[This story contains spoilers from the second season of Netflix's GLOW.]
After two seasons of GLOW, the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling are headed to Las Vegas.
The second season of the Netflix female wrestling comedy ended with Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie), Debbie Egan (Betty Gilpin), director Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron) and the rest of the GLOW ensemble aboard a bus headed for Sin City to continue their show. Despite giving the TV series everything they had during season two — and after being sidelined by a predatory network boss who was rejected by Ruth — GLOW gets canceled. Since station K-DTV owns the rights to their wrestling characters, they can't sell the show to another network. The only option for the actresses-turned-wrestlers is to move their ring antics to Vegas for a live GLOW variety-wrestling show, thanks to an offer from a new nightlife impresario (played by Horatio Sans).
“I’ve never been to Vegas,” Ruth tells Sam after optimistically kissing new boyfriend Russell (Victor Quinaz) goodbye. “Oh,” replies Sam with a knowing smile, "You’re gonna hate it." That foreboding final note holds the key to the future of GLOW, according to co-showrunners Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch.
"We didn’t think Vegas was a purely optimistic place. It’s a place that, at least for us, makes our hair go up on our arms as in, 'Oh no, what’s going to happen there?'" Mensch tells The Hollywood Reporter. "It’s a place that makes us deeply, deeply uncomfortable and that was exciting for us to take the story, and the women, there to see what happens."
Though Netflix has yet to renew the series, which is exec produced by Orange Is the New Black's Jenji Kohan, for a third season, Flahive and Mensch have long eyed a multi-season run for the female-dominated comedy. "We have hundreds of ideas of what we want to happen, both in Vegas and beyond. But we’ll see," says Mensch. Though they anticipate more seasons to come, Mensch says of their process, "You sit down and you think about a season and we’ll see what makes it in and what doesn’t."
Flahive contends that the duo does a "little bit of both" when it comes to mapping out the series, but also taking it season by season. "We have some dreams and where they go, we don’t always know," she tells THR. "But we have some character arcs and ideas; enough to hold onto and enough to drive forward, and yet there’s a lot of stuff that feels incredibly open as we build."
The first season of GLOW was set up to be an origin story that introduced viewers to the 14 women who make up the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, while also securing the women a broadcast timeslot with their pilot episode. The second season, however, provided Flahive and Mensch with the opportunity to further explore the ensemble, which grew to 15 women with the introduction of lesbian character Yolanda (Shakira Barrera). The romantic relationship that blossomed between Yolanda and Arthie Premkumar (Sunita Mani) — who was mainly known for her in-the-ring persona, Beirut the Mad Bomber, during season one — was a development that excited the pair.
"I hope we have the number of seasons we dream of having because I think we can then equally explore all of the women," says Flahive of focusing emotional season-two arcs around Arthie, as well as Tamme Dawson (Kia Stevens), aka Welfare Queen, and even GLOW producer Bash Howard (Chris Lowell) in season two. "Both the blessing and the challenge of the GLOW symphony is that there are a lot of them. We are a half hour-ish show, which I love. But it also means we’re going to lean into people when it’s the right time for that character. With season one, we really had the structure of what we needed to accomplish and, frankly, that didn’t allow us freedom to have an episode like the fourth of season two, where we basically follow two characters [Tamme and Debbie] and bring them back to the show."
She continues, "That is the great freedom of season two and the great freedom of future seasons; that we can move around more now that you know and love the characters and understand the story of the show and understand wrestling. We have these 15 amazing women and, ideally, by the end of the series you will know them all in a deeper way."
Amid all of the female stories to tell, however, Flahive and Mensch felt that with the show being set in 1985 Hollywood, Bash's sexuality deserved further exploration as well. During the second season, it is revealed that Bash's butler, Florian, died of an AIDS-related illness and that the relationship appears to be much deeper than he lets on in public.
"There is a reality in terms of what was going on in 1985 that felt important not only to not shy away from but to tell through the lens of our characters," Flahive says of Bash's storyline as the season goes. "If we have a character who is grappling, even unbeknownst himself, with where he is in terms of his identity, that felt like something incredibly strong. It’s something that we always talked about with Bash. There’s obviously a reason that he comes from a moneyed, Republican family; there’s tension there. In terms of GLOW being his brainchild, what does that mean for that guy? What is he trying to work through or repress? We’re trying to tell a pretty complicated story with Bash. Even though we have so many people, it felt really important."
In the finale, Bash impulsively decides to marry Rhonda Richardson (Kate Nash) so she can avoid deportation, much to the jealous worry of GLOW breakout character Carmen Wade (Britney Young), which should provide for more untapped storytelling in a potential season three. "Knowing we had all of this backstory and internal psychology for him, it felt exciting and important to put it out there," Mensch adds of Bash.
When speaking to GLOW leads Brie and Gilpin, the co-stars similarly envision a long road ahead for the series, and they have their own ideas about what awaits each of their characters when they step off that bus in Vegas.
