Before I start this review, I want put out a quick disclaimer: Glee used to be my favorite show on television. During seasons one, two, three, and even four of the series, I looked forward to Glee every week more than any other show on TV. Glee was not flawless by any means (even the highly regarded season one, which I call one of my favorite seasons of television ever, has numerous issues with it), but through its run, and especially in its first three seasons, it was still able to connect with me better emotionally than any other show out there. What I loved about Glee, no matter how ridiculous the plots became or how preachy some of its messages could be, was that I could relate to its characters. They all possessed emotional resonance, and I always connected with Rachel, Kurt, and Finn because their struggles, no matter how outlandish they could appear, always felt genuine and unique.
Unfortunately, the first two episodes of Glee’s fifth season, which have covered the music of the Beatles, have mostly played like soulless music videos for me. I’m not sure if it is the fact that next week’s episode (which will deal with the real life death of Cory Monteith through the fictional death of Finn) is hanging over the show, or if I’m just not that interested in the characters at McKinley anymore (for the record, I enjoyed, Marley, Jake, and Ryder last year), but there definitely has been something “off” about these first two episodes of Glee. And sadly, this “off” tone has greatly affected my enjoyment of what used to be my favorite show on television.
So let’s quickly rehash what happened last night on Glee. It’s prom time, and both Tina and Kitty are nominated for prom queen. Kitty backs Tina’s push for the crown (since she’s a senior and it’s her last shot), but new Cheerio, Bree (basically Kitty 2.0, which kind of makes her Quinn 3.0, I guess?), will not let Tina have her moment to shine and pulls a Carrie on her, drenching Tina in a bucket of red slushy mix. In apparently what the Glee writers thought was an “inspiring” scene, the glee club sings “Hey Jude” with Tina and convinces her to go back out there and face all of her miserable, annoying classmates (it’s pretty much exactly what happened to Kurt back in season two, except Tina gets a costume change).
Tina’s prom queen experience would be a much more effective storyline about the cruel nature of high school bullying and how to rise above it if the Glee writers didn’t use Tina as a punching bag on such a continual basis. Week in and week out, despite her diva-esque claims of empowerment, Tina is treated like a background player by Glee’s character and the series’ writing staff, and if she does get any significant storylines, it has to be about what guy she is falling for this week, or just how noble (gag) it is that all the guys sacrificially offered themselves as prom dates for her last week. If Glee wants to make Tina into an enjoyable character that viewers are supposed to respect and enjoy, its writers need to show that she has some respect for herself and stop treating her as peripheral one-liner for most of the season’s episodes.
Meanwhile, in New York, two interesting storylines take place: Santana finds a new love interest in Demi Levato’s fun and flirty Dani, and, at the episode’s end, Rachel learns that she got the part of Fanny Brice in Funny Girl. While both of these major developments appear to happen rather quickly (especially Santana and Dani’s blossoming romance, although I’m willing to forgive the fast-paced nature of it due to the pair’s absolutely stunning performance of “Here Comes the Sun”), there is a real sense of emotional stakes in both of them.
For Santana, this flirtation with Dani charts new ground for her. This is the first time that she is opening herself up to the idea of a relationship outside of her and Brittany, and Santana’s hesitance and excitement is perfectly illustrated through Naya Rivera’s performance. In Rachel’s case, landing the role of Fanny Brice is something that she has been striving towards since Glee’s inception. While it may be hard to believe that in the “real world” a casting director would give such an important part to a 19-year-old college student, the reason why it works in Glee is because Rachel has worked so hard to achieve this goal throughout the series. Furthermore, she deserves this victory as a character, especially with the looming tragedy that we all know is coming in next week’s episode.
For me, it’s not a New York vs. Ohio debate with how much I enjoy Glee on a weekly basis. While Rachel and Kurt are two of my favorite characters on the show, I still believe that Sam, Blaine, and, yes, even Tina, if her character can be properly written, have the potential to capture that amazing emotional magic that Glee possessed for so much of its run. Hopefully, Glee can find a way to turn it around and get back to its roots, reminding fans of the show that they fell in love only just four years ago.
Sam has his own subplot with McKinley’s new nurse, Penny (played by another Spring Awakening vet, Phoebe Strole), who is only a sophomore in college and attracts all of the boys’ attention. Strole is great in the role, and I loved her performance in Spring Awakening. However, her and Sam’s relationship is moving WAY too fast for me to be invested in it at all. Furthermore, Sam’s rendition of “Something” (and the scene it was used in) may have been one of my least favorite Glee numbers of all time. That song just deserves better.
In contrast with that, I absolutely loved Sam’s Denzel impression and thought it was the funniest moment of the episode.
Runner up for funniest moment of the episode: Santana’s commercial.
Sue using Bree to, I guess, get the New Directions motivated is so incredibly stupid that I may just completely tune out of that whole storyline as it moves forward.
Kurt is now working at the diner with Santana and Rachel because, apparently, Vogue.com does not pay enough. Hey, if we get more great numbers in the diner like last week’s “Hard Day’s Night” and this week’s “Here Comes the Sun” because of it, I’m not complaining.
As I already said, I loved Glee’s cover of “Here Comes the Sun,” but I also really liked “Get Back” and “Let It Be,” as well.
“Congratulations, New Directions, on something I never thought was possible. You made me hate The Beatles.”
What did everyone else think about last night’s episode of Glee? How are you enjoying season five so far?