There’s a distinctly meta aspect to GLOW’s second season, which is essentially a television show finding its footing about a television show finding its footing, while its stars adjust to the strangeness of their (relative) newfound fame. But at its core, the series is still very much a workplace dramedy, taking a collection of very different people and forcing them to collaborate. In Season 2, Flahive said on the phone from Los Angeles, “it felt like the thing to explode and explore was, for this group of women, what does it feel like to make something? What does it feel like to finally have a job that you know is going to go on for a while? And then what is it like when your voice isn’t being heard, and you’re being kept down by people around you?”
GLOW is set in 1985: the era of Live Aid, New Coke, and Courteney Cox becoming the first woman to say the word period on American television. What’s clear from the new season, though, is that workplace dynamics for women haven’t changed all that much in three decades. In the first episode, Ruth is frozen out by Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron), GLOW’s director, after she threatens his sense of authority by filming an opening sequence for the show without his oversight. Debbie (Betty Gilpin), who’s managed to negotiate a role for herself as a producer in addition to being GLOW’s star, is persistently ignored and shut out of meetings by Sam and Bash (Chris Lowell). “We would have invited you but someone had to go home to their baby,” Bash explains.
For Mensch, who had a baby herself in between filming Season 1 and Season 2, it’s impossible to portray the full range of stories about working women’s experiences without thinking about motherhood. “It felt like it would almost be criminal not to include mothers,” she told me. One of the strongest episodes of Season 2 juxtaposes Debbie’s experiences as a new mother with those of Tammé (Kia Stevens), a wrestler whose son attends Stanford. Debbie forgets formula when she drops her baby off at daycare (and then forgets to pick him up altogether). Tammé’s son is dismayed when he learns about her role playing Welfare Queen, an ugly racial stereotype. “Sounds like you’re playing a minstrel character on public television,” he tells her. But for Tammé, who reveals to Debbie that she spent seven years packing Mongolian food into airline meals, her feelings about her new job are more complicated: She’s deeply aware of all of how fraught her role is, but she also seems gratified by the first truly creative job she’s ever had.
The storyline that feels the most timely in Season 2 is Ruth’s aborted meeting with the network head. The idea for a plot about sexual harassment had been in the works, the co-showrunners said, before the allegations about Harvey Weinstein emerged last year, given that the wrestlers were coming into a new environment with the show going to series. Post-Weinstein, GLOW’s writers felt emboldened to take the story further. But what interested them most wasn’t what happened between Ruth and the executive. It was how other people—particularly Debbie—would respond to Ruth’s reaction. “That was complicated to us, and messy, and gray,” Flahive said. “And that’s the thing about the show that’s exciting.”