There’s an exciting shift going on the entertainment world right now, one that seeks to upend decades of straight white men in power with the inclusion of more diverse and progressive storytelling and storytellers. Especially with the recent social upheaval cultivated by the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, there’s a higher demand for greater representation and better pay among women on and off-screen. 

Netflix’s “GLOW,” a TV series in which the creators and the majority of the actors are women, not only serves as the perfect antidote to this problem, but its core message proves that women from all different backgrounds deserve the same recognition as their male counterparts. 

In its debut last summer, “GLOW” explored the ever-prevalent issue of rampant sexism and industry stereotyping. The series followed the difficulties (and triumphs) of a group of aspiring misfit actresses in 1980s L.A. trying to get their big break through performing as flashy TV wrestlers for a low-tier cable network. 

Where the first season struggled to reconcile the inherent problems with objectifying women under the male gaze, season two offers a much more enlightened outlook on how the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling can empower themselves and control their own image without letting their performances define their identities. 

With tighter plotting, breezier pacing, funnier dialogue and a sharper focus on gender roles, the sophomore season of “GLOW” provides a sobering, timely reflection on the institutional marginalization of women without resorting to surface-level, holier-than-thou pandering. It also kicks ass.

Reinvention seemed to be the central theme for season one; in season two, it’s resilience. Picking up the summer after the season one finale, GLOW ringleader Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie, “The Disaster Artist”) and her gal pals return to the stage, only to fight more personal, professional and physical battles than before. 

Ruth, in particular, learns about the hard lessons of show business when she takes it upon herself to direct the GLOW title sequence in the season opener “Viking Funeral.” Though her creative pursuits inspire her castmates, Ruth faces backlash from GLOW’s profane and fussy director Sam Silvia (Marc Maron, “Easy”), the show’s money-hungry producer Bash Howard (Chris Lowell, “Graves”) and her best friend-turned-frenemy Debbie “Liberty Belle” Egan (Betty Gilpin, “American Gods”). 

As her relationships with these three ebb and flow throughout the season, Ruth learns to embrace the life she’s found herself in as a GLOW wrestler, as well as the ordeals and small victories that come with it. Even when she faces a slew of career-threatening dilemmas, from dodging the predatory advances of a TV executive to urging Sam to listen to her ideas, Ruth confronts each obstacle with a gung-ho toughness.

After an impressive debut as a starring lead in the season before, Brie continues to reinforce just exactly why she deserves to be in the spotlight. Her comedic timing operates as deftly as her dramatic sensibilities, something that she clearly mastered from her concurrent roles on “Community” and “Mad Men.” The intense vulnerability she injects into Ruth — oscillating from genuine tenderness to utter devastation with just one look — is remarkable in and of itself. It’s undoubtedly one of the best TV performances of the year, strengthened even more by her duet with Gilpin.

The tumultuous relationship between Debbie and Ruth jump-started the series in the pilot when Debbie discovers her husband Mark (Rich Sommer, “Mad Men”) cheated on her with Ruth. Pitting their GLOW personas against one another — Debbie as “Liberty Belle,” the patriotic, “Wonder Woman”-type do-gooder and Ruth as her Soviet nemesis “Zoya the Destroya” — was a smart move to begin the show, but it also made for a brilliant sublimation of all the built-up tension boiling underneath their fraught friendship. 

In this season, all that tension reaches an emotional, soul-crushing crescendo during the cathartic seventh episode “Nothing Shattered.” During one long, mesmerizing sequence, the two address their mutual resentment full-on with all the fire and fury they repressed in and out of the ring. But even when the two hash out their hurt feelings, the platonic love they once shared still manages to prevail against all odds. The scene is both a striking display of emotional complexity and a bravura dual showcase of Brie and Gilpin’s acting.    

Along with its rock-solid throwback soundtrack and warm pastel aesthetics, “GLOW” improves upon the first season with fleshed-out backstories of the rest of the ensemble cast. Tammé “The Welfare Queen” Dawson (Kia Stevens, “WWE Smackdown!”) gets a wonderful subplot in the standout episode “Mother of All Matches,” where she and Debbie struggle to navigate their roles as mothers and as wrestlers while the two prepare for a hotly anticipated televised fight. 

Newcomer Yolanda “Junkchain” Rivas (Shakira Barrera, “Queen of the South”) shakes up the cast when she sparks a romance with the timid Arthie (Sunita Mani, “Mr. Robot”), creating yet another refreshing depiction of a queer romance between two women of color on-screen this year (see: Starz’s “Vida” and “Hearts Beat Loud”). 

Even Sam, who began the show with not many likable traits, starts to develop a sympathetic heart once he makes up for lost time with his punk-rock daughter Justine (Britt Baron ‘13, “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders”).

Though the future of “GLOW” remains unclear (both within the show itself and the show as a whole), its second season is a nearly perfect justification for its existence. Not only is it a mind-blowingly great follow-up to an admirable first season, but season two of “GLOW” acts as a quietly radical rallying cry for recognition. 

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