Season 3, Episode 9
Date of release: August 9, 2019 (Netflix)
This episode has transformed GLOW into an entirely different show. This episode reminded me of the fact that the world of the characters was expanded and that they aren’t just dealing with wrestling any longer, as they have been out into a town that corrupts all their souls in different ways, mostly negative, sometimes in a positive way. I don’t know if the writers wanted to do exactly this when they decided to move the wrestling show from local television to a Las Vegas stage, but here we are. The main characters all have their individual problems, and now they have been introduced to a world they would have never gotten to know if they hadn’t been put into the Vegas settings, with GLOW turning into a parable of what the 1980s really were for minority personalities. Men were in power and had all the money, women were supposed to be their slaves (as analyzed in Sheila’s performance, which was either a true story of her upbringing or a narrative she came up with on the spot, making her a potential writer, like Debbie is a producer and Ruth could be a director), and the LGBT community was the dirt under the men’s fingernails, the rats in the back alley that needed eradication. The episode’s premise was a show all by itself, making me wonder if Netflix was specifically asking for such an episode to test the waters for a show that may be set in that milieu, or if the writers of GLOW had always imagined an episode that depicted the utter desperation women and gays were facing in their darkest hours. When they thought they had their lives under control, they had their opportunities to make their own lives and careers, they are being reminded by the fact that there are still men out there who will never allow that to happen. Hence the evacuation at the end and the sudden reminder that even a liberal and playful Las Vegas audience still has a problem with the gay community.
But like I said, it’s a whole ‘nother show, and I still have a bit of a problem accepting that GLOW left the surroundings of the wrestling comedy drama and wet straight into something that is … something else. Even the characters have changed in their new surroundings, which really makes me want to be a fly on the wall in the writers room, just to find out what made the show turn around this much and become a drama about some of the darkest chapters of 1980s American culture, when it comes to the LGBT community. Maybe I would have expected such a story to come at one point after Yolanda was introduced in the previous season, but she is essentially doing her own thing at the moment and the writers had to create yet another new character to depict the straight white man’s fight against the gay community, which is apparently easier to write into a scripted television show when said new character is a man, and a drag queen as well (and most likely gay, but the show has ever gotten into Bobby Barnes’s sexuality, even though it should be quite obvious). It’s great that show can reinvent themselves to stay fresh and be exciting, but I don’t think I have ever seen such a drastic change in a show in-between seasons.
As expected, Ruth didn’t make it back to the show to do the scene with Sheila, which was a given after Ruth told Sheila that she will make it. GLOW has been pretty good in circumventing some of the more cliched stereotypes throughout the first two seasons, but this season was a little less successful in that case, and Ruth’s reassurance to Sheila may have been the biggest predictable moment of the show yet, which sort of ruined Ruth’s entire storyline in this episode. “I’ll be there,” Ruth said, and throughout the audition and the bar date with Sam, I was waiting for that moment which ruined Ruth’s day and prevented her from getting back in time. I was waiting for the moment she realized she won’t be getting the role in Sam and Justine’s movie, and I was waiting for the moment Ruth confessed her love to Sam, which would then turn into something of a mistake, because of course it would, since Ruth is currently stuck in a convenient story filled with romantic and career-ending tropes. It’s almost like the story she found herself in during the previous episode turned her into one of the most cliched characters of the show.
Which is why I was sort of thankful that the characters in Vegas were busy getting their minds and bodies hyped for the Libertine Ball. Debbie’s involvement in the background made for a interesting character, and I really loved her style and look during the ball, as she turned into the drag version of Mr. Monopoly, which not only suited Betty Gilpin, but was also a fantastic style in general. I was also happy that J.J. didn’t turn into a dick here and continued his development into becoming a formidable partner for Debbie – one who could not only keep up with her demands for a lover and sexual partner, but also someone who respects her moves as a business person and lets her roam free in that world without trying to hold her back. J.J. must have loved having Debbie around during his meetings, and Debbie must be one happy woman to have someone like J.J. in her life, considering how Mark very much hated Debbie’s decision to do a wrestling show, or wanted to hold her back from fighting during the production of the pilot episode.
Then there were Bash and Rhonda, who made their way towards Bash’s inevitable first homoerotic experience. For almost three seasons I believed that Bash was hiding in a closet, and finally he found a way to answer his urges, even if I believe that the threesome was not only a interesting way to get Bash there, but also a potentially cheap way to break him and Rhonda up. After that scene, I would almost hope that Bash is bisexual, just so he won’t break Rhonda’s heart, but the way he was more interested in “Joe’s” lips and genitals that Rhonda’s makes me think that Bash manipulated Rhoda and “Joe” into kissing each other, knowing that a potential threesome would lead to his sexual urges awakening, which he definitely needed at this point in life. With the Libertine Ball and Bash’s first LGBT experience in bed, GLOW has fully turned into a show about women and gays, and all the hateful men in the shadows who can’t wait to set fire to all of this, just so they can excel at their dominance and lead the central and recurring characters of the show to dramatic character arcs. Well, at least most of the characters were together when the fire broke out, bringing potential into all of them dealing with the fallout together. This season has separated the characters for most of the time, and I would love it if they would be involved in the same story together again.