Jane Lynch and Dot-Marie Jones of "Glee"
It’s semi-useless to lob criticism at “Glee
.” In many ways, it’s not like yelling at a dog that has relieved itself on your couch. Sure, you can rant and rave, but does that animal understand anything you’re saying? It hears noises, and vaguely interprets sentiment, but it’s not like anything will fundamentally change thereafter. “I Kissed a Girl” is a dog of an episode, another in a season rapidly spiraling out of control. Everything that held such promise in the second episode of the season, “I Am Unicorn,” has now played out, and “Glee” itself feels played out.
So let’s go back to those semi-halcyon days of “Unicorn,” in which a variety of plots kicked off, and with them the promise that the show would have to actually pay them off at some point. That episode introduced the school play, kicked off the student body president election, tied that into the congressional election, and also started “Operation: Get Beth.” None of these plots terrifically excited me, but at least they formed a framework less amorphous than, “Uh oh, it’s senior year and some people have to think about their futures now.” These weren’t plots that the show could drop, like Artie’s Magic Legs. (God help me, I bet those will re-appear in this year’s holiday episode, complete with Iron Man-esque repulsor technology purchased with the help of a bake sale.)
And true enough, “Glee” didn’t drop those plots. But Lord, it blew through them like a Class F5 tornado, sweeping up weeks of development into a single scene and leaving behind a carnage of character assassinations, head-scratching plotting, and above all an almost cavalier insistence that big moments don’t need to be earned so much as simply deployed. Tonight’s episode was the season’s 7th, and in addition to getting through the play and both elections, the show has also added a rival singing group, created some truly deplorable love triangles, and added enough new characters to form a third McKinley High group called The WhoTheHellAreYous. This show intermittently works from time to time (usually when Naya Rivera is onscreen), but it does so in spite of itself.
I use the word “spite” intentionally there, because there’s a certain amount of it on display from the show to its audience. It was easy enough to lay the blame at specific people back when it was only three individuals writing each episode, but we’re now a third of the way through a season with a full writing staff. There’s plenty of blame to assign to travesties such as tonight’s episode. Let’s break these down, while assigning songs to go with each offense against not only good television, but plain ol’ common sense.
“Come Out and Play”
Finnnn, why you talking back to me/Should I come out?/You can’t keep us separated…
About the only thing that worked in this show’s second season was the way in dealt with Kurt coming out, the abuse that he suffered, and his eventual acceptance of both himself and those around him. It wasn’t perfect, but it was flawed in often believable ways. (That is to say, people acting irrationally in ways that were identifiable, not confusing.) Mostly this worked because the show took its metaphorical meds and actually focused on telling this story over the long haul, stretching it out over most of the season. This suggested that “Glee” can tell a long-form narrative when it feels like it. It’s simply that they don’t usually feel like it.
Santana got rolled into Kurt’s story last season, as his issues forced her to confront her own feelings towards Brittany. What the show used to treat as an excuse to make “scissoring” jokes in an 8 p.m. timeslot soon developed into one of the show’s more complex and beautiful relationships. Her accidental outing stems from the horrid congressional election storyline, but nevertheless provided Season 3 with its best five-minute segment in the form of the Adele mash-up in “Mash Off.” That slap signaled that things were going to change in this show. Did it? Well, if by “change” you mean “turned into an intervention about Santana’s sexuality,” then sure, things changed. After all, when someone is this uptight about coming out, it’s best to spend a week singing to her about it. (On the plus side, it’s good to know that Finn knows how to use a white board, meaning Will no longer has any useful function on this show anymore.)
As annoying as that technique was, how Santana ended up dealing with her family was somehow even worse. First of all, the drama around her parents (two people we’ve never met) was all for naught, as they gave off-screen approval to her announcement. She announced this after she and the lovely ladies of McKinley performed Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl,” a performance that wouldn’t have been so confusing if we didn’t have to wonder throughout why Santana was suddenly so happy. However, “Glee” later tried to evoke emotion by having Santana come out to her grandmother (ANOTHER character we’ve never met until tonight) only to be thrown out of her abode. Had this grandmother been a semi-recurring character, a la Burt Hummel, then her homophobia might have been a stinging rebuke, and something that could have countered the show’s previous characterization of her. Instead, “Glee” went for a short cut to induce sympathy. The Adele mash-up came out of nowhere within that episode, but represented the culmination of years of build-up for Santana. Tonight’s scene with her grandmother was the complete opposite.
