“GLOW” Season 3 Is Great and Very Gay, But I Have Some Questions

Warning: Spoilers ahead for season three of GLOW.

With each and every season, GLOW gets gayer and gayer, and that’s the kind of character development I like to see in shows, friends, and myself, thank you very much.

In its third season, GLOW takes the show to Las Vegas, and the new setting provides a perfect backdrop to the season’s many intersecting storylines. Vegas is a transient, weirdo bubble, and most of these characters are going through huge transitional moments in life. Debbie is a producer now, but she struggles to spend so much time away from her kid and also wants to step on the necks of all the men who don’t take her seriously (and eventually does, though unfortunately not literally). Ruth faces the possibility that she’ll never achieve her true dreams of being a successful actress. Cherry second-guesses her baby plans with Keith because of the actual physical changes it will bring about to her body, which is how she makes her living (I can’t believe I’m about to say this about straights, but their marriage is one of my favorite depictions of marriage on television). Tammé pushes her body to its very limits for the sake of her work. Sheila de-wolfs and reaches for new performance heights. Much of the season is about defining and redefining success and happiness, these characters clawing at the things they want with a kind of fervent desperation that it takes for women to chase dreams within the patriarchy.

Arthie’s huge transitional moment is her new relationship with Yolanda, in full swing at the top of the season. Which means, yes, *announcer voice* SEASON THREE OF GLOW HAS LESBIAN SEX:

lesbian sex

lesbian sex

somehow…NOT lesbian sex? more on this later

Season two sees Arthie through the realization that she has feelings for Yolanda, and in season three, she wrestles with what that really means, leading to broader feelings about her sexuality. Honestly, I think we’re all still a little in shock about how NOT gay the first season of GLOW (subtext aside) was. Season three serves up a lot of candid conversations between Arthie and Yolanda about queerness. As the only out queer women on the team, they also have to grapple with homophobia from their own friends. Yolanda and Arthie are in different places with their own identities, and some of that manifests as relationship drama throughout the season.

My one complaint would be that they’re kind of just slotted as The Gay characters now, and they don’t seem to have any storylines outside of their relationship with each other. That’s especially frustrating, because a great asset of GLOW has been the way it develops its characters and gives them lots of different stories. They aren’t the one-note caricatures that they play in their wrestling show. But when it comes to Arthie and Yolanda, there’s little else going on other than this coming out arc. The conflict between them isn’t always well developed (why, for example, does Arthie bear the weight of their breakup when Yolanda said some pretty hurtful and messed up things about her sexuality?).

And there are opportunities for Arthie and Yolanda—again, the only queer women on a show that somehow brims with Big Dyke Energy—to be plugged into other storylines that end up being wasted. In the brilliant “Freaky Tuesday” episode, for example, every girl switches characters for a night, a fun enough gag on its own, but GLOW uses it to tell deeper, more nuanced stories, as with Jenny who has to hear the racism of her character delivered by a white woman, which throws her into a whole new level of cognitive dissonance. Wouldn’t it make sense to have Arthie have a similar experience with someone playing her racist character?

Look, part of GLOW’s appeal is that it feels like a true ensemble show, so there are a lot of characters to balance all the time and not everyone can be in the spotlight for too long. But the show still manages to dig into a lot of deep stuff for several different characters this season. We’re out here trying to heal genocidal trauma through Jenny and Melanie. Cherry and Keith’s relationship has several moving pieces to it. Bash’s sexuality is treated with more nuance. Meanwhile, a lot of the character and relationship development for Arthie and Yolanda is pared down and limiting. At times I’m left wondering what exactly draws them to each other other than the fact that they’re both just the only out women on the team.

this was me logging onto tumblr when I was closeted in college

On that note, I do have some outstanding questions about GLOW’s third season, which all fall under the umbrella question of HOW DARE YOU?

My first HOW DARE YOU pertains to the show’s central ““best friends”” Debbie and Ruth, whose scenes together continue to tell one of the greatest slow-build love stories of all time, and yet, GLOW is still gal pal-ing them. I hesitate to use the term queerbaiting here, because it doesn’t even really feel like that. It feels like maybe the writers…don’t know…that they’ve written Debbie and Ruth as a couple. And YEAH, I get it, friendships between straight women can be ROMANTIC or whatever, but I’m sorry, are we all…watching the same show?

I refuse to include a screenshot of Ruth rubbing her EXPOSED BOOBS on Debbie in the dressing room, because it feels too horny, even for me…but episode three, timestamp 22:40, just saying.

