsewhere, Sam (Marc Maron) tries to grow accustomed to fatherhood now that Justine (Britt Baron) has moved in, and finds himself at odds with Ruth when she takes the initiative to shoot an opening title sequence for the show. Sam's lack of warmth toward Ruth in the first few episodes feels like a regression from their relationship at the end of last season, and his overall mistreatment of the entire roster positions him as extremely unlikable in the early going. To his credit, Maron plays an angry old prick extremely well, and does a great job with some heavier material near the end of the season.

Much like the first season, the entire cast is uniformly solid, and it's great to see supporting characters receiving more screen time, although some continue to be under-served by a lack of material. Brie and Gilpin continue to be the show's biggest standouts - which is no surprise given that Ruth and Debbie continue to be the most fully realized characters - and there's a brilliant scene in the back half of the season that could easily generate some Emmy buzz for both actresses. There's also a noticeable uptick in the amount of in-ring action this time around, and viewers can look forward to several full-length matches over the course of these 10 episodes.

Once again, GLOW misses an opportunity to truly comment on the racism that permeated the 80s wrestling culture. Arthie (Sunita Mani) constructs a plan to rid herself of the Middle Eastern terrorist "Beirut" and pave the way for a new character, but when things go awry she just spends the rest of the season complaining without taking any real action. In another episode, Tamme (Kia Stevens) visits her son at Stanford and tries to hide the nature of her new job, dancing around questions and repeatedly changing the subject. His eventual discovery of her in-ring identity as "Welfare Queen," which leaves him gritting his teeth and fighting back tears, should have been the catalyst for a conversation about the harm in using a television program to reinforce harmful stereotypes. Instead, it gets brushed aside without any discussion.

On the other hand, GLOW hits the nail on the head when it comes to the patriarchy of Hollywood. Sam and Bash (Chris Lowell) frequently conspire to make decisions about the show without involving Debbie - despite her producer status - and ideas for changes or innovation submitted by the girls are repeatedly shot down by men in positions of power. GLOW even explores sexual misconduct, as one character gets invited to a dinner meeting with the head of the network - in his hotel room - where it quickly becomes clear that business is the last thing on the menu. The similarities to disgraced mogul Harvey Weinstein and his oft-reported method of luring young actresses into compromising situations are too numerous for this to be coincidental, and perhaps even more infuriating is the fallout, when the victim finds herself viciously berated by another woman for her actions.

Despite once again failing to make full use of its talented ensemble, even going so far as to sideline certain characters for multiple episodes, GLOW's second season is a stronger and more polished effort overall. There are some missed opportunities, and some of the more ridiculous ideas don't play as well as they should, but when the show works, it really works, and it's a hell of a lot of fun.