“Bizarre Love Triangle”
Every time I see you bench pressing, I get down on my knees and pray…
I love Dot Jones. She gives Coach Beiste more depth and humanity than that character deserves. So to see her dragged into a horrid triangle with Cooter and Sue Sylvester was more than I could bear. I’ve started to tune out every time Jane Lynch opens her mouth, not because she’s any worse at playing the character but because everything out of Sue’s mouth is a steady stream of non-sequiturs, insults, and gibberish. Just look at Sue’s black book: I’d love to think that the listings for Vladimir Putin and David Boreanaz are fakes. But in “Glee” world, it’s perfectly plausible that she has actually sexted with the Soviet leader. But in lieu of anyone famous in that book coming by to help Sue beef up her image before the election, she calls on the only adult male in the show not married and/or working at McKinley to be by her side.
You’d think “Glee” would have mentioned Sue’s connection to Cooter during his last appearance on the show. But that would mean the writers would be thinking multiple episodes in the future while filling up that week’s edition. Giving Beiste a country number fits in with her big drinking night last season with Will in “Blame It on the Alcohol.” But why have this plot line at all? Ostensibly, “Glee” is suggesting that Santana’s romantic problems are linked to Beiste’s. But that’s probably giving this show waaaay too much credit, especially given the other love triangle on display here tonight.
The Shelby/Puck/Quinn stuff feels like a long, elaborate practical joke perpetrated by the show to see how far it can go with it before the audience revolts. Think of it as “Henry the VIII, I Am” via student/teacher/baby mama drama. Nothing makes sense: not Shelby’s interest, Puck confessing to Quinn about the affair, Puck’s mohawk zigzagging in a way that suggests it’s trying to leave his scalp…nothing. Placing this material in contrast to Santana’s issues doesn’t work, because they all seem to be taking place in different realities. When the show refuses to make its musical numbers operate under consistent rules, it’s annoying. When it refuses to take all of its characters equally seriously, it’s offensive.
The Politics of Dancing
This plotline was spreading/Station to station/It was an infestation…
Ding dong, the elections are over. And aren’t we glad we spent seven weeks on this so Sue could lose to a write-in candidate managed by Will? Ostensibly, Sue will now move onto whatever plans they have for one of the winners from “The Glee Project,” which is too bad. Because Sue needs to leave the show ASAP. Any episode in which she takes up more than 45 seconds of time is a misstep, plain and simple. But I don’t want to waste any more virtual ink on this storyline than I have to, because it’s in the student election that I found the most problems.
Initially, having Brittany, Kurt, and Rachel all run for president seemed to offer a host of possibilities. For all three, it would be a litmus test for how popular New Directions actually were. Were they simply objects to be slushied, or had the school actually grown to accept them, or at least tolerate their propensity to start Britney Spears-inspired sex riots? For Kurt and Rachel, it was pitting two friends with shared dreams against each other, to see which one might blink. For Brittany, it was a chance to see her shine on a more prominent stage, potentially infecting the whole school with her off-kilter charm and surprisingly sharp insights. Instead, they turned Brittany back into a one-dimensional caricature, had Kurt’s biggest goal as “eliminating the bullying sport of dodgeball,” and reduced Rachel into someone who consistently “helps” her friends in ways that are condescending at best. That’s three character assassinations right there.
Having Rachel stuff the ballots reeked of a show trying to create drama at the expense of character. In other words, it’s “Glee” being “Glee.” We’ll have to see how New Directions performs at Sectionals, but since they never actually seem to prepare for it until a few days beforehand anyways, I doubt this will affect them much. After all, that group prepares ahead of time as often as the writing staff of this show. If “Glee” had given Santana the type of treatment that it gave Kurt last season, the other material would be worth suffering through in order to catch occasional glimpses of greatness. But if it can’t even do THAT at this point in its run, what’s left?
What do you make of the way the show handled Santana tonight? Did Beiste’s storyline work for you? Are you happy with the outcomes of the elections, or just happy they are over? Sound off below!
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