In the final moments of the season three finale of GLOW, Debbie Eagan (Betty Gilpin) seems to have it all. She negotiated her way into the role as network president, securing the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (GLOW) a secure platform, and has gained back a sense of control she felt like she was losing all season.
Excited to tell her estranged best friend, Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie)—someone she’s had a unique will–they–won’t–they relationship with for the shows's entirety—Debbie chases Ruth down in an airport in classic rom–com fashion. She excitedly tells her the news, and gives her an offer to abandon her acting dreams to direct for her instead.
“I’m going to build us an Eden, where we run the show, you and me. No more auditions. No more being at the mercy of these fucking idiots. We’ll call the shots,” says Debbie, squealing with joy at the prospect of a stable life without the need for men, or the embarrassment of failed audition after failed audition.
Ruth isn’t as on board—and to add salt on the wound. Debbie pushes, “If being an actor was going to happen for you, it would have happened by now. How many times are you going to break your own heart? You don’t have to stay in Vegas. You don’t have to keep auditioning for people who don’t want you. Because I have found us an off–amp that’s also a fucking catapult to our future.”
Ruth obviously knows better. Having bombed yet another audition days before, she knows she’s better suited for other things, yet she can’t let go of the life she has carved for herself. She's a dedicated actress first and foremost and wants to see that through. Ruth coldly replies, “That’s your catapult, not mine.” She boards her plane, leaving behind a dumbfounded Debbie and the audience with one of the most excruciating cliffhangers to date.
It’s a terrific scene that reasserts the central relationship of the show—Ruth and Debbie. This was always a scathing example of female friendships' complicated dynamics, and unfortunately, this was the last scene we would ever watch depicting that. Because as of Oct. 5, 2020, GLOW was canceled by Netflix, a reversal of last year’s renewal decision due to financial reasons caused by the pandemic.
GLOW was about three weeks into production before everything was halted in mid–March due to the pandemic. At the time of its shutdown, GLOW had completed one episode, and was beginning to shoot the next. Taking into account that the already expensive series was facing additional costs due to COVID–19—and the fact that it would not be able to return to air until 2022 at the earliest—Netflix lacked confidence in its viewers to retain any interest in the show by then. So, they decided to axe the series.
Of course, there are more serious problems at hand, namely the coronarvirus. However, that doesn’t negate the fact that this was also a massive loss to strong female story–telling. This show often put marginalized voices at the forefront, and gave them an opportunity to reclaim their identities under the guise of the regressive and stereotypical nature of female wrestling. Characters such as Arthie Premkumar (Sunita Mani), Jenny Chey (Ellen Wong), and Tammé Dawson (Kia Stevens) are forced to take on stereotyped caricatures of themselves like “Beirut the Mad Bomber,” “Fortune Cookie,” or “Welfare Queen” to establish their characters on the show.
In doing so, GLOW allowed these characters to take back an era typically filled with nostalgia, and remind the audience that despite the hair, campiness, and fashion, the '80s were also an unwelcoming time for marginalized communities. These characters could come to terms with the alienating time they lived in due to the camaraderie and bonds they form with one another, finding power in numbers as they take on a world dominated by cis white men.
It's incredibly frustrating to see Netflix cancel yet another show that's able to highlight diverse talent, especially before it is able to complete its full story. Frankly, it's even more painful to see Netflix green–light other movies and shows that don’t really compare in quality, like Insatiable—which I promise you, no one wants another season of. It makes audiences lose trust in Netflix, especially as it continually fails to deliver us completed stories.
That said, fans and the cast of the show are rallying behind calls to finish off the show with a movie. Whether that will happen, who knows—but amidst the increasing chaos of the real world, it sure would be nice to know whether Ruth and Debbie found their way back to one another, and see our Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling one last time.