I mean, where to even begin, people? It’s been weeks since last we saw “Glee,” and its return had me wishing that the baseball playoffs had lasted another three rounds. At gunpoint, I’d still rank the “Rocky Horror”-inspired episode of this show as its worse, but Lord, did tonight’s “Pot of Luck” give that hot mess a run for its money. Even by the show’s own less-than-lofty standards, this was a mishmash of disparate elements that confused “stringing together forty minutes of material” with “actually producing an episode of television.” We saw some hopes for this show’s future before its sports-induced hiatus, but this episode pretty much washed all of those away in a flood of stupidity.
Normally, I’d try to frame a review around some sort of central theme, no matter how tenuous a relationship certain aspects had in relation to others. But this was the Wacky WallWalker School of Writing: just throw a whole buncha stuff at the wall and see what sticks. Look at how much plot tonight’s episode jammed into its forty-minute running time: 1) we meet an exchange student (Roy) who is living with Brittany, 2) we watch Mercedes try and recruit members for an all-female group under Shelby’s direction, 3) we witness the fallout from Mercedes’ absence inside of New Directions, including new Finn/Blaine tensions, 4) we learn Burt Hummel will run against Sue for the Congressional seat, and 5) we view between clamped fingers Puck landing his latest “cougar” in the form of Shelby after Quinn’s attempts to wrestle Beth from her clutches. I don’t have asthma, but I need an inhaler after spewing all of that out.
Plot #1 stems from “The Glee Project” and its winner, Damian McGinty. He’s Irish, don’tcha know. And if you didn’t, well, there’s always the song “It’s Not Easy Being Green” that he sings while wearing one of his thirty-seven green tops in this hour. Everyone in school seems to hate him, but the hate is as arbitrary as that once bestowed upon New Directions. There’s no reason for any student to even notice this kid, nevermind hate him…except that the show needs to do so in order to get him into New Directions as quickly as possible. Brittany thinks that he’s a leprechaun, and he plays along for the chance to eventually make out with her. But the show decides to take things a step further and having Santana use Brittany’s naiveté against her, intimidating Roy in order to loosen Brittany’s loyalty to New Directions. In summary, in case you worry that you read that wrong: “Glee” used leprechauns as a legitimate plot point in order to affect the desired outcome. Just wanted to make sure we’re all clear on this.
If I’m being generous, I can at least give credit to the show for not introducing Roy during “Asian F.” Because quite frankly, the war that would have erupted between the leprechauns and the ginger supremacists might have razed Lima to the freaking ground. Honestly, both groups share about the same amount of “reality”, after all. And both serve to undercut any attempts the show makes at pushing past farce into something serious, important, or edgy. Just because other shows don’t juxtapose “high” and “low” elements the way “Glee” does doesn’t make the show inherently important. When such elements are mixed successfully, as has been done at times in the show’s past, then yes, “Glee” transcends everything else on television and produces a specific alchemy no other could ever hope to achieve. But more often than not, the episode just stops on a dime so Blaine can sing another Katy Perry song or Jonathan Groff can randomly enter while singing Adele tracks.
It’s not entirely the show’s fault that it often fails at mixing styles. Even Shakespeare had trouble mixing styles back in the day. His later plays, such as “Pericles” and “The Winter’s Tale,” are often called “romances,” but they are also known as “problem plays.” And they are known as such for a reason: it’s incredibly difficult for any production to successfully navigate the tonal changes inherent in the text. Some scholars theorize that these plays are in fact the amalgam of different ones that were spliced together in order to produce an unintended whole. One could argue that’s the way in which most “Glee” episodes are constructed as well. There are a lot of materials in play, but rather than finesse them into workable shape, they all get shoved into a blender and turned into a problematic smoothie.
There are glimpses of real humanity even in the worst of “Glee” episodes, but tonight’s two beating hearts (Burt and Puck) were saddled with storylines from which no mortal could ever emerge unscathed. While I’m tickled pink that Will won’t be running against Sue for the open congressional seat, there’s no reason for Burt to jump into the race. Inserting the show’s most grounded character into its most ridiculous plotline doesn’t help the latter. It only hurts the former. It makes no sense for Burt to rail against the excesses of The Cheerios when New Directions and The Troubletones both apparently have enough money to stage lavish REHEARSALS that no one actually sees. That’s the problem with trying to introduce reality into a show that’s resisted doing the hard work for three seasons: you can’t expect budgetary concerns to be considered a serious topic when “Glee” is more concerned on staging fabulous numbers to sell singles on iTunes. It just doesn’t work both ways, show. Sorry. (And if you don’t want me to take Sue’s run seriously, then what the hell is it doing in the show?)
As far as Puck puckering up with Shelby at hour’s end, we all saw it coming from the moment she returned. And yet, part of me really hoped the show would swerve at the last moment. And another, much larger part of me is going to send that part straight to bed without supper for believing such nuance was possible in a plot where the book “Basics of Baby Massacre” made a cameo. In my notes tonight, I actually jotted down, “If this episodes ends with anything less than Quinn going to jail, I call foul.” It was a joke, of course, but it spoke to the way the show consistently waves off ridiculous plots by simply ignoring them. (Again, I bring up Artie’s Magical Legs, since Finn referenced that episode at one point tonight, as the alpha and omega of such ridiculousness.) “Glee” can’t have a lack of repercussions for Quinn and expect us to care about the possible consequences of anything else. Remember the story of the boy who cried “wolf”? This is turning into the show that cried “Glee.” And the more it screams for our attention, the more people will tune out.
Other thoughts on tonight’s episode…
*** I know the show wants to treat Brittany as unique, but was it REALLY so awful for Finn to call her out on her belief in leprechauns? Wasn’t what Santana did by exploiting those beliefs far, far worse?
*** I want a “Lone Gunman”-esque spinoff that features the town’s three funeral directors solving crimes together. That would be appointment television.
*** If the two vocal groups can co-exist in relative harmony, I’ll be relieved. I don’t know why I am hoping for this, since hope is the quickest way to pain when it comes to “Glee.” But if New Directions and The Troubletones can bring out the best in each other, then having two groups will work over the long haul.
*** At one point tonight, the writers of “Glee” actually had Brittany worried about the continuity of her presidential campaign. “Glee” having the nerve to comment on continuity…wow. We are officially through the looking glass, people.
*** Another fun meta touch: Sue Sylvester essentially ripping on the entirety of Season 2 during her encounter with The Hummels in Breadstix.
*** New game: put the phrase “in my pants” after each thing Will writes on his white board. What did he write this week? “The magic’s back!”
*** Next week apparently features several characters deciding whether on not to lose their virginity. I really hope Tami Taylor shows up in Lima, otherwise this will end horribly for all involved.
Am I being too harsh on tonight’s episode, or not harsh enough? Do you actually want more realism in “Glee,” or should the show embrace its inner freak and go all weird, all the time? Is there a single character’s fate in which you’re currently invested? Sound off below!
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