"Give me six seasons and I would be happy. We’ve done two, give me at least four more and I’d be a happy girl!" Brie tells THR. While Gilpin echoes, "I would do this show forever."
Gilpin, who previously worked with Flahive and Mensch on Showtime's Nurse Jackie, initially knew the duo as playwrights. "There is never going to be an obligatory season where the wrong people are having sex and we’re all in space, or something," Gilpin tells THR of their history and her trust in their storytelling, citing the first season's abortion episode as an example. "It’s always going to be incredible writing and the show will always be about the relationships. It’s not a plot-driven, what-will-happen-next show. Leave the plot to the wrestling matches."
And while both Gilpin and Brie confidently plan to continue their training in the "off-season" while awaiting GLOW's fate, Gilpin admits, "I do think we probably won’t be as self-righteous about doing all the stunts if we go a bunch of seasons. It will be like: 'Put a wig on a mop and send her in for season seven.'"
For Brie, both the prospect of Ruth being her usual fish-out-of-water self amid a Vegas backdrop and the idea of the show filming on location make her as uncomfortable as her bosses. "The prospect of having to shoot any of our show in Vegas already has me spinning out," she says. "And I’m glad that Ruth feels the same way — it’s great fodder for comedy."
What does interest Brie is how their set will change to reflect the Vegas casinos and what new characters would be introduced. As for Ruth, she is leaving the first healthy relationship she has behind in Hollywood and heading to Vegas with the romantically complicated Sam.
"Ruth doesn’t really have or understand sex appeal and I would say that is something that people in the ‘80s in a Las Vegas show might really want to use to their advantage — that kind of puts Ruth at a disadvantage," says Brie. "In general, I think she’s going to feel very out of place and that will just be throwing her off balance. Also, she’s away from her first healthy male relationship but she’ll be with the man she may or may not have precarious possible romantic feelings for, so that is an interesting temptation. But I guess it would be nice to see how Ruth and Debbie can connect when Mark, Debbie’s ex-husband, is not around on a day-to-day basis. Maybe some distance from their real lives will actually put them in a better position to reconnect as friends."
Though Debbie might be more comfortable in a Vegas environment, the actress who plays her wants to continue to see her character face an uphill climb. This season, the former soap star struggled with her self-worth as a young mother going through a divorce without her friend by her side — even snapping Ruth's ankle during a cocaine-feuled match as payback for Ruth's affair with her husband.
"My hopes as an actress and my hopes as a friend of Debbie are two different things," Gilpin explains of the potential future. "My hope as a friend of Debbie is that she excels in Vegas and finds herself and that she and Ruth become friends again. She starts to garden and lives a beautiful life and writes poetry for greeting cards. As an actress, I want her to get into crystal meth. (Laughs.) I want her to be wandering the streets screaming. Maybe she thinks she’s an amazing lounge singer and she isn’t. I want her to continue to spiral."
Debbie's season-two spiral was an intentional one for Flahive and Mensch, who wanted Debbie to hit bottom in order to gain clarity. "We have all experienced people who have gone through the experience of divorce or have friends who have, and there’s something incredibly honest about how rough it was for Debbie with all the things she had to confront and grapple with," says Flahive. "Whether they were dark or just honest, similar to Sam, I don’t think this is where she saw herself — but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t liberating in many ways."
She continues, "You may have never seen yourself in this whole new world but when you finally are in that place and you can look at it honestly, there’s a freedom to that. That was our intention with Debbie this season. She sees things a little differently and a little more clearly by the end. You kind of have to lose your mind first to get there. That’s part of her, she had to go through a lot of stuff to get some clarity."
Comparing Debbie's road to Sam's, Mensch says they focused so much time on the struggling director's newfound role as a father to Justine (Britt Baron) because it also put him in an unfamiliar place amid a wobbly career path. "Some of the root of the insecurity with Sam is that this is not where he saw himself. That is a very human and universal thing. Everyone has a moment where you go, 'This is not what I thought I’d be doing. This is not who I thought I’d be. These are not the things I thought I’d be doing with my career.' For the most part, people take a hit and that creates either insecurity or behavior that you wouldn’t say is the prettiest. With Sam, that’s very true, even though I think this season he’s investing way more in this show and the women. But it’s still a reckoning," says Flahive.
Mensch adds, "We’re not saying that he needs to become a better person by the end of the season so much as we’re impacting him with the nature of finding out you have a daughter, her living with you and telling her what she thinks."
Sam is also the one who delivers the final nod to Ruth, which Mensch sums up as: "We ended the season on that final line with Sam telling Ruth, 'I think you’re going to hate it there.' We very purposely put that line there as something for Ruth about what’s ahead. Sam is saying it with a laugh, but he’s onto something."
The new season of GLOW is streaming now on Netflix. Head here for more season two coverage.