What to Stream on Netflix This WeekendZach Galifianakis Hits the Road in ‘Between Two Ferns: The Movie’ Trailer Stay on target The first season of GLOW was a huge surprise for me last year. I went in with no expectations, watched through a pilot episode that was just OK, and came out at the other end of the season in love. There’s no other dramedy quite like it. GLOW is willing to play up the cheesy fun of its ’80s setting while engaging with the not-so-great realities of the decade. It’s a show about the behind-the-scenes of wrestling that clearly has a deep love and appreciation for the art form. It had funny writing, a likable cast, and even really good wrestling.That was the biggest surprise of all. The wrestling on this show was legit. The actors did their own stunts. You saw them take bumps, fly through the air and pile-drive each other into the ground. For a few episodes, it felt like watching actual pro-wrestling. Only with better acting and writing. Now we’re in Season Two, and that’s still the case. In fact, the wrestling might be even better. There were a few episodes here, especially in the back half of the season that I completely bought into the match. The story of GLOW, Ruth and Debbie could wait. In that moment, all I wanted was more in-ring action. It’s almost as good as the real fake thing. That GLOW has characters you really care about makes it even better.Kia Stevens, Betty Gilpin (Photo by Beth Dubber/Netflix)This season, the show even somewhat falls into the rhythm of actual pro wrestling. You’ll have one episode that’s almost all story. It’ll focus on the women’s lives outside the ring. Then the next episode will dedicate a third or more of the runtime to a wrestling match. Before the WWE brand split, you’d watch RAW for the story and Smackdown later in the week for the more technical wrestling matches. It’s a great way to get you hooked. In GLOW, it keeps the season moving quickly, and it’s the perfect format for binging. The story episodes keep you interested, and the wrestling episodes add excitement and a release of tension. The writing makes us feel like we know all these women, which makes it even more thrilling when they’re throwing each other across the ring. Honestly, the wrestling action is so good this season, I wouldn’t be surprised if some viewers start tuning into the real thing after watching this.As much as GLOW loves the art of wrestling, that love doesn’t blind it. The first season made motions toward criticism of pro wrestling’s history. Namely, the fact that it’s never been the most racially enlightened entertainment product on TV. WWE itself has built characters around embarrassing stereotypes throughout its history, and hasn’t entirely grown out of it either. The real GLOW was no different, and this season of the series isn’t afraid to… um, wrestle with those issues. The last season had a couple storylines that dealt with the issue of stereotypes in wrestling. There was Arthie (or, Beirut the Mad Bomber) who faced racist insults from the crowd that quickly became too real. To a lesser extent, there was the episode where Ruth makes an ass of herself at a Russian family gathering to try and “learn their culture,” or whatever. Both episodes started to critique the consequences of viewing culture and race as a costume, but the season dropped both storylines almost immediately.Kia Stevens, Eli Goree (Photo by Erica Parise/Netflix)This season doesn’t make racial issues the focus of the story, but it does devote a couple of episodes to unpacking them. Most of all the fourth episode, “Mother of all Matches.” This one episode dives deeper into the potential harm these stereotypes cause, while also addressing the fact that this problematic show created an opportunity that wouldn’t otherwise have been there. It revolves around Tammé’s trip to visit her son at Stanford. She’s cagey with her son about her new job, trying to rush between activities and keep the focus on him. She suddenly can’t anymore when another visiting parent calls her “Welfare Queen.” Her son immediately leaps to his mother’s defense, forcing her to jump in and explain everything. It doesn’t sound good. To hear him tell it, it sounds like his mom is playing a minstrel character to entertain racists. And… it’s not like that’s not happening on some level.He insists on seeing this new show his mom’s in, which… doesn’t make things better. In front of her son, the jeers of “get a job” are a lot harder to brush off. She sees her son’s discomfort, and it all hits her at once. She is allowing herself to be humiliated by a white woman for the entertainment of a nearly all-white audience. It hurts, and she runs out of the ring crying. But what I like about the episode is that it’s not as clear cut as “’80s wrestling was racist and bad.” It recognizes that wrestling was and is full of talented performers who sometimes have to act out some regressive scripts. And while it may have some problems, it can still be a really cool job. Tammé’s son looks out for her, and makes sure she’s not being forced to do anything she doesn’t want to be doing, and then he acknowledges just what a badass his mom is. She just threw a tall white woman across the ring like she was nothing. That’s awesome, and it’s not like there were a ton of places on TV where black women could be action stars. Even if Tammé did have to play the villain.Alison Brie (Photo by Erica Parise/Netflix)I only wish we saw more of her character after this. I want to know how the events of this episode affected her. Instead, we move on to Ruth’s story. I get that Alison Brie and Betty Gilpen are the two stars of this show, but just like the original GLOW, this show is an ensemble piece. I wish the series spent more time with the rest of the ensemble. Ruth and Debbie get multi-episode arcs, and the rest of the cast is lucky to get one. I want to know all their stories, and follow them for more than 30 minutes.Ruth and Debbie’s