GLOW showrunners break down that 'game-changing' season 3 cliffhanger ending
Warning: This article contains major spoilers from the GLOW season 3 finale, “A Very GLOW Christmas.”
After a full season in Sin City, GLOW is heading home to Los Angeles. Or is it?
Season 3 of Netflix’s wrestling dramedy saw the women of GLOW acclimate to life in Las Vegas, putting on the same live show week in and week out. But when morale started to dip, Debbie (Betty Gilpin) saw an opportunity for an exciting future for the show, and she took it… even though it meant screwing over her sweet, older, and rich rancher boyfriend to do it.
With Bash’s (Chris Lowell) help (and money), Debbie outbid her sure-to-be ex-boyfriend for a television network. The finale ended with only Debbie and Bash knowing the exciting news, needing to keep it a secret until the deal was done, but she was so excited about finally having the power she wanted as a network president, as well as finding a new home for GLOW with all-new characters, that she couldn’t keep it a secret from Ruth (Alison Brie). After a mad dash through the airport reminiscent of rom-coms, Debbie caught up with Ruth as she was about to board a plane to see her family for the holidays and told her the good news: She wanted Ruth to direct the new GLOW show. But Ruth wasn’t ready to give up on acting and boarded her flight, unsure of her future more than ever.
And Ruth wasn’t the only question mark left by the end of the finale. As the other GLOW women don’t know about the upcoming move back to Los Angeles yet, there’s no telling who will stick with the show and who will quit. Carmen (Britney Young) already told Debbie she was leaving the show to travel around with her wrestling brothers. How many more GLOW women are going to exit if the show returns for a season 4?
Elsewhere in the finale, Carmen helped put on a Christmas Carol-themed live show, making everyone’s dreams come true and bringing morale back to the team, especially when she got Cherry’s (Sydelle Noel) estranged husband to come back and reunite with his wife at the climax of the show. He also came with the idea that they could adopt so Cherry wouldn’t have to stop working or change her body to have a baby. Meanwhile, Bash struggled with his sexuality after he learned his threesome with Rhonda (Kate Nash) and the “plumber” was actually set up by Rhonda with a male escort, and so he freaked out and doubled down on staying in the closet by suggesting that he and Rhonda start a family. But in happier news, Arthie (Sunita Mani) finally accepted her sexuality and came out to the whole team. Plus, Sam (Marc Maron) offered to adopt Justine (Britt Baron) so when he dies she’ll inherit everything he has after his health scare earlier in the season, and she signed the papers.
Now that you’ve finished watching season 3, let showrunners Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch break down that “game-changing” cliffhanger ending, what it means for the future of GLOW, and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The season 3 finale once again opens a new chapter for the show with the promise of a move back to Los Angeles and back into the world of TV. Did you always know that you’d end this season with Debbie buying a network?
LIZ FLAHIVE: That was an idea we had played with a bit. We were really fascinated by the Wild West of cable TV in the ’80s. It’s something we researched a lot from the beginning, even when we knew we wanted GLOW to be on a local cable channel in L.A. But it’s definitely something we had been talking about a lot. I don’t know that we knew at the very beginning of breaking the season that we were exactly going there, but it’s always been in the air for us.
How much are you beholden to the actual history of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling?
FLAHIVE: We’re actually not.
CARLY MENSCH: We’re the opposite.
FLAHIVE: From the beginning, it’s really inspired by, and not ripped from the headlines. We’re actually not taking events from the actual GLOW. What inspired us to go to Vegas is the original GLOW filmed in Vegas. There’s something about ringing that bell that always felt interesting and exciting to us. But they filmed the TV show there, they didn’t do a live show in the casino showroom. So there are certain things that are moments of homage and moments of inspiration, but at this point our characters are their own and our story is our own.
How does this cliffhanger set up season 4?
MENSCH: So much of the show is the women striving to get somewhere, especially Debbie, who has been struggling the most with her thirst for power and the constraints of being a woman in 1980s Hollywood. This is the first time that we’ve let a character achieve something this close to what they want, and what that means and where that leads, we won’t spoil. But there’s something very game-changing about letting a character get something this big, and at what expense. We end in a way that suggests she’s going there without Ruth, so what that means, we’ll have to see.
We’ve seen Debbie struggling against sexism as a woman in power, so how does her owning a network further that story?
FLAHIVE: Women’s relationships to a position of power, it hasn’t gotten less complicated with time. The thing that’s interesting to look at, historically there was only one female network president, Kay Koplovitz. There was only one, which is bananas in terms of television in ’86, which is not that long ago. The idea of how uncomfortable it is to trailblaze, how complicated it is, what it’s actually going to mean for Debbie in a real way is what’s driving us now. The theoretical version of the actual is always a fun place to live. Cable was a big moment in terms of how TV was changing. Something we looked at in season 3 with how we started off with the Challenger story is that we’re really at that moment where the 24-hour news cycle is a new concept, CNN had just started doing that, just to remember in us telling a story about making a show, where we are and what it means and how people were experiencing things feels really rich.
