GLOW has always a been a series which has mixed many an element together, from the relationships between the women who take part in the wrestling to the sexism that they’ve faced along the way to the complexities of showbiz life, but from the beginning this season feels slightly different, in a very intentional manner, as Ruth (Alison Brie) and Debbie (Betty Gilpin) promote their three month Las Vegas residency on local tv while commenting on the launch of the Challenger space shuttle, with Ruth ridiculing it as it explodes. It was something I’m sure all could see coming, which only led to it being more painful and cringeworthy.
The tragedy looms large over the episode as Ruth feels guilty even though she of course couldn’t have predicted such an event, and though Bash (Chris Lowell), Sam (Marc Maron) and Debbie consider moving the opening night Geena Davis as the hard boiled Las Vegas casino boss all but insists the show go on, which amazingly doesn’t go wrong, pleasingly wrong-footing me. Indeed due to the bleakness of the beginning I thought this was going to see the series take a more serious turn, and prior to the launch of the season the showrunners commented that this was going to be a darker year for the show, but so far at least it’s just giving events more depth, and the humour is thankfully more than still present.
As always some of the laughs came from the staging of the show and with the introductions of the characters (with Edna and Ethel Rosenblatt: The Beatdown Biddies on particularly fantastic form) and also still present is Sam’s mockery of events / Bash, but this time around there was also some black humour about the Challenger disaster, not that it ever felt distasteful, just a way for the characters to let off steam after such a tragic event. The dialogue was also pleasingly tight and there’s still lots of amusing sweetness from the women supporting each other, which has always been the best part of the show.
The episode ended with Sam and Ruth discussing the events of the day, with a hint of possible romance between the two that led me to mutter “Don’t do it, don’t do it” over and over again. Over the previous seasons there’s occasionally been the odd hint that the two might find each other attractive but I’ve been glad that it’s never gone down that road, too many comedy series do the “Will they / Won’t they” thing and it’s been done to death, and also knowing Sam’s character it won’t end well. But I hope I’m wrong-footed again and they don’t do such a thing, or if they do it’ll be unconventionally portrayed and nothing we’ve seen countless times before.
Otherwise this was an extremely strong opener to the season, which suggests that it will stay fresh and unpredictable and develop the characters in interesting ways. The show has such a carefully constructed, likeable and impressively performed group of individuals that there’s no reason to suspect that it will become dull as their lives are explored, especially in the brand new setting which gives the series a real boost, and as long as the rest of the episodes are as strong as this then it could be the best season yet.