stories do get much more interesting this season, though. Debbie is not handling her divorce particularly well. The season deals with her attempts to balance taking care of her son with her duties as producer and star of a weekly wrestling show. It’s tough, but she makes it work as best she can, even as it becomes obvious she’s deeply unhappy in her own house. The stress makes her play the heel in real life despite her babyface persona in the ring. She screws over her fellow wrestlers, arguing for a very generous contract while the rest of them get shafted. She lets the stress of watching her husband move on to get to her during a show, and breaks Ruth’s ankle. And through all of this, you still want to root for her. Because she’s a devoted mom, and a brilliant performer who the world just took a giant dump on. If a good heel makes you root for them, Debbie might be the best heel in wrestling. Her ending is bittersweet. As GLOW is forced to relocate to Vegas to survive, she leaves behind her child. It’s a tough, painful decision, but as “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” plays over the final shot, you realize it may be her one shot at happiness.Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin (Photo by Erica Parise/Netflix)Ruth’s arc, on the other hand, feels more modern than the ’80s soundtrack. It’s being called the #MeToo episode, or the episode that brings the movement to the 1980s. But the episode was written before there was a hashtag. Before the allegations against Harvey Weinstein were made public. That’s because #MeToo didn’t just happen over night. It wasn’t just one sleazy producer. It’s an entire system that promotes and protects abusers. And it’s been going on for decades. Ruth’s story arc has her visit a producer at the network that carries GLOW. The dinner turns out to be in his hotel room. And then the third person in the meeting leaves. Because that was the plan. The executive starts to grope her, and leaves the room to run a bath. Ruth leaves immediately, and the next day, GLOW has been moved to the 2 a.m. time slot.This kind of thing has been going on forever. Particularly in the entertainment industry, where the expressive, often permissive nature of performance art provides cover for abusers. And the nature of the business has been built to support them at the expense of their victims. When Ruth first tells Debbie what happened, Debbie blames her. In her mind, Ruth didn’t follow the rules, and the entire show got punished for it. The industry has made her complicit. She has been taught that women need to allow men to do pretty much whatever they want to get ahead. Ruth didn’t do that, and so the consequences are her fault. I like this arc a lot. It’s not ham-handed, but it’s a powerful reminder that sexism and misogyny is deeply embedded in the system. And that for anything to change, men, as well as women, need to step up and call it out. Sam spends most of the season acting like a jerk. In the first episode, he’s butthurt that a woman (Ruth) created a better intro than him. So he acts out and suspends her. But when it counts, when Ruth tells him what happened, he doesn’t blame her for a second. He lets her know in no uncertain terms that she did nothing wrong. The fault lies entirely with the abuser. Or as he succinctly puts it, “Fuck that guy.”Marc Maron, Chris Lowell (Photo by Erica Parise/Netflix)I do appreciate that the show doesn’t try to provide a clean solution for Ruth’s harassment or Tammé’s discomfort over her character. GLOW is realistic about the 1980s. It revels in the fun of the decade: The music, the fashion, the attitude. It’s an intoxicating time machine on the same level as Stranger Things. But it doesn’t leave it at the superficial stuff. It doesn’t shy away from showing the bad in addition to the good. Sexism, rampant cocaine use, racism, unchecked materialism… the ’80s weren’t all glam rock, perms and neon dance wear. And things like racism and sexism didn’t end in 1989. They persist to this day, which is why #MeToo is a thing to begin with. So as nice as it would be to see the douchey exec get his comeuppance, or to see Tammé break out of her Welfare Queen character to find a new, empowering persona… that’s not how things worked out. It would be dishonest to pretend they did. Certain parts of the ’80s sucked, and they continued sucking through the ’90s, 2000s and today.Once again, as GLOW ends, my biggest problem is that there isn’t enough of it. Season Two consists of 10 half-hour episodes. It manages to pack a ton of heart, empathy, comedy and wrestling action into that short running time. That’s why I so badly want more. It even dedicates an entire episode to show us what an actual episode of GLOW looked like. Just past the halfway point of the series, there’s an episode shot entirely in SD. It has elaborate sketches, ridiculous story justifications for fights and the entire cast chewing every ounce of scenery. It even has a couple of fake ’80s local commercials. It’s silly; it’s scrappy, it’s everything I love about GLOW, both the original and this series.Betty Gilpin, Ellen Wong, Sunita Mani (Photo by Erica Parise/Netflix)Right after that, it’s time to say goodbye. The episodes take on a more somber tone. Sam has to say goodbye to his daughter, whose mother isn’t “crazy” like she was made out to be. Debbie has to say goodbye to their son as GLOW moves to Las Vegas after the network screwed them over. It’s sad, but also a moment of opportunity. I desperately want to see what happens next, and I wish I didn’t have to wait a year for it. The second season is a noticeable improvement on an already strong first. It might be the best wrestling on television. If it stays on that track, the long wait might be worth it.And yes, I’ve been belting “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” in my apartment ever since those final credits rolled.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.