“Old Dog, New Tricks” is quintessential Glee, and by that, I mean it’s Glee at its cheesiest and most inconsistent. Despite many moments that callback to Glee’s history (like Kurt’s mother passing away and Sam’s family’s money troubles) that give more validity to Chris Colfer as a writer of Glee than more than half of the actual staff, there are just as many glaring moments of character inconsistency and schmaltzy lines about believing in happy endings, which don’t feel as earned as most of Glee’s cheesy conclusions do.
Kurt is the focus of the episode, which is totally awesome. Kurt’s a character that hasn’t seemed to get that much attention lately, mainly being a supporting player in others’ storylines, and Colfer does a great job of recognizing that. However, he pushes it a little too far when Kurt goes off and says, “Gosh, you’d just think after everything someone would throw me a bone for once.” I understand Kurt’s frustration with his friends in the moment (they all are literally oblivious to his problems and desires), but to say that no one has ever thrown him a bone, like Isabelle Wright did with Vogue or Carmen Tibideaux did with NYADA, neglects any and all of Kurt’s journey in New York so far. And, furthermore, it negates what has made him so much more interesting this season (at least to me), which has been his struggle to find something, a dream or goal, that gives him a sense of purpose.
But Kurt isn’t the only one who gets the “short term memory loss” treatment this episode. After being reamed by Sidney for skipping out on her show last week, a moment that appeared to be a turning point for Rachel, a humbling moment where she realized the seriousness of her actions and their consequences, Colfer has her at her most oblivious and narcissistic. Rachel’s my favorite character on Glee and always has been, and I will never deny that she has been ambitious and selfish to a fault sometimes. However, that level of self-involvement has always come with a kindness and genuineness that made Rachel a deeply relatable character. In this week’s episode, she’s simply a caricature—she’s not just unlikeable, she’s unrecognizable.
All of these failures are almost forgivable, however, because of the wonderful presence of June Squibb’s Maggie, easily one Glee’s best guest stars ever in my opinion. Her story of being so blinded by her dreams of stardom that she was essentially a nonexistent mother was sad and sweet, even if it seemed a little under baked and easily fixed by the end of the episode. Furthermore, it’s a standalone story that acts a cautionary tale for the main characters of Glee—people like Rachel, Kurt, Mercedes, and Santana, who have their gazes so set on being a star that I could potentially see one of them ending up in Maggie’s position.
Ultimately, however, June Squibb’s fantastic performance (along with what feel like nothing more than top-billed cameos for Billy Dee Williams and Tom Conway) isn’t enough to save this episode of Glee. “Old Dog, New Tricks” tries its best to seem like something from season one of Glee, but it’s a little too hollow, manufactured, and emotionally manipulative. It’s not a terrible first TV effort for Chris Colfer, who has already written two children’s books and his own film, but it just made me long for the glory days of Glee’s first season rather than admire anything the episode really did on its own.
– So many reasons for why Maggie is awesome, but I think what I liked about her best was that she kept calling Kurt “Pillsbury.” Reminded me of a kinder, more grandmotherly version of Sue referring to him as “Porcelain.”
– I was really digging the whole Maggie/Clara mother-daughter storyline, but it just got wrapped up a little too quickly and neatly for me.
– Can we please give Sam or Artie something of value to do if we’re going to keep giving them screen time? I felt like absolutely nothing of significance happened during their scenes last night.
– The end of last night’s episode felt so, so forced. The compliments from Rachel to Santana to Rachel to Kurt to all three of them sounded sickeningly inauthentic, and I just hope that Naya Rivera remains on Glee because Santana deserves a better swan song than this episode.
What did everyone else think of last night’s episode of Glee?
[Photo via FOX]