I have a confession.
At least once a week I watch WWE. I don’t watch it for hours, or sit through the full ‘pay for views’. But I love the highlights on YouTube. It’s my Eastenders; a trashy soap opera and mindless entertainment that allows me to switch off and forget about the real world.
My obsession started when I was young and I used to watch the British version featuring Big Daddy and Giant Haystack with my Gran when she babysat me on Saturdays. She also allowed me to watch Predator and Commando. My Gran was a legend.
So my wrestling guilty pleasure goes back a long way.
Therefore, you can imagine my excitement when GLOW – The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling – was released on Netflix. It had a strong cast (I am a big Alison Brie and Marc Mahon fan) and a great storyline. The first season did not disappoint and I was delighted that another came about so quickly. I was hooked straight away and binged it in less than a week.
Second seasons of big shows have come to have that same pressure on them as sequels to movies. For shows there’s even more at stake – deliver the goods and more seasons are signed up. Fail to do so, and the entire show is cancelled. Especially in the world of Netflix. I am admittedly still recovering from The Get Down being cancelled after two seasons, as I personally thought that show was really fresh and original.
Ironically on the subject of shows risking cancellation, we see a similar theme in GLOW season 2, where the female wrestlers and their incredibly grumpy director Sam, try to up the ante to get their show on primetime TV.
All the same cast as season one are back, with a few new faces, but what is most notable is the seriousness and depth of the second season. The first was incredibly fun, embedding each of the individuals and introducing us to their characters, each with their wacky traits. This season there is more focus on the harsh realities of what these individuals are each battling (or perhaps that should be wrestling with) in their personal lives and trying to achieve success with the show.
There is no mucking around this time, it gets a bit gritty with lead Debbie (played to perfection as the most vulnerable yet bitchiest person on screen by Betty Gilpin) taking centre stage as she struggles to come to terms with life without her husband, being a mother, and working with the woman who not only wrecked her marriage but was her best friend.
Alison Brie’s character, Ruth, takes a little bit more of backseat this season but still manages to steal every scene she gets – her chemistry with Marc Maron is perfection – whether he is verbally tearing her into pieces or being sweet (yes it happens sometimes), it is portrayed convincingly by the actress.
Everyone else has their turn one way or another and the directors have done really well to make the ensemble cast all seem present. One particular episode I enjoyed, “Mother of all Matches”, centres on Debbie and her upcoming match as Liberty Bell taking on The Welfare Queen (another amazing turn put in by former real life wrestler Kia Stevens). The episode focuses on these two characters and their experience of motherhood. We learn that the Welfare Queen’s son is in fact a Stanford student working hard to achieve his goals despite the racism he faces.
Debbie has a slight mid season/life crisis as she sells her furniture, smokes pot and sings show tunes in an empty house as she tries to cleanse herself of her ex and work through the pain of divorce. It is an episode that sticks out in its maturity as a show and really shows off the talent that isn’t only in front of the cameras but also behind.
Another episode touches delicately yet poignantly on the #metoo campaign as Ruth gets coerced into meeting with a slimy executive in a hotel room which puts the future of the show at stake. As her character slowly begins to figure out what is going on it is almost hard to watch, not only is Brie’s performance in this scene heartbreaking, it is a harsh reminder that this went on and was likely ignored and even accepted back in the 80s.
It all sounds so a bit serious, but the show still knows when and how to have fun.
The script dishes out some great lines mainly from Chris Lowell’s Bash (who also has a sombre backstory) and his ringside commentary! The finale is heartwarming and totally bonkers in the only way that you would expect from a series like this.
To see the second season pick up four Emmy nominations is testament to its brilliance and I really hope that we get to see more action and development inside (and outside) of the ring.
Both seasons of Glow can be viewed on Netflix now.