Glee 5.09 “Frenemies” Review: Songs of the Past

Chris King February 26, 2014 2

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Well, ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to Glee, the show where two 19 year olds with no professional experience can be a lead and an understudy in a Broadway production, a valedictorian can sing his speech at graduation, and people walk into guitar stores just so that they can perform a musical number. I want to be clear here: I loved last night’s episode of Glee. Like really loved. Like the most I’ve loved an episode in a long time, and that’s because, for the most part, the Glee writers mined the show’s history and pre-established relationships for more enriching storylines rather than just sticking a group of random characters together and manufacturing drama.

My favorite part of “Frenemies” was, without a doubt, the showdown between Rachel and Santana. While the pair had come to an understanding recently, finding each other’s differences more inspiring than irritating (and, you know, the whole becoming roommates thing), their controversial past and the competition between the two of them was reignited when Santana tried out to be Rachel’s understudy for Funny Girl and actually got it.

I loved how spiteful and venomous the argument between Rachel and Santana became. While the two of them have come to an understanding and grown to appreciate each other as people, it’s true to life that you never forget when someone was cruel and unkind to you, and Santana was the epitome of that to Rachel back in high school, as she admits to being the ringleader of the cheerleading brigade against her, not Quinn. The deep-seated emotions that poured out from each of them have not been fully explored yet by Glee, so I’m happy that the series is finally giving them their time and place in the show.

Furthermore, it makes sense on a character level why both Rachel and Santana feel the way that they do in this episode, and neither one is totally unreasonable or wrong. Santana sees the chance to be something bigger than she is, something truly great, by auditioning for Funny Girl, and after seeing both Kurt and Rachel be both successful at NYADA and out in the real world, it makes complete sense that she would strive towards this goal.

However, it makes just as much sense (if not more) that Rachel would be so closely guarding her coveted role of Fanny Brice. After Finn’s death, Rachel has buried herself into her work, into her career, and this is the one thing that she now possesses that she believed would be safe, the one thing she believed that she wouldn’t have taken away from her. With Santana as her understudy, Rachel sees a threat, a way that she loses the only thing that matters to her just as much as Finn did: her chance to become a star. I’m looking forward to seeing how Glee handles this storyline, and how the series will (hopefully) ensure that both characters are treated with the right amount of respect and thought for what is a much more complicated issue than the high school diva-offs of the past.

Along with the Rachel/Santana conflict, Glee also took a trip down memory lane with a plot that focused solely on Artie and Tina’s friendship, which has been one of the series’ longest lasting relationships but has received little to no focus over the past couple of seasons. Some of the moments and dialogue here felt a little more written or contrived and did not work as well as the scenes between Rachel and Santana (specifically Tina accidentally pushing Artie out of his wheelchair).

However, I loved that Glee, a show nearing its 100th episode in a couple of weeks and with big changes (AKA a move to New York) on the horizon, placed its attention on a simpler friendship story between two members of the original cast rather than attempting to give another PSA-esque lesson through less developed characters, such as Unique. The speeches that both Tina and Artie had in the auditorium were disarmingly earnest and recalled great moments from the show’s past, emphasizing how close the two characters used to be and how central they were to Glee’s overall story before the series became too bloated and preachy for its own good.

And these are the types of strong, simpler, character stories that Glee should continue telling, especially if the music within the episode helps to enhance the storylines like it did in “Frenemies.” When the music, story, and characters are all strong and mostly work together, Glee still has the ability to make us sing along with it, even if we’re not standing up and dancing like we used to.

Other thoughts:

- I neglected to mention Kurt and Elliott in my review, because I thought their plot together was the weakest of the episode. While it makes sense that Kurt would potentially feel threatened by Elliott’s presence in the band, the scenes between the two of them felt very surface and came nowhere near close to how engaging the stories between Rachel and Santana and Tina and Artie were. Also, their performance of “I Believe In a Thing Called Love” was unnecessary and was the only song that really added nothing to the plot. Also, if there’s a manufactured love triangle between Elliott, Kurt, and Blaine….(shakes heads and face palms).

- You won’t find a bigger fan of Naya Rivera than me, but her rendition of “Don’t Rain On My Parade” did not even come anywhere close to the sheer perfection that was Lea Michele’s performance back in season one.

- So much of the music in this episode worked not only because of who was singing together (Kevin McHale and Jenna Ushkowitz: please sing more together. That goes double for Lea Michele and Naya Rivera), but because of how it moved the storylines along and how well the scenes were choreographed. Specifically, “Brave” and “Every Breath You Take” provided more insight into the internal struggles of both Santana and Rachel, and the visuals in both numbers were simply stunning. Well done, Glee.

- “Now unlike some members of the glee club who come and go for months at a time with no explanation, you two losers are always in that choir room — even if for an entire week the only thing you have to do is say something inconsequential like, ‘Kitty’s right!’ or ‘Blaine, are you serious?’” – Sue to Artie and Tina.

What did everyone else think of last night’s episode of Glee? Are you happy to have it back on TV? 

{Photo via  Adam Rose/FOX]

  • Feather

    Gotta disagree on Naya’s rendition of “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” Lea’s was amazing, but Naya’s made my jaw drop. I immediately scrambled to go buy it on iTunes, which is a good indicator of its level of amazing.

  • Rachel Monroe

    Santana’s version was ok but lacked any emotional connection to the song. Rachel version was a quintessential moment in glee it meant something to that first 13 episode arc for Rachel and for glee.