I won't lie, I really wanted to love GLOW Season Three. Everything that worked about the first two seasons is back — the characters are all great, their interactions are stellar, the drama is heart-wrenching, the comedy is witty yet never too mean-spirited, Alison Brie is still an absolute delight and showrunners Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch continue to expertly balance taking professional wrestling seriously as a form of entertainment while not hesitating to point out how goofy it often is.
The new additions this season are pretty solid across the board as well. Geena Davis brings a ton of depth to showgirl-turned-businesswoman Sandy Deveraux St. Clair, Kevin Cahoon steals every scene he's in as drag queen Bobby Barnes (seriously, there's money to be made in a spin-off with him) and the show has fun early on with having Ruth (Brie) and the gang operating out of a tacky, off-the-strip Las Vegas casino.
And yet every time it felt like this season was hitting its stride frustration soon followed, changing that feeling of "love" down to just "like." Across three seasons the show has tried different avenues when it comes to the storylines and character arcs of its ensemble cast. Season One felt like a show playing with house money — ideas and concepts were being introduced all the way up until the final 15 minutes with the assumption that things could be addressed and resolved in a second season. And lo and behold Season Two came around and felt like a significant improvement, in that it actually gave characters resolution rather than push it off for down the line.
Unfortunately Season Three's strategy is to drop storylines all together without notice or explanation. Debbie (Betty Gilpin) gets the absolute worst of it. First she's dealing with a possible eating disorder, then she's worried about missing out on her infant son growing up and then she kicks off a relationship with a kind-hearted Tex (Toby Huss) for the back half of the season. And the moment she jumps into a new storyline, the previous one is never mentioned again.
Another victim of the erratic writing is Tamme (Kia Stevens, better known in the wrestling world as Awesome Kong). Early on we see her dealing with the all-too-real physical toll that wrestling on a nightly basis, hinting at potential issues with substance abuse before the rest of the group decides she needs to be benched. She turns around and gets the idea to become a manager a la Bobby "The Brian" Heenan, which sounds like a great idea that could've been entertaining... had they ever mentioned it again.
There's also a heel turn involving Bash (Chris Lowell) around the midpoint that feels like it should be sending shock waves to the rest of the cast. But aside from a few angry words from Debbie it goes ignored as the show seems so much more interested in his confused sexual orientation.
That's the struggle with handling ensemble casts. Almost every character in the group is given a storyline to work with and you're told to care about all of them. So when the resolution for half of them is a shoulder shrug you're left wondering why you bothered investing at all.
The missteps are only made more apparent when compared to the storylines that do get a resolution. Carmen (Britney Young) considers taking further steps in the wrestling world, Cherry (Sydelle Noel) and Keith (Bashir Salahuddin) deal with a complex relationship issue and after spending two seasons as a strange curiosity, Sheila (Gayle Rankin) undergoes a jaw-dropping personal transformation I wouldn't dream of spoiling.
On top of all of that are the continuing misadventures of Ruth and Sam (Marc Maron), the latter of whom is easily an MVP despite being pulled away from the rest of the group about midway through.
Like I said, there's a lot to like about this season of GLOW, but the botches in storytelling keep me from saying I outright loved it. That being said I do hope it manages to avoid Netflix's chopping block and get a Season Four, as this season ends on quite an intriguing note for most of the cast.
Rating: 3 out of 5
GLOW Season Three premieres on Netflix on Friday, Aug. 9.