Instantly after Glee’s “winter finale” of On My Way, the Twitterverse erupted. Fans who profess to love a show about tolerance, enlightenment and acceptance were posting threats to kill Ryan Murphy, while other aghast Quinn followers were toning it down to “I’ll never watch again!”
But happily, a few calm heads professed they’d just seen perhaps the most meaningful Glee episode ever — an episode which, via the specter of a young person’s death, made vital points: bullying is soul-destroying and evil and can push victims to suicide, and distracted driving is, in fact, killing thousands of Americans yearly, including many teens texting a message even more non-essential than Quinn’s 10th update to Rachel as she rushed to her wedding: “On my way.”
Yes, Karofsky’s near-suicide and Quinn’s possibly fatal car accident were horrible to behold and consider. But both teen tragedies come from truths which Glee at least has the balls not to disregard, and for that I’m thankful. Such lessons need to be taught, and in the big wide world out there, often the bigger the gain the more hurt and struggle getting there.
I also know from Gleeks’ tweets that many complained Glee is a comedy, so wtf? But which member of the Genre Police ever imposed this pigeonhole? All I can think of is Emmy voters who don’t bother to create a category for Glee — a category which would have few contenders since it’s so esoteric: “musical fantasy comedy with elements of drama” might just about cover it. Or not.
Besides, Glee has had plenty of serious scenes over the seasons (Sue’s sister died, Kurt’s dad almost died). It’s just never flirted with killing off one of its kids — and that, it’s true, is an adjustment to fans in love with couples or characters or just grooving to the songs and Santana’s sass.
And since when is Glee one thing? It’s never been one thing — never “oh, one of those shows.” It’s always stood out in its quirky, often flawed but mostly inspired way. There’s never been a show like it, and we must embrace it for that individuality, not insist that it fit into a “comedy” norm.
Besides, what was perhaps Glee’s darkest episode also was one of its most uplifting, partly thanks to rousing performances of superbly chosen songs as New Directions edged the Warblers at Regionals (a huge story in itself, but rendered rather slight by even larger storylines).
Yet beyond the Troubletones’ stirring What Doesn’t Kill You, Rachel’s kick-ass Here’s to Us and the Warbler’s joyous Glad You Came, the strongest number, for me, was Blaine’s non-competing solo for Cough Syrup.
I’d never heard Darren Criss sing that way before, making Young the Giant’s song all his own with a pained yet defiant fierceness that suited the intercut scenes of another gay young man, Karofsky, tormented and not standing up, but resorting instead to suicide.
And please give Max Adler credit for some fantastic acting, as when he saw the word scrawled on his locker and his face changed slowly — from happiness to surprise to shocked horror. His hospital scene with Kurt also rocked my emotional world, with both tearfully reaching an understanding and becoming the supportive friends they should be.
A quick flashback also showed how Sebastian, whom I’d thought an irredeemable character, could see the light and do the right thing. It would take something like fearing he almost sent a youth to his grave to get Dalton’s devil on a more pure path.
Yet even those scenes, and winning Regionals, and Rachel and Finn’s sudden surge to the altar were all rendered secondary — and unfairly so — by the final scene of a stupidly texting Quinn not watching the road and thus perhaps bringing about her own death — losing decades of life so she could send text after text while driving a multi-ton vehicle at a high rate of speed. This is called asking for it, and too many teens do the same thing.
If Quinn is dead — and I hope she’s not — then at least her passing should serve to enlighten others enough to save them from the same fate. And even if she survives, I hope the scare of her collision will still serve that constructive purpose, in honor of family members of those who’ve died from distracted drivers and have launched such campaigns as Jennifer Smith’s FocusDriven.
So now we wait for seven long weeks to learn the fate of Quinn, and the inevitable fact that Rachel and Finn won’t be marrying right away. That’s a tough thing to lay on a fandom that cares — intensely. But for me, caring is what it’s all about.
I care enough about Glee to criticize it and hope it can be better. I also care enough to tell anyone who will listen that it’s the best damn show on TV — now or in any other season. I also care enough to challenge any show to match the impact of one of Glee’s many magnificent musical numbers. Show me your three minutes — show me.
And now, I care enough to defend Glee at a time when even many fans may be turning against it, even if only in a fleeting sense of youthful pique and spite.
Say what you want, but I know this in my heart of hearts: On My Own made Glee even better. And I’ll take that meaning, even with the sorrow.
Also graced by glorious music, this Glee episode was — dare I say it? — important. Characters who almost died or will die delivered major, big-time, serious life lessons that I doubt any other show on TV has tackled lately. And the heart behind Glee’s message of love continued to shine through.
Maybe this is a good time for a break — a good time to reflect. It’s not the first time this offbeat little trail-blazer has made me do that, but it is the first time while conveying such weight.
So while we wait, I must say to Ryan Murphy and the creators of Glee:
I, at least, won’t threaten you. Rather, I applaud you.
Well, except for one thing, and I’ve got to get this out:
Promos are short–30 seconds–and can’t show much, so every bit counts. Yet Fox’s promo for this week’s show had two scenes not even in the episode: Quinn confronting Rachel to attack her wedding plans (“I’m not gonna stand around and watch you ruin your life by marrying Finn Hudson”) and Sue teasing Will about her baby’s origins, answering with a mysterious smile when he asks “Who’s the father?”
Neither scene was in the episode. And now I must say, wtf?
Note to Glee’s creators: If you demonstrate to your fans that they can’t trust you, don’t worry — they’ll stop trusting you. And many may tune out.
So level with them. Be honest. Be real. And largely — stingingly — you did so tonight, by showing the realities of frightening dangers, from bullying to distracted driving. Just stop the lies on the side, in promos or elsewhere, as when characters do confounding things not because they would, but because one week’s script says so.
We’re relying on you, Glee. You set an example that no one else does — no other TV show, for sure. You confront the woes and wonders of the world amid rousing music and disarming humor, and I can’t help but feel, to paraphrase a song from A Chorus Line, you do it for love.
And that’s why I care so much about this little show that could — this often maligned creation that’s achieved so much more than many credit it for, from the sheerly commercial (Glee sells a buttload of music) to the boldly innovative format. (I mean really — there’s never been a TV musical to catch on like this.)
So again, thanks Glee. You’ve still got me in your corner.
Now live up to this promise and get even better.
— Bruce Westbrook