June 28, 2018

CABLE | 'GLOW' Grapples with Emotions – Netflix Season 2

Alison Brie Betty Gilpin Liz Flahive Carly Mensch | GLOW Netflix

The endearingly female friendship focused Netflix series about the titular "Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling" returns. GLOW's second season is a winning complement the first's surprising break out fun as creators/showrunners Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch double down on the 1980s style themes around single women working in unusual and highly male-dominated work environments.

Alison Brie's Ruth takes a backseat this season to Betty Gilpin as Debbie's further development as a soap actress turned single mom anchors the crux of the storylines. Ruth has more of her sh*t together avoiding the personal and professional pitfalls that led to her initial desperation while Debbie slowly becomes more and more unhinged. She slowly unravels mirroring her wrestling antics and persona splendidly.

Both actresses continue to offer interesting, deep characters studies into what women of the '80s were going through shifting identities from domesticity and professionalism to feeding their creative minds in ridiculous ways. Their fraught relationship comes to head as both evolve from the broken people they started as. It's refreshing how they are shown as deeply flawed individuals without being directly pitted as traditional enemies by with either other women or men.

Although the show features little in the way of nudity or explicit sex, the period clothing and nature of physical activity makes the athleticism and female use of bodies quite visually remarkable. Written and directed primarily by other women, there's a refreshing lack of the usual male gaze qualities as it's easy to appreciate the physicality of the female bodies shown with any overt sexuality despite the abundance of sheer outfits and closeup body shots.

Alison Brie Marc Maron Liz Flahive Carly Mensch | GLOW Netflix

Marc Maron continues to be a real treat as the washed-up filmmaker turned wrestling promoter who riffs on his own past and image as a talented but highly self-destructive artist reformed into a thoughtful cultural commentator. His arc as both an antagonist and collaborator to Ruth, reluctant father of a lost teenage girl, and acceptance as an artist relegated to choreographing amateur female wrestling for late night cable offers a nice glimpse into alternate portrayals of men of the time.

The production value has been amped with some memorial song cues, more iconic fashion takes, and period-appropriate television aesthetics. Episode 8's "The Good Twin" is a fun sideways told entry as an entire episode of the show-within-a-show featuring fake commercials and PSAs that works as a timely piece of local cable art.

Season two doesn't quite come together like the first. There's something about bringing a bunch of ragtag characters together building towards a common goal that's just so refreshing the first time around. However, this season is more consistently funny with so much character chemistry and relationships already established that are ready-made for payoffs.

GLOW season two is available for streaming now on Netflix.

More | YVArcade / Season 1 /AV Club / Vox / Vulture

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