The time has finally come for me to stop grading Glee on a curve. For, in an almost unprecedented achievement, I have witnessed three entire episodes of Glee, in a row, which feature cohesive beginnings, middles, and ends, and utilize event momentum from previous episodes to fuel further development in the present and the future. Musical numbers exist in clearly delineated phases of reality (and fantasy sequence even utilize Scrubs-ian snaps back into the real world!).
In other words, Glee now gets to be judged as an actual TV show.
It is unfortunate, then, that this week’s story receives this dubious honor, as many of Glee‘s tonal problems and more negative pieces of ridiculata have managed to stock themselves into this single episode. Just to give you some context, I may have to leave this week’s Murphiest Moment to a vote in the comments section, as so many bits and subplots are competing so voraciously for the honor.
You know it’s bad when the subplot of Tina crushing on Blaine, which I thought was novel as a single episode and troubling as an ongoing story, has emerged as the most grounded element of the episode (“The Jake and Marley Chaste ’50s Romance Hour” took a week off here). I can’t honestly say whether it was actual development on this potentially honest story or just contrast to the rest of the threads, but the mere fact that I can’t tell counts against it. This storyline was responsible for a terrifyingly creepy sleepover scene, a whacked-out-in-the-bad-way musical number, and a terrifically honest exchange at the end of the episode. I like it when Glee picks one mode per storyline and follows through.
For example, Kurt and Rachel’s story this week benefited for precisely this reason. Rachel is becoming too full of herself, and Kurt takes it upon himself to knock her down a peg. The best way to undermine her confidence? Through a season 1 truth-bomb about him blowing their “Defying Gravity” on purpose, of course! The only obvious solution to this? Rematch!
Aside from the number itself (more below), this number was clearly in the Kurt/Rachel mode, a consistent level of musical theatre absurdity (with references like someone calling Kurt “Taylor the Latte Boy” and Rachel eagerly awaiting the long-gestating Funny Girl revival tossed in for the hyper-aware MT nerds), it built to an appropriate, believably silly Midnight Musical Theatre Showdown, and it worked as a result.
Santana appears to have been woven back into the show’s DNA full-time, which I will not complain about since Naya Rivera is awesome. This week was dedicated to giving her Louisville and Ohio stories closure, and setting her up to be Kurt and Rachel’s new NYC buddy, which I’m looking forward to watching.
Now for the big problem – Finn and Emma. I could smell where that thing was going from a mile away and all I could write down in my notes was “Ick! Ick! Ick!” Putting Corey Monteith in a suit may have made the producers forget that, though he is 30 in real life, Finn is 19. I can’t forget that, despite how appropriate this might look. Nonetheless, this icky little romantic obstacle for Shue (where are you?) and Emma is something I hope only fuels maybe one episode of neurosis for Emma before evaporating, but I don’t trust Glee enough yet to believe that.
Now, let’s move on to the musical numbers, where the bulk of my wall-punching and eye-popping took place.
“Diva” – I admired how cleanly this popped into the fantasy world, and was a good showcase for Alex Newell’s Unique. This is Glee absurdity I can deal with, even if I didn’t ultimately love the number. Also, this was way too long for what it was. C+
“Don’t Stop Me Now” – As my notes remind me, THIS IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE SONGS AHHHHHHH (direct transcription). Gains points for simplicity, though I miss the green screen background of scrolling stars that my brain so desperately craved. Instead, we got Blaine in the Freddie Mercury leather-daddy outfit. Darren Criss sounded good, though short of what Jonathan Groff achieved with “Bohemian Rhapsody” in season one. My bias gives this one a little boost, to a B.
“Nutbush City Limits” – What a wacky song, which I liked. The editing in the number, though, was insanely choppy, which I did not like. It made it hard to judge the choreography, though Rivera’s voice was on-point as always. B
“Make No Mistake, She’s Mine” – Simple, well-staged, well-sung, told the story. Liked the musician silhouettes as well. B+
“Bring Him Home” – The fact of the matter is this: Chris Colfer and Lea Michele both have ranges that are too comfortably high to make this song work. I want to hear someone singing so high in their register, as if it’s the only way to get God to listen. I want that final note to be pulled impossibly out of the air, so desperate for divine interference is the singer. That’s what makes “Bring Him Home” work. Like this:
What I got were two kids with high voices comfortably belting a pretty song that’s pretty boring without that other aspect. C-
“Hung Up” – This is the kind of Glee insanity I don’t like. Posturing (Tina graffiti’ed PEOPLE), wacky looks from the rest of the club, and almost reverse engineered into the story. This was beyond my quota this week. D
“Girl on Fire” – Phew, THANK YOU, Glee. This is what you know how to do. Take a character who took a journey (Santana), give her an on-the-charts-right-now pop song, create a story-telling montage, and let the girl (Naya Rivera) belt to Jesus. Happy to call this the week’s only A.
The insane episodes are often the most quotable:
“I have more diva in my little finger than you have in your ‘angry inch’, Unique.” – Tina. Ick.
“I had just left a comment on my favorite Rizzoli and Isles lesbian-subtext blog when I heard the news.” – Santana, setting the stage for her heartbreak about Brittany, and cementing her place on the show forever and always.
“Brittany is Love.” – Sam, giving Glee fans their best tattoo idea yet.
“He’s like a precious Tiger Beat shrinkydink.” – Tina, on what Blaine’s appeal must surely be.
“What am I doing?!” – Tina, in voiceover, reading my mind about this entire subplot.
“What is with you Glee Club ex-pats? Don’t any of you have jobs? You have to have some source of income to pay the staff of scientists who service your teleporters which you all clearly own since you’re constantly showing up here!” – Sue, who should recap this show.
“She never wins anything!” – Brittany, excitedly expositing when Tina wins the Diva-Off.
“I’m not breaking up with Sam. I really like him. And he makes me feel really smart and think about things like where air comes from and how come in every movie about Jesus he dies at the end.” – Brittany, once again.
“I won’t have to wait that long, I’m totally going to Ricin her protein shake in a couple of years.” – Santana, who’s been watching too much Breaking Bad.
Murphiest Moment: Tie – Either the borderline Misery-level scene where Tina creepily takes care of a sick Blaine while he’s asleep, or the fact that that Finn and Emma kiss and romantic tensions is A Thing That is Happening.