If you jump into GLOW Season 3 without having watched the first two seasons, you might think GLOW stands for the lights of the gleaming Las Vegas Strip.
Wrestling is more of an afterthought now that the ladies have reached new, dizzying heights headlining a Las Vegas revue.
The different locale impacts the series overall allowing for deeper character insight but at the cost of what makes GLOW glow. The fun factor takes a hit.
To headline a Las Vegas show, you need a product that plays night after night. There isn’t room for mistakes because even one error can end the production.
Like a Broadway play, the performers put on show after show and do the same, repetitive routines. That’s what a Vegas show is all about.
Unfortunately for the series, the gorgeous ladies of wrestling are just like the other ladies on the strip. It’s a little different for television, but it’s now what lured viewers to the unique concept of GLOW.
The appeal of the television show within a television show was that viewers of the fictional GLOW expected something different every time it aired. The ladies had to be on their toes. The backdrop of the television show kept up the necessary pace for our GLOW.
When the ladies were first crafting their characters, they had a passion for creating excitement week after week.
The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling allowed them to escape a droll existence or gain experience they could use to propel themselves to the next chapter of their lives.
Once you reach Vegas, well, there isn’t another Vegas. In the form of Season 3, the show can’t go on and on because there isn’t much left to discover about two of the three central themes of the show: wrestling and production.
It might have seemed like a fun idea to play with when they discussed it in the writers’ room, but GLOW lost a lot of its charm once Vegas became a reality.
So without the steady influx of exciting wrestling scenes and the women discovering in themselves things they didn’t know they could accomplish, what is there?
Season 3 deals mostly with the personal lives of the characters now that their professional lives are somewhat settled.
Ruth’s (Allison Brie) story was essential to the first two seasons, but her arc takes a bit of a backseat in the latest season even if she’s still front and center in many respects.
Now that she knows she’s a winner in the ring, she Ruth gets reflective. She wonders who she is if she’s not an actor. She’s also forced to explore the romantic potential of a union with Sam even while she’s still attached, albeit long-distance, to Russell.
Mark Maron’s Sam never grows tiresome even when faced with repetition. But his is one of the few characters for the new season who encounters new challenges.
While the wrestling production works like a well-oiled machine, Sam takes time to reconnect with his roots professionally and personally, and the two clash in what is probably the best story of the season.
That story also includes Justine (Britt Baron) who has outgrown her rebellious phase to become an utterly delightful character.
Debbie (Betty Gilpen) struggles with the distance she’s put between herself and her son, and that drives her to find a way to be successful and raise her child outside of the commotion of Vegas.
She’s always in pursuit of a way to get more for her time and money. Debbie questions her longevity in leotards and reassesses her priorities.
Debbie and Ruth have found a way to be friends again, but their former animosity leaves cracks in their relationship. They’re on different pages, and they manage to support each other.
But the duo isn’t the foundation of the series any longer, and it’s hard to tell if they will ever get back to where they were before Debbie discovered Ruth’s affair with her husband.
Bash (Chris Lowell) and Rhonda (Kate Nash) revel in the prosperity of working in Vegas, and even though their marriage is a green-card sham, they give it a real go.
All the success in the world can’t change Bash at his core, and the man-child proves to be financially stunted as well as unwilling to address his sexuality.
Rhonda’s wrestling her husband’s demons when she’s not in the ring, and while she gets a decent amount of air time, it’s not a direction that has a lot of endurance.
New characters get introduced including Geena Davis as Sandy Devereaux St. Clair. She runs the Fan-Tan Hotel and Casino, so most of her scenes are with Bash and Betty regarding the production and a changing of the guard as to what Vegas deems a hit.
Sandy represents old Vegas with all of the glitz and glamour that comes with it. Like Debbie, Ruth, and the other ladies, she’s looking for a way forward that isn’t at odds with all she values.
There is also a drag performer named Bobby (Kevin Cahoon) who plays one of the smaller rooms at the Fan-Tan. Through their similar ways of presenting to the world at large, Bobby connects with Shiela (Gayle Rankin) for a moving and timely storyline.
GLOW Season 3 feels like a jumping-off point. The finale implements a change so big that it’s hard to imagine how a fourth season might look, but it suggests that we’ve only dipped our toes into the water thus far.
If Vegas is only a stop along the way, the characters whose lives depend on the venue will get left behind. Instead of introducing in great detail new characters to address specific plot points, I would have preferred the unestablished extended cast to have gotten the attention.
For a show about ladies trying to find their place in a male-dominated profession, it sometimes feels like the male stars get top priority on GLOW.
As the ladies are going toe-to-toe with men on screen, they are also somewhat unrepresented on a show that should always put them front and center.
It puts the writers in an unenviable position navigating the waters both on-screen and off, but if I recognized the balance felt off, others might as well.
There is still a lot to enjoy during the season even if it doesn’t capture the magic of GLOW’s first two seasons. Yes, it feels disjointed and unsteady, but even when they’re all going in different directions, the gorgeous ladies of wrestling are full of heart.
And, look, a series can play with the formula all they want as long as it serves a purpose and remains true to the characters. Sometimes a season has to give a little to go in a different direction later, and this is that time for GLOW.
GLOW Season 3 drops on Netflix Friday, August 9 on Netflix.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA), enjoys mentoring writers, wine, and passionately discussing the nuances of television. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.