In musicals it’s often said: The songs must tell the story. They must move things along, not stall them in warbling which won’t nudge the plot. Well, Glee not only sings, but when it sings, it sells a tale, and in the case of Dream On, that story was a winner.
Take I Dreamed a Dream, in which Rachel heard a taped song sung by her never-met mother, Shelby Corcoran, and we witnessed in fantasy their duet. Granted, Rachel never has mentioned her mom until this episode, but one can understand how she’d long to meet her, and in I Dreamed a Dream, she did. (Plus I love the aptness of having Rachel sing a song from Lea Michele’s first show, Les Miserables. And BTW, Susan Boyle, this is how it’s done.)
Take Dream On, in which Will and oldtime rival Bryan Ryan (Neil Patrick Harris) in effect slugged it out during community theater audtions — oddly enough, for Les Miz. (Why would you sing Aerosmith to show your chops for a musical about the French Revolution?) Or take Dream a Little Dream of Me, Artie’s wistful yet lilting melancholia about wanting to dance and hoping girlfriend Tina won’t forget him when she dances with Mike Chang. (And why did they have to tap? The sounds make the fact that they’re dancing — and Artie’s not — too painfully pointed. Plus, tap’s corny.)
Each song sold and expanded on the story. But so did some superb dialogue in what’s shaping up as an incredibly well written spring season. How about that hate-sex setup scene between Sue and Ryan? Whoa!
My only quibble was with the plotting. Having Artie’s paralysis take center stage immediately after last week’s sobering quadriplegic subplot was too much, too soon, for that subject. And while I loved that Kevin McHale finally got to dance, in his fantasy sequence for Safety Dance, and how it paid homage to Glee-style flash mobs in malls around the world, being engulfed in a sea of dancers hardly let Kevin truly show his stuff, if he is, in fact, the cast’s best dancer, as his colleages like to hype.
But the Rachel story was a winner, revealing Jesse’s true intentions, along with those of Shelby. It seems her spy has gone native, which thickens the plot nicely. I also loved the way Ryan spun on a dime and revealed he adores, not abhors, musicals. But his spinning once again late in the story confounded me, as did Artie’s quick jerk from happily trying to walk with crutches to wimpering pityingly an instant after he fell. Did he not think this could happen?
Then again, this is a 45-minute (sans ads) show, and we have to allow some narrative shorthand. And give guest director Josh Whedon credit for letting his Gleek flag fly so ably in this busy, crowded episode.
But even with all this, what stoked me most last night was seeing the preview for Episode 20, Theatricality. With Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance in the mix, it will have the heady, giddy lift that Dream On never quite mustered, and though it wasn’t previewed, I’ve heard Michele and Menzel’s duet for Gaga’s Poker Face, and its reinvention is amazing.
Even when Glee goes by the numbers and merely remakes songs (last week’s Jessie’s Girl, for instance), I’m still onboard, because they still sound so good. But reworking a song — re-dreaming it, if you will — makes that song Glee’s own, and Poker Face takes on a whole new dimension, meaning and appeal with what’s coming next week. I can’t wait, but I have to.
Three more shows. Three more chances to continue boldly going where no TV series has gone before. Fellow Gleeks, have we ever had it so good?