5:20 pm EDT, September 6, 2019

‘GLOW’ season 3, episode 3 review: Removing the mask

GLOW season 3, episode 3 brings to light issues that will run underneath the rest of the season. But hey, one episode has to do this, right?

Complacency plagues GLOW. The less than stellar episode, “Desert Pollen,” sets issues on the table for the players to step over rather than surmount. While some of the incidents hint and wink will come back to haunt down the line, the package of events pushes the episode into filler territory as we look for reasons to care about any of the above.

Cherry and her husband come to blows over the future of their family, Debbie regresses finding comfort in her old anxieties that are now coupled with the pressures of motherhood, and if period dramas have taught me anything, the emphasis on Sam’s cough can only mean he is destined for death.

GLOW season 3, episode 3, doesn’t give us too much, but perhaps that is the point. This definitely an episode that provides the streaming version of the traditional act break. So, buckle in then get ready to hit pause and see daylight for the first time in three hours.

‘GLOW’ 3×03 review

Unmasking the She Wolf

GLOW season 3 She wolf

With no particular plot line fighting for importance here, the acting class scene was easily the best moment of the episode for me. First, let’s take a look at the women who are not “getting out” of an impromptu dance class, but are taking initiative to better themselves through an acting class. And while, yes, Sheila and Tammé might benefit from stretching their limbs a bit more in an exercise class, the acting class provides a window into two very different sides of these characters.

Even though we join the class midway through the monologue delivered by Tammé aka “Welfare Queen” it’s clear that the spotlight, regardless of where it lands, is where she wants to be. She crafts her words with elegance, delivers them forcefully, and soaks in the (though tiny) applause she is granted. There has always been some uneasiness with the “Welfare Queen” moniker–both in the show and in conversations outside of it. It is here, however, that we see what Tammé is deriving from her stage persona and it’s not that different from what everyone else is gaining–the feeling of achieving a sliver of acceptance for pursing your dreams no matter what avenue you have to follow to do so.

Early in season 1, the question is posed to Sheila, “when does this come off?” The answer is never, the wolf persona is not a costume for the show. When Sheila pushes herself, her whole self, forward in front of a room of strangers the six or seven people in folding chairs prove to be worse than any crowd in the casino. They are not judging her work, they are judging her appearance.

“Whatever you are, it’s a problem.” What. A. Line. It’s cutting, brutal, and destructive for Sheila. If you’ve watched the series since season 1, this is not the first time (and won’t be the last time) that Sheila has come up against people who are not willing to accept that she is not putting on an act. This one man, however, is able to get under her skin and reject her entire person simply because she is not hiding her identity. That she is not masking something but living completely out in the open. The piece she chooses to read is “feral” a trait that she feels she identifies with in a very raw way.

As a viewer who has come to appreciate Sheila living so connected to her identity, this was a blow. But I also think it is time for the show to peel back the curtain on dive into her story moving forward, especially in the context of embracing this fresh start. Maybe she doesn’t need one! But that is something I think needs to be challenged on screen rather than internally. the wrestling has allowed her to double-down and embrace her wolf-connection. But maybe something will come along to shake things up.

Debbie takes the stairs

GLOW season 3 debbie

Ruth and Debbie’s relationship has been a hallmark of the series. However, GLOW season 3, episode 3 is not exactly sure how to juggle their dynamic as Debbie cycles through some deep-seated anxiety. For two episodes now, Ruth has been playing the role of “oblivious human” against two different characters. Sam meets her childish behavior with anger, where Debbie hits back with cold sarcasm, but eventually thaws to Ruth’s attempts to cheer her up.

Debbie struggles with being the best, at the top of her game in all levels, and the need to have it all and see results immediately. She cannot control the way men behave around her, she cannot control having people take her seriously in business, she cannot be the mother who watches her son walk in person, but she can control how good she looks in a leotard on stage every night. Episode 3 tries to distract Debbie from this fixation.

Debbie’s conversation with Sandy Devereaux St. Clair in the stairwell does not stick, but it does provide some perspective from a woman in the business. Maybe it’s Geena Davis, but I like Sandy a lot more than I think the show wants you to. Debbie is so hardened against taking advice from women that it is proving to be a hinderance to her progress. She needs to lean away from the male gaze/advice and into the female perspective.

Ultimately, any repair work that might have happened over the course of the day is undone when she turns on a tape of her son walking and waving. This is not something that can be reconciled with a workout and a promotion. And it’s going to take some work to get Debbie back into feeling like she is not just spinning her wheels in Vegas while life moves on in Los Angeles.

Cherry wants to stop

GLOW 3x03

Cherry and Keith have been taking up a lot of screen time in this season as viewers pop in and out of their hotel room to see how the baby-making progress is going. While Keith is nothing but supportive, Cherry is starting to fear what a baby might do to her career. As she realizes that she may not want to raise a child, she also realizes that means breaking the news to Keith.

I’m not Keith’s biggest fan. While I feel like he talks a lot about what he will do once the baby arrives, the balance of their working life right now has always sat uncomfortably with me. I do not doubt their mutual love and affection for one another, but I do not like the choices Keith makes in the moment to use her career and miscarriage against her.

Will they find a way to come back together? I’m not so sure. But how Cherry reacts to the fallout and what that means for her future with the ladies of wrestling will be something to keep an eye on.

Elsewhere in ‘GLOW’ 3×03

GLOW 3x03 Sam Bash Tennis

  • Someone get Sam a fainting couch, a cool rag, and Victorian night shirt because that cough sounds awful.
  • Melrose has a Spider-Man vs Spider-Man moment when a prostitute mix-up leaves both her and her new male friend without payment. And, while this episode was full of tits, the love was shared and there is some full-frontal male nudity in this scene.
  • Of course, Bash is good at tennis. Not that I thought Sam would be stellar, but think about Bash’s upbringing. He definitely spent his summers at the club hitting the courts.

GLOW season 3 is available now on Netflix.

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