The first season of GLOW introduced a series that, despite the sexist and racist nature of the titular show-within-the-show — the “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling” dress in skimpy clothes and lean into misogynistic and racial stereotypes as they fight each other — encouraged female empowerment. Really. The women in the series are competitive, yes, and they do betray each other, yes, but they also recognize that they’re stronger together.
The second season builds on that foundation by deepening the friendships between the women and encouraging their professional and personal development. It also takes on sexual assault and other issues that women faced in the ’80s — and unfortunately still do today.
“GLOW is talking about things that society is finally talking about,” Britney Young, who plays Carmen “Machu Picchu” Wade, told Rotten Tomatoes. “I think that we are trying to authentically show women’s issues — but not just women’s issues, human issues and things that we all can relate to and situations we’ve all been in, and it just so happens that, yeah, the world has kind of caught up with it. I think GLOW would be operating the way we are operating, regardless of what’s going on out in society, because most of the things our producers pull from are their own experiences and our own experiences as well.”
It’s not necessarily that GLOW is astutely tapping into the zeitgeist; it’s that women are still dealing with the same issues of harassment and assault that led to the creation of the Time’s Up and Me Too movements.
“As 15 actresses who’ve been in the business a long time and all the things we’ve experienced, it’s exciting to be adding really important dialogue to a conversation that’s insanely overdue,” said Jackie Tohn, who plays Melanie “Melrose” Rosen.
But season 2 of GLOW is not simply jumping from topical issue to topical issue — it’s revealing more about its diverse group of characters, too. Ruth (Alison Brie) and Debbie (Betty Gilpin) have moved past Ruth’s betrayal (sleeping with Debbie’s husband) and are now on the verge of repairing their relationship. The other wrestlers have bonded with each other — particularly the friendships of Melrose and Fortune Cookie (Ellen Wong) as well as Machu Picchu and Brittanica (Kate Nash) — and are more confident in their skills. They’re also becoming local celebrities and learning how to deal with their newfound fame together.
“I think as a whole, what was different for me was that season 1 is really about this group of girls together, training for this show. Whereas season 2, we start breaking the group up a little bit, and really focusing on the friendships between the girls and the rivalries and the competition that is really starting to come out,” Young says. “So even for us shooting it, we went from being in almost every scene together in season 1 to now being like, ‘Oh my God, I haven’t seen you in three or four days, what’s it been like?’ Because we are just really starting to really hone in on the individual relationships among all these women.”
Also getting closer: Ruth and GLOW leader Sam (Marc Maron), whose chemistry will finally come to a blistering head. But will their energy turn into a romantic relationship or simply strengthen their friendship? Maron and Brie acknowledge that there’s something that bonds their two loner characters together.
“I don’t think that our characters have many friends,” Maron said. “I think that there’s something at our emotional core, both these characters, that is similar and sort of connected. There was a desperation and a need to be seen and heard and received.”
Brie added: “They’ve gotten used to doing things on their own for themselves. I get the feeling that neither one of them really has people that show up for them. Sam, definitely by design, and Ruth, kind of by design or by accident, has created a life that just solely depends on themselves. I think in that way they need each other. Once they allow themselves to be really vulnerable in front of each other, they realize that that’s something they haven’t been accessing around a lot of other people. …They’re just more vulnerable with each other than they are with anyone else.”
Ruth also examines her friendship with Debbie, and the two women seem to be on the verge of moving past Debbie’s betrayal — especially after something that happens mid-match more than halfway through the season.
“The wrestling moves are bigger and better than they were last year. [There’s a] wrestling montage of seeing all the girls work harder now that they have an audience, now that they’re televised, always working to keep the audience entertained, keep the show on the air — the stakes have never been higher,” Brie teased.
GLOW returns to Netflix on Friday, June 29.