A Tragedy Sparks Opening-Night Jitters in ‘GLOW’ Season 3 Premiere (RECAP)
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the first episode of GLOW Season 3 “Up, Up, Up”]
“The show must go on” is a popular phrase in the entertainment business but one particularly relevant to the world of pro-wrestling. In companies like the WWE, the show never stops—no matter how tragic the surrounding circumstances. In 1999, a faulty zip-wire accident saw wrestler Owen Hart fall to his death live on pay-per-view—the broadcast continued. In 2001, just two days after the horrific events of 9/11, WWE held a live Smackdown event in Houston; the first public assembly of its size since the attacks. And just last year, WWE star Roman Reigns had to relinquish his heavyweight title due to a cancer diagnosis—all broadcast live on Monday Night Raw, which powered onwards after the heartbreaking announcement.
There are two ways you can look at this “show must go on” mindset. In one sense, it’s an act of defiance that refuses to let the tragedy to “win.” It shows strength and resilience in the face of some of the worst events imaginable and provides a welcome distraction for both the performer(s) and the consumers. On the other end of spectrum, it can be perceived as putting profit above personal tragedy—it says that there is nothing off-limits that can stop the machine from chugging along.
That is what makes Las Vegas the ideal home for GLOW season 3. The gaudy extravagance of Vegas is not only the perfect setting for sequins and spandex, but it’s appropriately fitting for exploring the dark underbelly of show-business. This is Sin City: where the casino floors are stained with spilled booze and crushed spirits. Where the clanking of slot machines drowns out the cries of despair, and the dazzling lights disguise the furrowed faces. Where the glitz and the glamor hide the debauchery and depression. There are tragic stories walking up and down the strip every day. Vegas is a city where the show literally always goes on.
This is where we find the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, as they prepare for opening night of their new show at Vegas’ Fan-Tan Casino. There’s a gut-churning mix of excitement and apprehension. Ruth (Alison Brie) and Debbie (Betty Gilpin) appear in character as Zoya the Destroyer and Liberty Belle on a local news program to plug the show—trading barbs as they watch the live launch of the U.S. Challenger. Ruth mocks the “puny American rocket” in her faux Russian accent as the shuttle explodes in mid-flight, killing all seven crew members, including a civilian school teacher.
The Challenger explosion is one of America’s most infamous tragedies, and GLOW handles it in earnest but doesn’t forget the show’s flair for humor and comedic awkwardness—like the fact Bash’s (Chris Lowell) opening night after party is “space-themed” (complete with rocket-shaped cake). “Maybe they can turn it into a penis cake?” Rhonda (Kate Nash) not-so-helpfully suggests. GLOW has never been afraid to get dark, but it always manages to find the perfect balance between comedy and tragedy, and that remains the case in the first episode of the third season.
Ruth beats herself up for unintentionally making fun of a national tragedy on live TV, while Debbie thinks they should push back opening night in light of the disaster. Would people really want to watch ladies in ridiculous outfits pretending to fight at a time like this? Debbie’s co-producers, Bash and Sam (Marc Maron), are less sure about shutting the show down. This is show-business after all, as the Fan-Tan’s entertainment director, Sandy Devereaux St. Clair (a very game Geena Davis), tells the team.
Sandy is a former Vegas showgirl who embodies that ruthless “show must go on” mentality. She was there during the deadly MGM Grand fire, which killed 85 people, and that never stopped her, so why should a space shuttle explosion a thousand miles away affect her business? This a woman who sets off the hotel fire alarm and apologizes for the inconvenience by offering the casino guests free champagne and $1 poker chips—a business-savvy “reset” to perk up the patrons and get them spending money. And so it’s settled: G.L.O.W. will go ahead with its opening night.
The ladies practice their moves and lines, recreating some of the most famous moments from the G.L.O.W. TV show: Liberty Belle’s debut from the audience, the Bash and Rhonda wedding, the battle royale for the crown. The crew might have a fancy new ballroom residence, but the rehearsals are as ramshackle as ever, from broken zip-wires to distracted producers. There is also unease in the air. Ruth thinks it would be cathartic to acknowledge the Challenger during the show—a “shared emotional experience.” Sam disagrees, thinking it would only depress everybody. And so Ruth is left to ponder on her own. She doesn’t even find support from her boyfriend Russell (Victor Quinaz), who calls to tell her he can’t make opening night because he’s been asked into work to cover the Challenger explosion.
As for the rest of the women, most are preoccupied with news footage of the Challenger incident. “I feel like if we keep watching something might change,” says Carmen (Britney Young). Jenny (Ellen Wong) takes it particularly hard—it sets off her superstitions to the point where she thinks she’s cursed. “My aunt once got into this big car accident, and my dad said it’s because our living room was painted purple.” When the casino is evacuated due to the false fire alarm, Jenny believes it was caused by the incense she lighted in the dressing room to get rid the bad energy. And she’s later ordered to stop blowing on the dice when she proves to be a bad luck charm at the craps table.
Debbie, meanwhile, is struggling to get recognition as a producer. Sandy initially presumes she’s Bash’s wife. She’s also passed over in favor of Bash for the cover of What’s On magazine—despite being the one to set up the shoot. And the marquee outside the building reads “Bash Howard Productions Presents…” with no mention of Debbie or anyone else for that matter. But Ms. Eagan is good at finding ways to get what she wants—whether it’s one-night-stands with hunky valets or convincing Sandy to let the ladies play with house money at the tables under the guise of cathartic release. She even switches off the speaker during Sam’s pep talk so that she can address the women before the show.
In the end, the show goes ahead and is by all accounts a success; it certainly gets plenty of laughs and applause from the live audience. But this is just the first show of a three-month residency; there is going to be a tough road ahead as the team begins to make Vegas their home. They’re all going to need to have each other’s backs. And you get that sense in this opening episode, especially between the women. There is a camaraderie—an “in this together” attitude formed on the backbone of shared struggle.
We see this togetherness in the impromptu balloon bash during the minute of silence and the jam-packed elevator ride to the penthouse after party. Rhonda even runs down from the floor above just so that she can ride with the rest of the ladies. This is a family now. Even Debbie and Ruth—best-friends-turned-mortal-enemies-turned-work-colleagues—are back on the same page, attempting to pep each other up and offer support. No matter what tragedies may come their way, these ladies know that there is no business like GLOW business.
-If that hotel room pre-drink scene is anything to go by, it seems like the show is continuing with the awkward kind-of-sexual-tension between Ruth and Sam. I’ve always found this one of the weaker parts of the series, so I’m hoping we don’t get too much of that this season.
-Speaking of relationships, Rhonda is starting to fall for Bash after their fear-induced wedding last season, which is sure to bring about complications as Bash struggles to accept his sexuality.
-“I got you flour-s. Get it. Like, instead of flowers, I got you flours.” More Arthie (Sunita Mani) and Yolanda (Shakira Barrera), please.
GLOW, Streaming, Netflix