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GLOW Season 3 Premiere Review: A Highly Emotional, Yet Decidedly Less Fun Beginning

GLOW Season 3 Premiere
Photo Credit: Netflix

When we left the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling in Season Two, they were boarding a bus to turn their runaway-hit morning television show into a nightly show in Las Vegas, following it’s cancellation as punishment for Ruth (Alison Brie) not giving in to the producer’s attempts to seduce her. Ruth also didn’t give in to the romantic tension between her and Sam (Marc Maron) despite his best – and very genuine – efforts, but she did begin a relationship with Russell (Victor Quinaz), while her relationship with Debbie (Betty Gilpin) seems about as patched up as we’re going to get.

Bash (Chris Lowell) and Rhonda (Kate Nash) got married both in an attempt to keep Rhonda in the U.S. and to avert any suspicions anyone might have to Bash’s sexuality, something he became paranoid about after learning that his “best friend” and “butler” Florian passed away from complications due to AIDS.

In the GLOW Season 3 Premiere we come back to the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, now Vegas showgirls, a bit of time has clearly passed as they’re getting ready for opening night of their show. Ruth’s leg has healed, her relationship with Debbie seems to be on the mend as their working relationship is stronger than ever, and the rest of the girls are all making the best of their new homes.

But Ruth’s in for her first big obstacle of the season when her and Debbie, in character as Zoya and Liberty Belle, appear live on the morning news to promote opening night of their show. They watch live footage of the Challenger space shuttle launch, and Ruth gets so caught up in her character mocking the US and making jokes about the US/Russian space race that she isn’t even watching the TV as the Challenger explodes.

Ruth is absolutely devastated, as are all the girls, but Ruth takes it a lot harder. One of her issues since Season One has been in the fact that she’s a highly emotional as well as empathetic person, but that she can sometimes get lost in how she feels to the point that her concern just comes off as self-involved. She’s more devastated, it seems, that she was caught making fun of the death of a school teacher on television than she is by the event itself, and throughout the episode you see her trying to remedy this in somewhat over-the-top ways – like having Rhonda (Nash) address it during the show, or having a moment of silence backstage that gets interrupted by a delivery of balloons that Bash rejects because “the floating reminds him of the Challenger.”

But Ruth’s real issue isn’t what she said on television, we learn at the end of the episode. Her dad is a school teacher, who was watching the Challenger launch live in his classroom with his students when it happened. She’s thinking about how close to home it hits and how alone she felt through it. She couldn’t call her dad because she didn’t want to have a breakdown the day of the show’s premiere, and she couldn’t confide in her boyfriend Russell (Quinaz), because he got called into work to cover the news.

But throughout her struggle to feel at ease with what she did and what she’s experienced, it’s clear that Ruth learns a lesson that is at the heart of GLOW and one of the reasons that it’s such a treat to watch: the lesson that you’re never alone when you’re surrounded by friends that care about you.

In all her lowest moments of the episode, she’s got the rest of the GLOW girls backing her up: Carmen (Britney Young) reminds her it was a local news segment few people were likely to see, Debbie (Gilpin) cheers her up by showing her the show marquee outside the casino, Jenny (Ellen Wong) commiserates with her about the bad omen that is having a national tragedy occur on the same day as their show opens.

And mostly importantly, she has Sam (Maron) to remind her that he cares about her and that he cares about her and respects her and wants her to feel okay. Their friendship and subdued romantic tension has never been more palpable, and though Ruth (Brie) is definitely still a bit uneasy, it’s clear that Sam has no intention of doing anything to jeopardize the good thing they have going on.

It’s funny to watch the two main heels of the fictional GLOW, Ruth and Jenny (Wong), be the ones who wrestle most with a national tragedy. Ruth’s concerns can seem a little selfish at times, but Jenny seems absolutely traumatized. The rest of the girls tease her about her superstitions and the fact that she’s never been as forward about her Chinese heritage, which is a fair point, and one that I’m hoping we get to see play out more over the course of the season. It seems like this might be when we get to learn more about Jenny and what makes her tick, and if the tone set in the first episode is any indication, her superstitions might get the best of her as more tragedy happens around them.

Speaking of tragedy, it’s kind of surreal to watch everyone get emotional about the Challenger, isn’t it? It’s not often in a post-9/11 world that we get to see such a widespread level of concern for a national tragedy. Today, something like this could happen more than once a week (or sometimes, more than once a day) and society hardly misses a beat. Schools don’t let out early, no one goes home from work. Premieres don’t get cancelled. We simply continue and try to make the best of our day without letting the weight of the news crush us. To see the atmosphere around their show so tense and so watch everyone struggle with the best way to proceed is an insightful look at a slightly simpler time. There’s a naivety in their responses that suggests not only their inexperience in handling these kinds of events, but that there’s only more bad news to follow.

Bash (Lowell) knows this the best, it seems. He’s the only one who knows why Florian died, and he’s the only one who has even the slightest idea of how bad the AIDS epidemic is and is about to become. This is probably why he seems to breakdown so hard at the news of the Challenger. Like Ruth, his response is clearly inflated by his feelings about something unrelated, but unlike Ruth, Bash does seem to be putting a lot of his personal issues into it. He’s been sitting on a secret tragedy for some time now, the stress of putting together a show and a party is getting the best of him, and his performative marital bliss with Rhonda (Nash) can’t possibly be fooling anyone. Rhonda is clearly making the best of the situation and doing everything in her power to ease his mind and lift his spirits, but Bash is a ticking time bomb that seems likely to go off sooner rather than later.

As for the addition to the cast, Geena Davis is absolutely stunning in her role as Sandy, the owner of the casino. She’s mysterious in her few appearances in the first episode, but she is clearly cunning, intelligent, and a little prickly. Debbie (Gilpin) voices her disdain for her early in the episode, and while we can understand why they don’t get along, seeing as Sandy is contributing to Debbie’s ongoing issue of failing to be taken seriously as a producer, Sandy’s alignment isn’t all clear yet. Is she an ally, a neutral observer, or a foe? I cannot wait to find out, since having Geena Davis on the show would be exciting on its own but having her be so enigmatic is absolutely thrilling.

But unlike the previous two seasons and their completely stunning first episodes, the GLOW Season 3 Premiere does leave a little bit to be desired. It seems that the wrestling took a complete backseat this time around, as we didn’t get even a single moment of wrestling or a glimpse of their completed Vegas show. I have a feeling that there’s going to be less of a focus on it this year, a feeling I hope I’m wrong about. And without the wrestling element of the show, you lose a lot of the fun of it – fun being something this episode sorely lacked.

Aside from a moment when all the girls gamble to blow off some steam, or get distracted by the balloons during a moment of silence, the episode only had half the heart of a normal episode of GLOW and I’m holding out a lot of hope that this isn’t an issue that casts over the entire season.

Overall Rating: 8 out of 10

The GLOW Season 3 Premiere, and the entire third season of GLOW are now streaming on Netflix.


Melissa Jouben
Melissa Jouben
Melissa Jouben is an enthusiastic young writer who can usually be seen performing or enjoying live comedy in New Jersey and New York. She has a very limited range of interests which can be summed up by the following list, in no particular order: comedy, cartoons, toy collecting, wrestling, limited edition varieties of soda, and Billy Joel. She was born and raised in New Jersey and can’t wait to leave so she can brag to all her new neighbors about how great the ocean smells at low tide.


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