Why Glee, have you gone and changed on me?
Me being out of the Glee loop for the last several months may have actually benefited this week’s adventures at McKinley High and NYADA. See, part of what often frustrates me about this show is how wildly it shifts in tone from episode to episode. Or plot to plot. Scene to scene. Heck, sometimes even line to line.
It’s the Murphyest of Ryan Murphy qualities, this desire and insistence on being all things to all people at all moments. In the past, this has seldom worked, as a storyline at least needs to be able to function relative to its own beats in order to have an effect.
“Sadie Hawkins” was, naturally, wildly varied in tone in its different stories, but, for at least this one brief moment in Gleeville, they remained relatively consistent to themselves. Wacky for the most part stayed wacky, sincere stayed sincere, and that clarity ultimately left a very positive impression.
Highest marks go to the Marley/Jake stuff, that felt very authentically “high school” to me, even with the outsized sociopathy of Kitty causing conflict. Maybe it was the backdrop of a big school dance that helped, a natural conflict in the time honored girl-asks-boy stuff, the stakes and obstacles laid out pretty straightforwardly. In general, I like Marley a lot. I believe that’s an unpopular opinion, but I like the grounded energy brought by Melissa Benoist there.
Tina, Blaine, and Sam, meanwhile were in a sort of “non-reciprocablel crush” triangle, which, if silly, at least felt silly in a way that could actually exist in a high school. I’m personally happy seeing Tina/Jenna Ushkowitz get some actual material, and she handles it well.
Over in NYC, Kurt acclimatizes to NYADA, where he meets a new guy named Adam (who I spent the whole show referring to as Britty Man in my notes) and is gradually lulled into joining a show choir called “Adam’s Apples” (one guy’s vanity group, no less!). Rachel warns him this is social suicide. I smell parallelism with their high school club, y’all! Besides the obviousness of that story track, I like the Rachel-and-Kurt-as-NY-buds vibe. Obnoxiously Localized New York Transplant is a good look for Rachel Berry. It’s nice to be intentionally annoyed by her behavior for a change.
On the highest plains of ridiculata, we have the Dalton Warblers subplot, where Same discovers evidence that their Glee rivals may have juiced their way to victory at Sectionals! To which I say, “Sure, ok. If this is what you need to do to advance the plot, Glee, you go right on ahead.”
Joining the Warblers on this plain is our Murphyest Moment of the Week (a place where we can celebrate the furthest extremes of insanity on Glee each week), a framing subplot of the “Too Young to be Bitter” club at McKinley, where various jaded supporting players vent their various frustrations, and instigate the Sadie Hawkins dance in the first place.
Ok, John, enough about the plot, you all say, we watch for the songs! How were they?!
Well, ok, here’s what we got this week:
– “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” – Considering how much screen time the guy has been getting, it doesn’t shock me to see a Blaine-as-Jesus casting, to Tina’s Mary Magdaleine. Ushkowitz sounded good, I liked the (pseudo)realistic playing of it, though I was surprised that a Glee rendition of this song was sung so straight and run-free. I’ll call it a B+.
– “Baby Got Back” – Well, Glee gets points for originality here. Oh, wait, no they don’t. Here’s the thing: If you’re going to do a hugely revisionist cover of a popular song like that, you’d better have a strong reason. The arrangement is going to soak up most of the attention, especially when the staging (and vocals by Mr. Britty Man) are mediocre. Going the Jonathan Coulton route was just Glee wanting to use something they thought was cool for no reason other than thinking it was cool. Truthfully, the folksy-white-guy arrangement did not particularly benefit the use here, as it wasn’t humorous, commentating, or even fun and goofy. It was just a song where any song could have done. C
– “Tell Him” – I love a good throwback song, and like I said before, I like Marley. I also thought it was well-choreographed and liked that it was “fantasy world”-ly at a clarity level rare for this show. A-
– “No Scrubs” – Ridiculous, and intentionally so. I’m an early-90?s kid, though, so TLC tickles a nostalgic bone in me. B+
– “Locked Out of Heaven” – I’ll confess I had to look up the title of this song, as I have been referring to it as “the Bruno Mars Police song” every time I hear it on the radio. Fun staging, good energy, the highlight of this week’s show. A
– “I Only Have Eyes for You” – Wallpaper, and nothing more. C
“The music usually starts after I say something like ‘It’s Brittany, bitch’ or do one of my magical turns.”
– Brittany, always and forever my favorite.
“It was freezing on that train platform, but I didn’t care, because that train was taking me here, to you.”
– Given the weather this past week, that seems downright noble.
“I wanna dance.” “There’s no reason.”
– Oh Rachel, is there ever?
“You can dance with us.” –
Sugar, to Tina, after she is left hanging by Blaine. Being alone on a dance floor and being invited to dance with your paired off friends is a very specific kind of “ouch”.
I’m gonna try to keep these reviews focused on the actual TV product, but I can’t help but send some attention to this, as well.
Stay classy, Glee producers.