HOW DARE YOU: Part 2

I can’t believe there’s a devastating breakup scene for a relationship that “never” even “existed.” Also, have you ever heard of platonically being chased through an airport? NO, BECAUSE IT’S NOT A THING.

HOW DARE YOU: Part 3

I fully cried when Arthie opens up her secret Santa gift and it’s a full-on rainbow headband. “But Kayla, didn’t you just say that you had some problems with the character being solely defined by her coming out story?” YES, but I still find that coming out story deeply relatable on a personal level, okay?! There are so, so, so few South Asian queer characters on television, and I lap them up like sustenance because I’m so parched for representation.

Speaking of being parched, I will leave you with HOW DARE YOU: Part 4

Related:

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is a Brooklyn-based writer, television critic, and comedian who spends most of her time over-analyzing queer subtext on television, singing "Take Me Or Leave Me" in public places, and assembling cheese platters. She has a cat named after Piper Halliwell from Charmed, and her go-to karaoke song is "Everywhere" by Michelle Branch. Her writing can also be found at The A.V. Club and The Hollywood Reporter, and she wrote the webseries Sidetrack. You can catch her screaming in all-caps about Kalinda Sharma, Jennifer Lopez, and oysters on Twitter and Instagram.

Kayla has written 177 articles for us.

24 Comments

  1. GLOW season 3 was so good, but definitely would love like… an hour long show vs 30 minutes. It’s hard to do an ensemble as big as GLOW’s without losing some nuance to the characters or certain storylines for sure. BUT YES. Ruth shaking her boobs around to Debbie WAS TOO MUCH. Thank you for the timestamp/episode information. 🙂

    • I’m only three episodes into the third season (read all the spoilers anyway) but I was not at all getting the same vibes from debbie and ruth! Like I said, only 3 eps in but isn’t ruth in love with Marc Maron? I hope I’m wrong and season 4 is the gayest yet!

      Either way, I love this show!

  2. If they had more time their storyline could’ve been less rushed (and frankly, less mean re: labels) but I did love it. And then when Bash’s whole thing played out at the end alongside it… it was quite a season.

    To sum up, Betty Gilpin forever

  3. Very heterosexual to run through the airport after your best friend, tell her you stole your boyfriends buissness out from under him, and that you’re building an Eden where the two of you can be together with out men. Just gals being pals!

  4. I found the way Yolanda treated Arthie and how it was played as totally OK really upsetting. Bisexuality it an option for fucks sake and even if Yolanda thought she was dealing with internalised homophobia that doesn’t make any of that shit OK.

  5. Thank you! That Ruth and Debbie situation absolutely beggars belief. At the time I felt like maybe I was insane, but in retrospect it’s RIDICULOUS. This is not how heterosexual women behave.

  6. I enjoyed the season overall. It’s a fun show about love and community, so even when it’s not perfect, it still is really joyful to watch. I don’t mind that this season wasn’t super plot-driven. I like little character studies, I just wish they had more time to flesh all the characters out more. There were plenty of instances where storylines were teased, but not followed up on, like Debbie’s bulimia, or Dash having a sore throat at the same time Tamme was going to transition into a “manager” role. They either need more time per episode, or more focus.

    • a thing i find interesting about this show is that it always seems to be relying on longterm building/payoff. it’s always looking way ahead, into the next season even. season two sets up SO MUCH for season three. and season three seems to have a lot of things just STARTING that will presumably be dealt with more/have greater implications in season four. that’s a risky way to do television writing though because there’s always the risk of cancellation, but it also makes us that much more invested in the characters. their arcs are long and detailed instead of everything getting neatly packaged within an episode or even a season. am i making sense

  7. Thank you so much for this… I adore GLOW, but sometimes I feel like I’m insane when I watch it and is expected to see Ruth and Debbie as friends. It’s easily one of the most believable and relatable romances on TV. They HAVE to know, the daddy scene is inexplicable otherwise: let’s face it, that’s just lesbian porn. Don’t think I’d survive if Betty did that to me, I’d have “cause of death: lesbian cardiac episode” on my death certificate.
    Re: Arthie/Yolanda: it’s great that they have gay/bi/whatever definition couple on the show, but they have actually sort of become less interesting as characters because of it. Feel shitty for saying that, but they had more going on before.
    BTW, am I the only one who’s terrified that Betty will discover just how good a writer she is and give up acting before she wins an Oscars or whatever?

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