With the move to Vegas and then subsequently a move back to a TV network, how are things going to be different for GLOW?
MENSCH: The fun of our show is there is no going backwards. People are in very different places than they were the last time they were in Los Angeles. There’s been a really fun Vegas impact. None of our characters are actually where they were, now that I’m doing the math. For such a character-driven show, for us the setting or the location isn’t as important to us as where people are in their lives — where Ruth is, where Debbie is, Carmen’s headed for a pretty drastically different place, a lot of the women at the end of season 3 don’t even know the potential opportunities ahead. As we’re heading to some pretty new territory for us, even if maybe the landscape looks familiar, can you go home again, can you never go home again are all things that we’re excited to dive into.
Ruth ends the season on a really big question mark. What’s coming next for her?
FLAHIVE: What we were really excited about with Vegas and with Ruth is she was struggling with her career and relationships and with Debbie and the betrayal, and in Vegas she actually had a lot of what she says she wanted. Putting her in this Vegas crucible and reconnecting her more deeply with Debbie, allowing her to have an existential crisis in Vegas, felt exciting to us. For somebody who both has found satisfaction and more complication in her work and in her relationships, Ruth is still trying to figure a lot of stuff out. Some might call her a late bloomer — there are things that people her age have already gone through and she hasn’t or hasn’t dealt with yet. She’s always trying, and she’s always fighting and scrapping. It’s the thing that makes her fun to write. Her taking a left turn at the end of the season was exciting and scary. You’re worried about her even if you think she’s making the right choice. You’re still worried about her, or at least that’s how I feel about her as a character.
MENSCH: Liz put it beautifully. It’s funny because I think Ruth’s character spends the second half of this season really worried about the fact that everybody else seems to be moving forward with their lives and she’s just stuck still, but then she makes one of the bigger decisions of anybody at the end of the season. For her, that type of self-awareness that she has at the end of season 3 is so hard-earned and was so slow and hard for her to get is both at the same time a huge victory for Ruth and also really sad because even writing her, I’m worried about her. But I’m proud of her at the same time.
Sam and Ruth have been in a will-they-won’t-they relationship for many seasons now, but this season is the first time they’ve really acted on it, and it clearly didn’t go well. Why can’t they just be happy together?
FLAHIVE: It’s funny because we always see the will-they-won’t-they as Ruth and Debbie, actually. With Ruth and Sam, it feels like there is chemistry and connection and things they’re both really feeling and acknowledging as they’re both growing as people in, for them, accelerated ways. The thing that’s interesting for us about Vegas with Ruth and Sam is they have this proximity, they have this chemistry, they both have terrible timing, so it felt interesting to ask some questions of did these things happen just because they’re in Vegas, did these things happen because of how they’re really feeling and suddenly able to acknowledge their feelings for each other, is it not the same for both of them? They’re a weird, complicated dynamic.
Bash’s struggle with his sexuality was so heartbreaking to see, especially with where he ends up at the end of the season. What are you trying to show with his story line, and where does this leave him for the future?
MENSCH: With Bash, we’re always trying to be very honest both to his character, which is the son of a prominent conservative in 1986 Vegas, and the general homophobia of the time. What was exciting about Vegas was both this idea of it being such an easy place to hide in plain sight; Liberace was probably one of the most famous people in all of Vegas at this time, but he was not technically out. This season we got to really help Bash confront certain things he probably wouldn’t have confronted if he was in Los Angeles, which isn’t to say that he’s in a healthier better place, but he made some bold moves. He made some moves and he probably progressed on some level. Sending him into the next season, I don’t think it’s as simple as now he knows something about himself, he has a new self-awareness. In a kind of tragic way, we are sending him into more probably painful complicated places with his sexuality rather than delivering him to some type of acceptance or something that would feel more modern.
FLAHIVE: Vegas was such a repressed, conservative, flamboyant, permissive place all at once. It’s such a contradictory place overall. In going to Vegas, it really supported this story that we knew we wanted to tell. Even in his costuming, Bash’s outfits go even further this season because he’s in Vegas and he can. He’s a Vegas producer in 1986. Just that layer of artifice and performance, on top of being married to Rhonda, that was so interesting to us.
GLOW season 3 is now streaming in full on Netflix.
Inspired by the real-life 'Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling' series from the 1980s, this Netflix dramedy revolves around a crew of Hollywood misfits turned female wrestlers in L.A. who take their show to Las Vegas in season 3.