Recap: 'Glee' - 'Yes/No'
A tale of two proposals marks the start of a new year at McKinley High
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Look, you and me need to have a little sitdown. Just the pair of us. No need to bring in anyone else. After all, this episode was nominally about the trials and tribulations of various romantic pairings new and old tonight, even if it ended up being about the powers of synchronized swimming to overcome the fearmongering of ginger fascists. (In that respect, “Yes/No” was pretty much a straight-up rip off of Albert Camus’ “The Stranger.”) Regardless, we need to have a chat. You can sit there and listen and nod and keep a running monologue inside your head that sounds like Helen Mirren if you like. I won’t hold it against you.
Here’s the thing: You need to stop.
You need to stop pretending that more is better. Throwing fifteen plots into each show isn’t giving the audience what it wants. Not everyone gets to have a story each episode. Notice how Blaine just occasionally stumbled into a scene to perform backup duties? Totally acceptable. Now expand that tenfold and you might be getting somewhere. If you make the focused moments count, then you can rely on those to expand the audience knowledge of that character and thus used them in the background to augment what’s going on in the foreground. And no, “having them grin like uncontrollable idiots even though they were miserable five minutes before” doesn’t count.
You need to stop pretending that this show is about Will Schuester. It’s not. Or at least, this iteration of “Glee” isn’t. Were they intentionally trying to make a show out of a creepy vampire that slowly drains the hopes and dreams of all the students that make the mistake of joining his glee club, then OK, “Yes/No” would have been a home run worthy of all the awards. But instead, assigning New Directions to help him make the perfect proposal makes him seem like an unimaginative guy at best, and a dude trying to start his own singing love commune at worst. Now, many of the actual songs that sprung from that assignment weren’t actually terrible, especially “The First Time I Saw Your Face.” If there’s one thing “Glee” has actually done fairly well this year, it’s in deploying musical montages to cover up its narrative inadequacies. And “Face” was a succinct, powerful way to allow four women to share interior moments. But rather than make this a story about the kids and their desires/fears/hopes, it’s all about answering the question: “Is Will going to let the insane advice of ginger supremacists undo the potential love of his life?” Which brings me to my next point, “Glee”…
You need to stop pretending that tonal whiplashes depict a deep, multilayered viewing experience. You can’t stage an intervention in which the history of Finn’s father gets retconned in the same episode in which Sam joins a militant synchronized swimming team. You can’t depict the inner workings of Becky’s mind in the same episode that opens with a cover of “Summer Nights” that may or may not have literally depicted a scenario in which Mercedes and Sam attended a “Grease” camp between school years. These shifts don’t give your show depth. They simply give me a headache. Mileage may vary on which of these stories actually worked for you, but it would be hard for me to believe that many of you thought any particular story was given adequate weight in tonight’s episode to truly register. I’m a huge fan of Normal Sue Sylvester sticking around past her Lifetime movie-thon with Becky, but I’m sure she’ll be back to clubbing baby seals for sport in the cafeteria next week. The tonal shifts don’t indicate a dramatic ethos: they indicate a refusal to look at an episode as a discreet, crafted piece of entertainment meant to be consumed by someone not on a lot of drugs. Speaking of a lot of drugs…
You need to stop pretending that Finn should be seriously proposing to Rachel. Finn went from wanting to join the army to nearly turning into “Homeland”’s Tom Walker after learning his father’s true fate to proposing after watching Will get engaged to Emma. Here’s a case in which a bad situation gets tossed upon a stupid one. Part of the problem with the Will/Emma engagement, above the ginger supremacy and the taste of that “Rocky Horror” episode still sticking in my craw, is that we haven’t spent nearly enough time with them to understand if this is the right decision or not. The problem with Finn and Rachel is that he got down on bended knee because they are the nominal leads of the show, not because there’s any compelling reason for them to do so. It’s a moment designed as a cliffhanger, not a major milestone a long time in coming. I get that teenagers do stupid things, and I forgive a LOT of weirdness on this show to “teens being teens.” (No, really. I do! Stop laughing.) The episode in which the two finally slept together didn’t have to be treated as seismic, but the show refused to show that a single thing had changed at all. I would be ecstatic had the show demonstrated that sex was meaningful but not all-encompassing. Instead, it forgot it in much the way we’re supposed to forget Quinn did approximately four hundred things in the Fall run that should have landed her 25 to life in the penal system.
Most of all, “Glee”: you have to stop pretending like what you put onscreen every week is remotely acceptable. If all you want is to have Matthew Morrison and Harry Shum dance each week, forgo story altogether and just make 40-minute musical montages. “Sons of Anarchy” is dangerously close to beating you to the punch on this front, so step up. If I thought what resulted each Tuesday night was the product of overambition, I wouldn’t be nearly so hard on it. But the slapdash nature to each episode, with precious and few exceptions, speaks to a cynical treatment of both a wasted cast and an exasperated audience. I can see ten people on this show going on to do great things once freed from this show. I don’t fault Chord Overstreet and Amber Riley for that “Summer Nights” debacle. I blame the writers who took the easiest song possible to fit into the scenario they wanted and then staged it beat for beat without any sense that those onscreen understood they were aping a classic piece of movie musical history.
Here’s how you do Season 4: send New Directions to Nationals, only have their bus plunge off a cliff in the Season 3 finale. Season 4 is then the entire world that flashes before their eyes as the bus falls slowly down, “Inception”-style. That gives the show leeway to be as free from reality and the cumbersome nature of continuity as it wants. It really can’t be any worse than what’s currently going on, and would actually give singular context to every musical performance. The other option is to bring in Ricky Martin as a guest star for no earthly reason. Oh wait, the show’s already going to do that this year. Bus crash it is.
What did you think of “Yes/No”? Do you care at all about the Will/Emma engagement? What did you make of Finn’s subsequent proposal? How Does “A Very Glee Bus Crash” sound as a potential fourth season? Sound off below!