Even as an unabashed Gleek, I was a little worried. My beloved show had stumbled out of the gate with fall’s first episode, much as it did with last spring’s return. And through most of this week’s hour, problems remained, if not worsened.
Rachel was relentlessly selfish and insufferable. Mr. Schue became even more waffling, whiney, morally adrift and pathetic. And the “plot” was reduced to irrelevant musical grandstanding as McKinley’s glee kids fantasized about empowerment via Britney Spears music videos, often aided by the questionable hallucinogenic powers of dental “laughing gas.”
But finally, at show’s end, Rachel redeemed herself, and so did Glee. She declared her true love for Finn, which included her willingness not to control him, and she sang her heart out — as Lea Michele can do so superbly — with a beautiful non-Spears number, Paramore’s The Only Exception.
And just like that, Glee was back on track — back to making us care about its characters, not just share in their musical dazzle. As a sucker for romance — make that a believer — I’d longed to pull for Rachel’s fragile heart and Finn’s innate decency (I’ve always said he’s this show’s moral center — or at least its hope), and exalt in an incredible series’ first sustained love affair of constancy and compassion. And now I can.
Glee is back.
And btw Ms. Spears, savor your songs’ spotlight and your onscreen cameos all you like, but in an intellectual sense, this episode worked out as more of a slam than a tribute. Save for (Hit Me) Baby One More Time, none of those songs was noteworthy musically, and their bump-and-grind sexuality doesn’t set them apart from any number of dance-driven, groin-grinding exhibitionists. Rather, your music was simply used as an air-headed source of mindless teen rebellion which had about as much meaning and weight as Jacob’s “Jew-fro.”
No, it took another act’s music to make Glee truly sing — and get back to where it truly belongs: telling tales with meat on them, not just shiny, flashy gimmicks. And the Rachel-Finn love story is one of those tales — to be followed next week by an even weightier (but hopefully no less entertaining) episode concerning family crises, faith and religion.
BTW, did anyone else notice that Sam Evans (Chord Overstreet), the cast’s newest member, was a no-show in this episode? I’m wondering if they shot out of sequence, and this week’s episode was the first to be produced. As I understand it, Overstreet wasn’t hired until the eve of his shoot for Billionaire, so if they did shoot the Spears show first, he wouldn’t have been around. Either way, after such a big focus last week, and all the football footage this week, that’s awkward — almost as awkward as looking back at Vocal Adrenaline’s Mercy and Rehab at the start of Season 1 with no sign of that group’s alleged superstar, Jesse St. James. Oops!
On the plus side, just as I could listen to Lea Michele sing the phone book, I could watch Heather Morris dance anything — well, any dance deserving her unbridled energy and enthusiasm. Her Brittany’s I’m a Slave 4 U and Me Against the Music were, in a word, sensational. Has Glee seen better dancing than this? I don’t think so.
No, of course she’s not New Directions’ star, as her character delusionally insists. But yes, she’s a winner and a keeper, and it’s great to see Glee as a landing spot for her and other hoofers from fellow Fox show So You Think You Can Dance. (Mark Kanemura, was that you?) In fact, those shows share a stronger kinship than Glee does with the same network’s American Idol — but then, who needs kinship with a half-baked talent show whose wannabe warblers would be laughed off a Glee tour’s concert stage?
At any rate, it’s good to have Glee back and in fine form — finally. Not that I was really worried over the summer hiatus, or by its stumbles out of the gate. Befitting next week’s show, I can say that I, too, have faith.
But it was time to turn things around and make our hearts soar, and Rachel did that with The Only Exception, a lovely song marred only by its irrelevant flashes to Mr. Schue’s failures with Emma and longing for her. I especially disliked the song ending with a shot of him — not Rachel or Finn.
That song wasn’t about Mr. Schue and the tedium of his romantic ineptitude. It was about a real love — an ongoing love — and the image it left us should have been the girl in love who sang it, or the boy in love to whom she sang. (And give Cory Monteith props for his acting chops this week. When it’s all in the eyes, he’s owning it.)
But quibbles aside, I’ll take the song, and this show. Apart from Coach Beiste’s surprising revelation of tearful sensitivity last week, The Only Exception was just that: the only truly moving moment of the new season so far. And if Glee can’t touch our hearts, it’s just another Tuesday night diversion.
Glee did touch my heart last night, and I’m ready for more. Not that I want to see Kurt’s dad in the hospital, as seen in previews, but I’m confident he’ll be all right in the end.
After all, this is Glee. Keep the faith.