Glee Season 2 Episode 4 blog review ‘Duets’: To sing isn’t the only thing

 

New Directions turns to 'Duets.'

 

After the weightiness of last week’s “Grilled Cheesus,” Glee smartly shifted to lightheartedness for this week’s “Duets,” right down to the maddeningly infectious and disgustingly “charming” Lucky by flirty Sam and attracted-but-standoffish Quinn. But in a Sue-free show, where’s the barb barrage? Instead, this Glee settled into another thin, almost conflict-free tale peppered with fun but irrelevant musical interludes. And with its Rocky Horror sendup looming, I’m not expecting much narrative muscle from Glee anytime soon — just more amusing songs in search of connection to a WMHS plot.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying my favorite show — ever — is in trouble. It’s too inherently great for that. But c’mon, let’s find some balance. If you spread the storytelling strengths of  “Grilled Cheesus” over the first four episodes, this season might seem as solid as the first. But so far Glee’s second stanza seems to be in a sophomore slump, settling for cutesiness, charm and dazzle over involving plot lines. And I, for one, am not sipping the Kool-Aid of entertainment for its own sake, but rather waiting for moments when music melds strongly to stories and characters, as with last season’s One, Defying Gravity, I Dreamed a Dream, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Poker Face, Keep Holding On, Faithfully, To Sir With Love, Beautiful, Don’t Stop Believing — am I making my point?

That said, Glee remains engaging if not endearing, and it was good to see Sam settled into New Directions, though his quick recovery from a shoulder separation seems odd, as did Sue’s bounce-back from a neck-brace injury (feigned?) after the “sex riot.” Continuity, anyone? (Sam is too short to be quarterback, anyway.) And what’s with Puck, or Mark Salling? This absence seems forced and dictated by off-the-set factors.

At least one “duet” did dovetail nicely with the yarn being told. That was Kurt’s bold Broadway showmanship for Le Jazz Hot from the cross-dressing film Victor/Victoria, befitting his lesson that gayness sets him apart and he must go it alone. That was this week’s lesson in gay life, at least, for a show which just can’t seem to get enough of them. Hello, other characters? And isn’t there more to Kurt’s life than being gay, especially when he’s never even had a boyfriend (yet) anyway.

Ryan Murphy, I understand why Kurt has become a surrogate for you, and I fully embrace the lessons that Kurt has taught us, and the compassion he inspires even in his self-absorption. But can you lighten up a little on the tortured gay themes? Just asking.

Elsewhere, still more music, at least, was fantastic — and so was much of the dancing. Harry Shum’s Mike Chang finally got a scene, and a song, to play, and he excelled with A Chorus Line’s Sing (abaout a dancer who can’t), the perfect vehicle for Mike and Tina’s duet. Mercedes and Santana’s River Deep, Mountain High had far less narrative nuance (make that none), but the boisterous performance delivered, especially Santana’s (Naya’s) dancing.

Rachel and Finn were basically comic relief in their two songs, but her impromptu duet with Kurt for Get Happy mashed up with Happy Days Are Here Again was a bombastic bombshell. Talk about singing! Kids, as you can see, great music doesn’t demand dancing to be great. Like Kurt and Rachel, you can even sit down while singing when it’s this fantastic. Music and singing are their own reward, while dancing can be just window dressing.

Still, I’m ready for a story where songs serve the plot and spring from it, and so few do this season, beyond last week’s spiritual quest. But hey, there are 21 episodes to go, and I’m patient. Just don’t go breaking my heart with non-stop showiness at the expense of characters, and lucky me will get happy and sing right along with Glee.

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