Glee blog review Season 2 Episode 21 ‘Funeral’: Try a little tenderness

I was so stoked by last week’s Glee — by the ebullient lifts and meaningful moments of “‘Prom Queen.” But how soon we forget. Because people, I don’t know about you, but I believe I’ve just seen the finest Glee episode yet — not quite a competition-fueled season-ender, yet still a show bursting with story movement, character growth and awesome music-making.

If you love music, or Broadway, or pop or what I call the “business of show.” If you love deep, heartfelt moments. And if you delight in the blossoming of the biggest talent this side of Barbra Streisand (take that again, Babs), then this Glee was for you.

Glee isn’t always great. Sometimes, it’s just good. That’s the nature of episodic TV, where longevity breeds repetition and inspiration can be elusive. But look, this is just Season 2, where not all shows have been stellar, but this one was.

“Funeral” didn’t falter. It didn’t fail. It delivered in so many ways. And now let’s get down to it.

First, the death. The passing of Sue’s Down syndrome-afflicted sister, while a loss, had a heft and a narrative integrity often lacking in a show which too often allows itself flimsy tangents at the service of bent comedy or musical fantasy. As Finn later said when breaking up with Quinn, this was real. This mattered. This meant something. And this forever redefined Sue Sylvester’s character and her relation to the glee club.

My wife and I had long felt Jane Lynch’s talents were being squeezed by Sue’s narrow motivational impetus: to wreck New Directions and Will Schuester — for some reason. It may have had something to do with Will’s hair . . .

But now Sue, and we, can move past such droning nonsense and get to a new plot point: Sue for Senate! Well, no — Congress, actually. She’ll have to sacrifice alliteration for a potentially legit shot at a bully pulpit beyond Sue’s Corner and McKinley High diatribes. So be it. And thanks so much, Ryan Murphy, for giving Glee’s toughest character some more tender moments — more, in fact, than her previous welcome forays into feelings put together.

Yes, Sue is off Will and ND’s case. Her holding Will’s hand and thanking the singers at her sister’s funeral said it all. And, just as with fellow former meanie Karofsky’s tearful scene last week,  you can’t go back on such things. You’re newly committed. Sue changed. And what is great theater — or TV — if not character arcs? Finally, Lynch’s Sue has one, and it’s quite wonderful.

But hey, what about those songs? And what a great concept to parade them past us as big, onstage auditions for a lead role in Nationals, with Jesse St. James playing star-obsessed divider while test-driving his career as a reality show judge. In the end, it was fitting that no one would be Nationals’ focus, but instead everyone. Yet for this show, we got to behold how the best glee clubbers would perform solo with everything on the line, and it was incredible.

Kurt’s Some People from Gypsy (Kurt, time to pick another show) was too retro and corny for me, for all its traditional Broadway aplomb. But Mercedes’ Try a Little Tenderness gave even Otis Redding a run for his money. And Santana made magic with the Motownish, minor-key Back in Black, Glee’s third Amy Winehouse song, after Rehab and Valerie.

But the big moment was with Rachel — or, more accurately, Lea Michele. It was when Glee’s biggest talent in cast and characters burst forth again — and by standing up to her very idol, as in Season 1’s Don’t Rain on My Parade. It was when Rachel — and Lea — sang another Funny Girl show-stopper, My Man, and sang it even better than Streisand’s original. I mean, if this wasn’t better, then what is, or ever can be?

Sometimes greatness isn’t luck, timing or hype. Sometimes greatness is simply the truth. Lea Michele is that great.

Thanks, Lea. You’ve made a longtime entertainment journalist who thought he’d seen and heard it all quite proud — of you.

So now we await the last Glee for months, the “Nationals” show set and shot in NYC and promising even more revelations, turning points and buoyant music. Will it be better than “Funeral”? Does it matter? No, what matters is the series, not the episode — the group, not the individual. What matters is Glee and its connection to millions of us, not just through our eyes and our ears, but also our hearts.

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