Glee Season 3 Episode 2 Review/Recap ‘I Am Unicorn’: Seriously serious

For all the critical love and strong buzz being bestowed Glee, it still gets a bad rap. Our favorite show has haters galore, like an army of pre-enlightened Karofskys who just can’t stand it that someone is enjoying something they don’t openly endorse. And in effect the show has been dissed by the Emmys, which fail to give it an appropriate category.

“Comedy”? Is that what Emmy calls an episode like I Am Unicorn, one of the most serious Glees to date?

Instead, as always, Glee this week was a musical fantasy with comedy and drama — just more drama this time.

I mean, this was serious — seriously serious!

I don’t mean serious in a violent or disturbing way. I mean serious in a meaningful way — like the promise-unfulfilled cameos ending American Graffiti, another alleged comedy. “I Am Unicorn” was about life-changing situations, not larky sitcom “sits.”  And it all started with Shelby Corcoran (Idina Menzel) returning to Lima and joining McKinley as donor-paid coach of a competing glee club.

That was a convenient job opening, since it seemed Shelby was on a mission to return from New York and make her adopted daughter, Beth, known by biological folks Quinn and Puck. This sparked drama with a bitter Quinn forced to choose between her new Skank sisterhood and playing ball by pretending to be a proper girl again who loves the glee club, if that gets her near Beth in the process.

“We’re gonna get full custody,” she darkly informs Puck. Day-yum! But in a way, I don’t blame her. I’d rebel too, given Shelby’s arrogance. After all, it’s not Shelby’s call whether Quinn cleans up her act or connects with her unwanted baby, as Shelby’s belatedly trying to do with Rachel. Too, parenting isn’t for everyone–including many teens. But while Quinn’s sudden maternalism seems more about defying Shelby than reclaiming an unplanned and unwanted child, she’ll probably show her soft side soon enough. In a world of so many abused and neglected kids, society can’t get enough of “Make babies!” messages about the glories of breeding.

As for Puck, it was amusing to see New Directions’ bad boy adore his precious little sweetums. But will he join Quinn’s quest to wrest Beth from Shelby? It goes so much against character. (BTW, Idina seems here for the long haul this year and gives the show added heft. Thanks, Ryan Murphy! Now do the logical thing and get her husband, Taye Diggs, to play Rachel’s non-biological papa. Just sayin’.)

Then there was Kurt’s dilemma as an openly — and flamboyantly — gay teen who wants to play manly classic stage roles, but is openly laughed at when he auditions for West Side Story male lead Tony. I see a spat (but not a split) between him and Blaine, who’s ideally suited to play Tony, as shown by his dynamite audition singing Something’s Coming, the night’s best number.

As for Kurt’s audition, I’m afraid he was guilty of the same “indulgence” with which Sue tags the arts in her hate campaign.

It’s sad but it’s true: Kurt’s I’m the Biggest Star from Funny Girl was probably Glee’s worst number to date. And why? Because it was so woefully, annoyingly, relentlessly (four minutes!) self-indulgent. Besides being another corny, throwback number for Kurt’s creaky Broadway dreams (hey Kurt, ever see Rent?), it was wildly inappropriate for the audition, yet got witless raves from the three directors. The way I see it, you don’t audition for Tony by playing Fanny Brice. And you don’t entertain me on Glee with indulgences like this.

Lots more happened — Glee has burst from the gate with scads of tales to tell, or at least set up — but let’s get back to the music, or what we had of it: three songs. Yet that’s what Ryan promised this year: more focus on characters and stories, and less on music for the sake of music — or grandstanding.

The third number was Rachel’s audition to play West Side Story female lead Maria, entwined amid a rocky reunion with the mother she desperately wants, Shelby, whom Rachel fantasized as joining her in song. In her head, both sang beautifully, but ohmygod, that arrangement was a stinker. Though it was grand (if preposterous) having a large, polished orchestra on stage for auditions instead of just pianist Brad, what that orchestra played for Rachel and Shelby’s Somewhere sounded more suited to an old Celine Dion concert, not West Side Story.

No — worse. Make that “more suited to an elevator at a lounge lizard venue.” And you can quote me — it was that bad. Next!

A pet quibble: Can a Glee director please ask Kevin McHale, Dianna Agron and Heather Morris to enunciate their lines, instead of slurring them out in a half-heard mutter that’s sooo hard to understand. Look, Glee brass, you know the words — you’ve got the script. But your audience doesn’t know them until it hears them. And those actors seem clueless about how hard that can be.

Oops. Sorry. Maybe I’m too picky. Can’t help it. I notice these things. But I also notice good things, including the rapid-fire Romeo and Juliet scene Kurt and Rachel did (a breath of fresh fun), Brittany’s sudden sure-to-be successful campaign as senior class president (so she is a senior — and Kurt, you’re through) and of course Blaine’s audition.

But did Coach Beiste and Artie both have to guffaw derisively at Kurt? I thought they were his friends — and sensitive to being outcasts themselves. That was mean. What the — ?

So though I applaud the show’s new meaty plots, I do see chinks in its early-season armor. If Glee doesn’t honor the truth of its characters, why should we care about people we don’t know?

Don’t get me wrong. I love — and defend — the fantasy aspect of Glee. It  enables and empowers the show to take many glorious flights of musical fancy. But you also have to keep it real — certainly in terms of characterization. Let’s hope for more clarity next week, when things look serious again in “Asian F” (that’s an A-minus, in case you’re wondering).

Until then, here’s to Rachel again dutifully singing the scales, while a tone-deaf Sugar Motta insists she doesn’t need to.

Wait till Shelby gets through with her.  Now that I want to see and hear.


((If you enjoyed this review, please see my voluminous Glee coverage here and follow my many Glee tweets via @BruceWestbrook. That’s a name, not a handle, but it’ll do. And thanks.))


One Response to “Glee Season 3 Episode 2 Review/Recap ‘I Am Unicorn’: Seriously serious”

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