Part 2 of 2 (Read Part 1 here.)
Recently – when discussing the first five episodes of Netflix’s GLOW – I praised the series for its blend of comedy and melancholy, its great characters and authentic period setting – while acknowledging that some of its plot mechanics were a little shaky. However, in its back half, the show’s story – revolving around the formation of 80’s TV show Glamorous Ladies of Wrestling – became more layered. Firstly, there’s Alison Brie’s winning central performance as struggling actress Ruth – nailing that actorly persona encapsulated by neediness and desperation but managing to still be charming. The more time the viewer spent with her character, the more her affair with her best friend’s husband made sense.
Secondly, the lesser plot-points of the first half really paid off in the second. For instance, the storyline in which Justine (Britt Baron) – a young die-hard fan of Marc Maron’s Sam Sylvia – became jealous by the director’s relationship with another of his actresses (musician Kate Nash) felt a little tired. However, the reveal that the eighteen year-old did not have a crush on the filmmaker but was in fact his daughter was not only surprising. It gave an added depth to the two characters and also made Justine’s behaviour throughout the season feel a lot more rational.
Another great element of GLOW’s final stretch of episodes was how it became meta, drawing comparisons between the making of the show within the series and the making of the actual series. In its final moments, Debbie (Betty Gilpin – still killing it) as her wrestling alter ego, American hero “Liberty Belle”, defeated Brie’s evil Russian character, “Zoya the Destroya”, wrapping the story neatly up in a bow. However, the prize was suddenly and unexpectedly stolen from her because, as Sylvia notes, “the money is in the chase” – a means of getting viewers to tune in for the next installments. Following this, we see Ruth attempt a reconciliation with Debbie only to be turned away, the writers of GLOW clearly following Sam’s motto.
As the series eventually entered the ring, the stunts looked physical and authentic – a credit to both the uniformly energetic cast and a great team of stuntmen and trainers. The series reportedly hired professionals from the wrestling circuit to lend some credibility to the action sequences – something which shows in the end project.
GLOW may be the most successful of Netflix’s original content, merging the half-an-hour long breeziness of shows like Love with the deeper themes regarding race and stereotypes of OITNB. Like the eager wrestling fan wanting to tune in to see what happens to Liberty Belle next, I am excited to see where the comedy-drama goes from here.
Stephen Porzio (twitter@porzfolio)